A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (73)

While working on the BCM tansu for the past few weeks, I have also been chipping away at the cabinet project I have been engaged upon for some months now. Been doing some finishing, some hardware patination, and a little construction here and there.

At this juncture, I’ve just fitted the middle panel to the top of the bonnet:

As the bonnet’s upper frame rails are curved, the panel initially is proud at both ends from the frame:

I sized the panel so as to be just at matching height with the frame in the mid-point area:


A while later, I had the second middle panel (as there are two cabinets under construction) similarly fitted to its frame:


Taking the panel down so as to match the frame rail curves was accomplished by hand plane, commencing with some cross-grain passes to remove most of the excess material:

Another shot of the same:

Eventually I had shaped the panel surface flush to the frame rail:

Then, after repeating the just shown cross-grain planing work on the other end of the panel, I commenced planing along the grain, down the hill each way from the apex:

That was a good workout, and it went smoothly and produced a clean surface without plane blade tracks. I think that’s the general idea with the tool. The plane completed the work with just the one sharpening to start, which was jolly decent of it. Genmyō is my friend.

Once the planing was done, I scuffed the middle panel with #320 paper in preparation for the finish application.

The smaller side panels had been previously fitted and shaped to the curved frame rail sections at each end:

Knocking things together, just to corral the parts so I could set the assembly aside for the time-being:

With the panels installed in the upper section, this first bonnet is largely complete now:

The three panels are not all cut from one board, as might be ideal, however the top surface of the bonnet is not a visible area of the cabinet, unless the viewer is 6’8″ or taller. A minor aesthetic shortcoming I suppose, but of no consequence.

Another view:

I should have bonnet #2 to the same point after another day in the shop. Once the bonnets are done, my attention will turn to the last two construction tasks, namely the demountable frame and panel backs, and then the bifold doors.

Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. Comments always appreciated. Post 74 is up next.

7 Replies to “A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (73)”

  1. Nice work Chris, it's exciting to see these cabinets progress. Do you sharpen your plane blade with a bit of camber to avoid the plane tracks? I'm impressed you were able to do all that planing with one sharpening (both the cross grain work and the clean up work with the grain?)


  2. Jon,

    thanks for the questions. I didn't put much camber on the blade at all, I simply dubbed the corners down and went at it. The edge was 95% straight across, and takes near full-width shavings. Maybe that's why I was sweating afterwards :^)

    While that plane managed to do both the cross-grain and along the grain work on that first middle board, the edge was truly on its last legs when I finished. I was lucky to have a clean result I think. So, today, when I tackled the middle board on the second bonnet, I sharpened up two planes and used one for cross grain and the other for along the grain clean up. That twosome did the job just fine, and I was even able to take clean full-width shavings off some yellow cedar afterwards with the along-the-grain plane. The blade on the Kōshun also holds up very well.

    It's kind of like my supersurfacer, the knives of which can get a bit dull shaving bubinga and shedua, yet still still be used to take clean shavings off of softwoods afterward. It seems that the grain density of the harder woods will keep a slightly dull knife from biting in and cutting, but those same knives will have no problem taking a shaving in a softer wood with reduced density.


  3. Thanks for the response Chris,
    I like the idea of dubbing the corners of the plane blade, I'll have to give that a try. To avoid ridges when planing I usually try to shape a slight camber into the blade but often have mixed results.


  4. Hi Ralph,

    My general approach is to construct frames and then cut panels to fit them, or vice-versa. As the interface between panel and frame is a tongue, which I don't put finish on, the finishing can be left until all the parts have been fitted to one another. I'm not, in this circumstance, finishing a panel, including tongue, and then cutting a groove in a frame to accept the (fatter) panel tongue with finish on it, if that's what you were wondering.

    If the panel, on the other hand, were to have significant portions of tongue exposed to view, say if I had to use flatsawn panels, then I would have to put at least one coat on the tongue of the panel and size the frame dado to accept that. With quartersawn panels, the seasonal movement will be slight, requiring minimal expansion gaps between frame and panel, so having finish on just the panel face and edges up to the tongue surface will never reveal bare wood due to movement. Make sense?

    Other panels and other situations might call for a slightly different approach, like those with dovetail battens in some instances, where the panels are given one coat before assembly, being careful to keep finish out of the dovetail mating surfaces. The one coat means that if the batten were to shrink, it wouldn't be exposing a portion of panel bereft of finish, and yet allows for assembly. In a lot of cases though, the battens are on surfaces not exposed to view, so I put no finish on those panel faces at all. On this cabinet, such will be the case for the rear panel assemblies, and for the door,s well, I'm not decided on that one yet. Probably finish only on the face and edges, leaving the inside of the doors without finish.


Anything to add?

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