A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (77)

Our son turned 4 month’s old recently, and he’s been teething for the past month. Suffice to say, sleep is in short supply and I’ve been managing to get just 3-1/2 days per week in at the shop, so progress is slower than I might like on these cabinets. It’s a fair trade – nothing more important than doing the ‘dad’ job as well as possible.

Speaking of jobs, it appears I have picked up a bit of extra work with a project to replace a ceiling in a Japanese tea room located in a house just outside of Boston. I’ll be acquiring some Alaskan Yellow Cedar, or Yellow Cedar as I prefer to call it . The tree was first identified and named in British Columbia, it’s botanical name Cupressus nootkatensis, after Nootka Sound on the West coast of Vancouver Island, and its range extends down into Oregon, so ‘Alaskan’ seems, well, slightly misleading to me. I’ll also be obtaining some quartersawn Western Red Cedar. The ceiling will be the coffered type, the frame of Yellow Cedar and the panels of Western Red Cedar. More on that project in a separate thread I’ll be starting in the near future.

Meanwhile, I’ve been plugging away at getting the demountable back panels fitted to cabinet #1. Here’s a look at the middle panel assembly fitted to the carcase:


Eventually, all three ‘demountables’ were mounted:


Another view:

A wall of quartersawn bubinga.

How about a look from the front?:

The lower panel will be completely obscured by the drawers. One could argue perhaps that it could be left off, however it serves an important job in keeping dust out of that section of the cabinet.

Once the panels were in place I could turn my attention to mortising for the clips. I originally had left the batten tenons on one side of each frame a fair bit long, piercing right through the outer frame, intending to use them as tenons to hold the frame to the cabinet. I thought better of it however, and decided to trim those tenons flush – it made it simpler to fit the frames closely to their openings instead of making allowance to be able to tilt the panel into position, which would have meant trimming them down in height a bit. In place of those three tenons per side, however I needed to mortise for a larger number of wooden fixing clips than before.

In total, 36 mortises were involved for the three panels. Each panel is fixed by three clips top and bottom, the upper and lower back panel frames are secured by an additional clip on each side, and the middle panel assembly, being the widest, is held by two clips each side.

The clips passing horizontally are shared between adjacent panel assemblies. Here’s a look down a mortise passing through the upper frame’s lower rail, then the cabinet carcase shelf, and then through the middle panel’s upper rail:

If you’re feeling a little puzzled by the mechanical aspects of this clip system, I’ll be doing a video when I assemble the backs to the carcase later on, and that will make it perfectly clear.

Here’s a look at the two mortises for the middle panel assembly’s left side (viewed from the rear) fastening:


The clip mortises on the top of the carcase:


The clips themselves will be fabricated soon enough, however I will have to do the same process of panel assembly, fitting, and, yes, the 36 clip mortises for cabinet #2 beforehand.

As these clips will fit to the rear surfaces of the cabinet, the entirety of which goes against a wall and is unseen, I am thinking it might be an idea to leave the heads of each clip proud of the surrounding frames, rather than recessing them as I might do more typically. I’m thinking that by leaving the clips exposed in a more obvious way, it will be more apparent to anyone in the years ahead how the clips work, and that the panels can be readily removed. If they are fully recessed, it might not be noticed that there is any provision at all for demounting the panels. That’s what I’m thinking today, but I could change my mind yet! Trying to think ahead 50 or 100 years, and more, involves a certain amount of guesswork of course. Many people today are quite unfamiliar with wood joinery, so I wonder if it will be at all on the radar of a person working on this cabinet in 2116? I put the demountable panels in to facilitate making drawer adjustments, modifications, etc., however if the person repairing the cabinet does not even notice that the back panels can be demounted, then, well, it would be a message that was lost over time I guess. Still worth doing though, in my view.

Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. Post 78 is up next.

4 Replies to “A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (77)”

  1. Nice work Chris! These clips will be different from those of the Ming inspired side table?

    I'm curious to see what they will look like. I think it will be fairly intuitive to whomever takes this piece apart.

  2. Brian,

    much appreciated. These clips work the same way as the ones holding the back on the side table, however the heads of the clips will not be recessed into their frames – -unless I change my mind on that in the near future…


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