A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (51)

Post 51 in a series describing the design and construction of a pair of cabinets in bubinga and shedua.


Work to fit the two shelf panels to their frames and the surrounding carcase wraps up.

Here, the lower shelf has been fitted up to the carcase sides and the central compartment divider:

That lower shelf looks like one piece but it is in fact three.

Then the upper shelf similarly fitted (the entire assembly is upside-down in this view):

Looks a bit like something out of Star Wars (tie-fighter?).

Ditto for the second cabinet:

My shop has become a lot cleaner of late, in case you were becoming concerned.

Then, to take a break from the mania of joinery fitting, I set up my milling machine to process the compound bevel cuts on the bottom of the bronze leveler feet:

This was a great way to spray bronze shavings all over the damn place. Those things get everywhere – I’m worried they are in my toaster oven back at home (don’t tell my wife).

The fixturing I put together involved a small used vise I picked up a few months back, which was in turn clamped onto the sine table, and the whole works turned to the 45˚ position so I could use the powered x-travel function to advantage:

Placing the part at a 45˚ orientation simplified the bevel cutting, Since the legs average slope is 0.5/10, the compound bevel is along the 45 axis is 0.7071/10, since 0.5*√2 = .7071 after all.

I did a round of passes and this was the result:

Later on, I did further round of passes to deck another 1mm or so off the ends. Those leveler feet are nearly done, but you know, sometimes ‘nearly done’ can actually mean ‘a whole bunch of work ahead’ since the last 5% takes 50% of the time. The patination of the feet to a shi-bu-ichi finish is the looming challenge in that regard.

Back to the bubinga, now planing the central dividers preparatory to applying finish:

In other news (please excuse my jumping around between various things. Today is my birthday and I feel like I can play fast and loose with the program, caution thrown fully to the wind) I realized that I hadn’t yet incorporated any system of stops for the drawers. Not the sort of thing one would want to overlook. People have been hung for less.

One can have drawer stops which limit the travel to the closed position, and stops which limit how far out the drawer can be withdrawn. I decided I could dispense with the latter (I think it is handy to be able to pull a drawer right out if need be without having stops in the way), however as far as ‘closing stops’ went, there were some options:


  • stops at the back of the cabinet, against which the drawer runner would abut (as I had done with the bubinga side table for the client previously)
  • stops which meet the rear wall of the drawer, top or bottom
  • stops which meet some sort of projection on the side walls of the drawer (possible, since the drawers I make are a glue-less variant on the NK drawer type and the drawer side walls are recessed from the opening)
  • stops which meet the top of the drawer front
  • stops which meet the bottom of the drawer front

After some rumination, I decided to place the stops so that they would work against the lower edge of the drawer front. Placing them at the back meant making the drawers shorter to accommodate them, so that was less desirable in this case.

The stops of course needed to be connected somehow to the drawer dividers. Typically, these might be glued-in or screwed-in blocks. That seemed less than optimal and I prefer to not rely glue whenever there might be a better solution. Next step up would be mortising the stops into housings. The stops could be glued or fastened to the housings with a countersunk bolt. This – using the bolt and housing- was strongly considered and would have been  a reasonable way to proceed. However I am hardly a reasonable person. After considering it a while longer, I decided I would mortise in sliding dovetail keys which could act as stops. I haven’t seen this done before but it seemed reasonable.

Here’s a couple of the drawer dividers, then, mortised for sliding dovetail stops:

12 drawer rail pieces and 24 sliding dovetail housings later…

And no, I didn’t hang myself off a local bridge afterward. I still have to mortise the lower carcase boards for the same stops, after all….

Interspersed with the mortising work I started putting finish (General Finishes Enduro Var) on some parts. Here are the shelves after two coats each side:

The shedua sliding door panels and the bubinga vertical dividers also have had two coats each side:


Those panels look better than the photo, let me tell you that at least. If only I had photography skills the world would be my oyster! You know, I happen to like oysters, come to think of it.

My world is small and insignificant, and hardly worth mention, but it’s a world paneled with VG bubinga and shedua here at my tiny shop. I like it, you know, and could even get used it! Is this the new ‘normal’? I can see the bumpersticker: Got VG?

The literature for the Enduro Var says 3 coats are typical, however I’m sure I’ll do at least 5 coats. I’m planning to put at least two coats onto the parts before assembly, and a few coats after that. I like Enduro Var as it has next to no VOC’s, dries really fast, allowing for more rapid progress, and clean up of the brushes, etc., is easy using warm water. Up next: post 52

17 Replies to “A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (51)”

  1. According to the safety data sheet, enduro var contains 10 to 30% n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, which is a *very* strong solvent. It breaks down a lot of polymers, including the ones in human flesh. Don't get it on your hands!

  2. Roland,

    that's interesting to learn and i appreciate the heads up.

    I looked in NMP a little further and am a little less concerned, however I'll keep that in mind. I haven't noticed any adverse reaction when I've had a drop on my fingertip or anything.

    Interestingly, “In the pharmaceutical industry, N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone is used in the formulation for drugs by both oral and transdermal delivery routes”


  3. Chris
    Happy belated birthday !!

    Thanks for letting us peek into your shop as the bubinga is transmogrified !!

    I always prefer drawer-stops that are weaker than the joint at the drawer front, so you may want some sort of energy absorbing material between the stop and the front.


  4. You could try to position a shop vac hose with the nozzle near where the majority of the bronze chips shoot, but they still probably go everywhere.

  5. Tom,yes, I´ve been thinking about putting in a piece of sheet rubber or neoprene bump stop on the face of the wooden stop. Great minds think alike?


  6. Justin,

    Oh yeah, those chips spray everywhere, and are perhaps too heavy to catch effectively with a dust hose (though I do have an outlet near the machine).

    I´m also learning fast that putting materials down to keep the fine chips off of the machine tables is a good idea and I can see why machinists do that.


  7. Well, happy birthday to you and your marvelous work, my grandfather was an Aries too, a good man, never knew him though, he died before I was born. The story is from my mother he got “black lung” from the machining/toolmaking occupation that he faithfully served. Died in 1960. I, a Gemini always felt uplifted by and admire any heightened aspiration and performance an Aries may characterize through their talents. I read they make some of the finest surgeons as well.

  8. Inspiring as always Chris, you are doing a good job of demonstrating how difficult it is to build “simple” furniture. Without fail a finished piece that looks simple (clean, uncluttered) is the result of a lot of complication in the planning and execution stages. -Harlan Barnhart

  9. It is used for transdermal delivery because it penetrates the skin easily. (Like a lot of solvents do.) NMP does biodegrade relatively easily. Of course the concentration of NMP and the temperature determine much of the effect. We use 100% NMP in the processing of certain high-temperature thermoset resins, and at elevated temperatures (>80°C) and especially as a vapor it's nasty. In Europe it falls under the REACH legislation because it's harmful to unborn children.

  10. Glueless variant on NK drawers? That sure got my attention! Please don't leave that part out when you reach that stage of construction. My eyes will be glued to the screen (get it?).

    I love NK drawers.

  11. Jim,

    thanks for the comment. That method of drawer construction was previously detailed in the ´Square Deal´ series of posts from a year or so back, however I´ll definitely take some pics this time as well.


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