A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (99)

Several weeks months have elapsed since my last post in this series. In this time, both cabinets have been completed, and the client has received his cabinet and is pleased with it. I have been down in the dungeon toiling away at putting a video together.

I started work on a video showing the assembly of the cabinet soon after the second cabinet was done. I knew I was in for a slog, as I am inexperienced with video work in general, and the number of clips I had to string together meant this would be the longest video I have made yet. I also wanted to add in a bit of narration, along with background music, so it was a struggle in certain respects.

I stopped and started the video editing several times, due to discouragement. In fact, a month could pass between sessions of simply sitting down to work on it. In the end, I found renewed energy and got it done, and learned a lot on the process. However I am well aware it is hardly what you might call a slick production. I’m aways off off YouTuber ‘Clickspring’, put it that way. There are inconsistencies to the sound levels here and there, and I’m sure another round of edits and adjustments wouldn’t hurt anything. There’s a kind of cheesy Sketchup animation that I debated removing but left in at the end. Several portions of the assembly were not even filmed – like the bonnet assembly – because I forgot to film, or forgot to bring the camera, or the camera battery ran low, etc., so there are some gaps. But, people have been wondering and asking if they’d ever see this video, so I really felt it was better to put it out there and chalk it up to a part of the learning curve. In the end, it came out at about 30 minutes in length.

I don’t – or haven’t so far – ‘vlogged’ in a purposeful manner, i.e.,  I don’t have a film studio, or ‘set’, or the best lighting and sound equipment, not have I created a back drop scene to present a consistent view, with everything pristinely cleaned, including yours truly. Not that those aren’t good ideas. I don’t wear a consistent clothing scheme, there’s definitely no wardrobe attendant, and thus the video I have made is hardly what one would call an innovative or clever work of branding.

It was informative to watch myself on video though and think about how I might improve for next time, both in terms of what I am actually doing on film, how it is filmed, and how it is described. I aim to improve those things as I can for next time. And there will be a next time for sure.

Anyway, you’ve been warned. Here’s the video showing most of the steps in the final assembly of the cabinet. Hope you enjoy – if you manage to get through, let me know your impressions:

29 thoughts on “A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (99)

  1. I was only willing to steal a few minutes' worth of my employer's time to skim it, but I am wowed. As someone who has put a few pieces of cabinetry and furniture together, I appreciate seeing a video made for someone like me. I will watch the whole thing more than once, I'm sure. Thank you, Chris!

  2. Chris,

    Thank you very much to take the extra time and effort in putting this video up!
    After locking over your shoulders for months as you make all the components in your shop it is very satisfying to see the whole thing come together.
    Incredibly precise execution and finally a wonderful piece of furniture.
    Even though I love the cabinet in its entirety – the folding doors are the uber special thing.
    Appreciate the whole series. Thanks!


  3. Jim,

    I'm glad you liked what you have seen so far. It is a bit more of a video for woodworkers or others with a technical bent i suppose, and I should put together another video at some point which is more focussed towards prospective clients. That's what my wife says anyway, and I'm sure she's right.


  4. Fantastic to see the full assembly process, I can appreciate the hours required to edit a video. Following the idea that a house is not complete until it is lived in, and a cabinet is not complete until it contains dishes, how has your overall impression of the cabinet evolved now that it's in use? Do you typically find the doors are left open or closed?
    Cheers, Mike

  5. Mike,

    good to hear from you. I find the look of the cabinet pleasing whether doors are open or closed, though the 'personality' of the cabinet is quite different in each case, however with a 1-1/2 year-old in the house, who likes to explore everything he possibly can (everything we own now has to be placed on high shelves, for example), we have to keep the doors of the cabinet shut. In a few years, perhaps, we'll be able to leave them open from time to time.

  6. Marc,

    you are most generous in your praise, for which I am a little embarrassed – but grateful. I appreciate that you hung around here long enough to see the video finally materialize. I shall endeavor to make future videos a little more quickly, of course :^)

  7. Hi Chris,
    Are you kidding, that was a great video. Really shows off the quality of the joinery as each piece is eased into it's place. No still pictures could show the degree of precision with which each piece fits to the next. Clearly a work of art in design and execution.
    I am always amazed at the level of your work and I think you are at the very top of your craft and I have always enjoyed seeing your work.

    Charlie Mastro

  8. Charlie,

    I've been staring at that video for so long now I have lost all sense of perspective. so long as it was coherent and you didn't fall asleep, all good I guess.

    I appreciate your kind words. Hopefully the “top of my craft” will entail many more steps yet…


  9. Chris,

    I thoroughly enjoyed watching that video, especially having read the entire build thread. I found watching to be incredibly relaxing, which is ironic given that final assembly is often, I have found, one of the most stressful parts of a project.

    I cannot remember from the build thread, and didn't see anything in the video that would answer my question, but do you employ drawer stops of any kind, primarily for opening?

    Finally, do you have a sense of how many hours these cabinets took you? I for one, and I'm sure many others, who can only aspire to such immaculate work, would appreciate getting a sense for the time commitment a project of that nature entails.

    Thanks for taking the time to put together the video. Good music choice. I do hope build videos will become a regular feature.


  10. Amazing Chris. Thanks so much for sharing, you have gone over the top with this video and it is greatly appreciated. Wonderful to get to share in the experience of putting together such a masterpiece. Looking forward to more videos but no pressure, I can imagine the time commitment is large and I already have no clue how you manage all you have going…and that was before your son came along! 🙂

    Always inspired,

  11. Chris,

    I don't know what to say. You're not a woodworker, you're a bloody magician. Calling that project “Incredible” just doesn't do it justice. I am a little depressed though, as it has made me realize, that no matter how long I persevere in this craft of ours, I'll never be that good.

    Well done and congratulations.

    All the best,


  12. Potomacker,

    ah, yes, the dust panel issue. A short question with a not-so-short answer. I did spend a fair while considering that idea for this cabinet – thanks for asking about that.

    If you put the question out there, “what is the purpose of dust panels?”, you will come across a variety of explanations as to their function. It is said that they are supposed to be associated historically to the top quality work.

    Dust panels may well serve a function as their name suggests: keeping dust from migrating from one drawer level of a cabinet to those nearby. Houses in the 1800s were likely to have been dustier, and lacked vacuums to clean with, and what with coal fired heating there would be soot in the air, etc. That doesn't make total sense to me though. Since the space between the drawer front panel and the carcase is the primary means by which dust would enter the cabinet, and a conventional drawer will rest on it's lower surfaces, including the lower edge of the front drawer face, so any dust coming in would do so via the top drawer edge (largest gap) and sides, and presumably be accumulating on the drawer contents themselves – more than they would anywhere else in the cabinet.

    Another explanation is that the panels keep the grinding/exfoliate that forms over time between the lower side of the drawer sides and the cabinet carcase as they grind against one another with repeated drawer opening and closing. This dust can definitely occur, however in some woods and configurations this effect would be very modest at best over the years, and then of course one could wax the surfaces to mitigate the effect easily.

    In this case, with the way I designed the drawers in this cabinet to have a very wide contact surface with the cabinet carcase, and used a hard and durable woods for the rubbing parts, so I think the potential for dust to be formed by rubbing between the parts is quite low.

    Dust panels may also have been used to keep clothing in an overstuffed drawer from snarling with the running of a drawer immediately above. The panels may also inhibit the spread of clothes moths through a cabinet, or deter the passage of mice , or insect pests. They may have deter or discourage thievery in cases where the drawers would be made so as to be lockable. Those are a host of reasons, some very plausible.

    But none of that seemed to apply to this sideboard. Defending against thievery was not a concern. The house is not dusty, nor is it likely to have mice or other vermin, nor does the cabinet hold clothes or other items that are likely to jam up the drawers. There's no coal stove or heating system making the house sooty.

    And the cabinet I designed has a large pair of bifold doors, so for those times when they are in the closed position, they will exclude most of the (virtually non-existent) dust from the contents.

    I concluded that there's no compelling reason to put panels between the drawers on this cabinet. I could see it for a clothes cabinet.

    On the the other side too is the amount and cost of material to provide all those panels, not to mention the extra labor time.

  13. Jonathan,

    our son certainly keeps us on our toes.

    I'm hoping that as I learn more about making videos the faster the process of producing them will become. I appreciate the encouragement.

  14. Tremendous work per usual Chris, it is stunning to see the level of precision you achieve, really remarkable to say the least. I have enjoyed the project throughout, can't weight for what comes next. Great music for the video by the way. Happy holidays to you and yours, Duane

  15. Not too much to say other than great work Chris, and well worth the wait! Always learn a ton from your blog and love seeing the end results. Good to know where the bar is!


  16. Your chapter on the pros and cons of dust panels deserve a thoughtful reply. I often judge furniture and architecture in how the makers considered the tasks of inevitable repairs. You certainly design your pieces with maintenance and repairs in mind although I don't know why you choose PVA glue.
    You mentioned a date of 1800 when dust covers were established as a mark of the most refined pieces. This was likely due, as you point out, to the more dusty living conditions of the era, and, more importantly, to the higher cost of textiles and subsequent greater emphasis on protecting them. I think today the main benefit is that clothes don't get snagged on runners when a drawer is withdrawn.
    I can imagine, barring calamity, your piece lasting 100 or 200 years. One can hope that living conditions are cleaner and clothes still require protection.

  17. Well, I do wrestle with any decision to use glue for assembling parts. In this case, the joinery choice dictated because the back wall of the drawers has wedged tenons. If you don't glue the wedges, seasonal movement will work them loose. And once they are glued, even if you employ a reversible glue, they are going to be darn hard to take apart. also, drawers are sometime slammed shut, inadvertently or otherwise, and weak bond glues like hide glue or fish glue can be vulnerable to shock, and breakage of the glue bond.

    So, with those factors in mind, I glued all the connections with yellow glue. I guess I am looking at the drawer as a replaceable unit more than a repairable unit. I think if I were going with through tenons on the drawer front, I might have gone with hide glue for the wedging, as I did on the 'Square Deal' side table's drawer – the point about the difficulty of taking them apart afterwards notwithstanding, but I went with the blind tenons in this case for the drawer front, and wanted it to stay put through the seasons and through any accidental slams shut. remember the drawer stops meet the front wall on these drawers, so any shock would be directly against the joints to the front.

    I sure hope my piece goes longer than 200 years – I would be disappointed if it proves to be otherwise.

  18. Evan,

    thanks for commenting and so glad you enjoyed the video.

    Drawer stops: look for the post 98 in this series. These stops control closing and not opening – the drawers can be pulled right out.

    How many hours: gosh, a whole bunch. I don't really keep track that way – it would be depressing to find out actually. This project also took a long time due to having a kid in the middle, and for having taken on 2 cabinets in the first place.


  19. Chris, I think the video added a lot. Thanks for all the time it took. My favorite aspects of the cabinet are the sensitive choice of figure to match the form, and the pine bark lattice design. And watching you fit the pieces together in a video is definitely clearer than in static shots.

    I will admit that I cringed every time you whacked those finished pieces with the dead blow hammer! How could you not leave marks or dings? I am also surprised that you think hide glue would not be a good alternative to TiteBond for this application. I'm not an glue expert but my intuition is that hide glue would be up to the task. Plenty of old furniture put together with hide glue still standing. But maybe that is because they are in museums with no touching allowed?

  20. G Radice,

    thanks for the comment,

    Bubinga is not too bothered by dead blow hammer hits, so no issues there with marks or dings.

    I think hide glue would have been an adequate alternative to Titebond for the application – quite likely up for the task more or less. Where I'm looking to make the connection reversible, I'll either use no glue or something like hide glue. With a drawer, though given they are more highly stressed in use over time than other parts of the cabinet, and since the connections do not lend themselves to being taken apart by their nature, I preferred the extra strength of the Titebond.

    If you look at old pieces that have been well used, weaker bond glue connections (like those you obtain with Hide glue) do tend to exhibit failure. Most of what you look at in museums of course has been repaired so that aspect is not so obvious. It's common, for instance, on old pieces of furniture to find that shocks to the drawer by repeated yanks open and slams shut, in concert with many rounds of seasonal moisture cycling moving the parts back and forth relative to one another, to find such things as glue blocks (put on with hide glue) on the underside, to have fallen off, and dovetail joints to partially separate. Hide glue is great in many respects, but it has its drawbacks too.


  21. Chris,

    That is quite cool. I was captivated for the entire video.
    So IMO separate and apart from the exceptional & fascinating woodworking, the videography is very well done.

    My only comment – My wrists started hurting involuntarily, my shoulders tensed, and my neck got sore as you hit something with your fist or palms. I used my hands the same way, and now my wrists are a mess. To clarify – I am not in pain “all the time”, not at all. But I can't use them for sustained effort on a daily basis. Well, old vibratory English motorcyle handlebars had some role.

    There might not be any good answer for work like that, but the price can be difficult.

  22. SMT,

    thanks for the comment, and glad you actually like the videography.

    As to the use of my hands like that: it was something i noticed as well, watching the video. I think I do altogether too much it, and will be endeavoring to change my habit in that regard. Not something that had crossed my mind until i saw myself on video doing it so much. No injuries at present from the practice, but I'm sure it would be better to do less of it and not tempt fate.


  23. I really enjoy going through your design and build processes. Watching the short final completion build as a video brings all the process together. Delightful, and thanks!

    Now, two things, one already discussed. Don't beat yourself to a pulp like you do. It hurts … you. I know, quick and easy now. But, later….

    Second, I would think you find steel wool too messy. I loved it, years ago, because it was all we had for final burnishing. Well, maybe moose horn. But now there are so many cool abrasives that can be used which live longer. And, on a recent project using Western Red Cedar I was astounded to see how much steel remained on the wood. It was the worst case of black spot you can imagine. Obviously, not the same wood density, but the experience cured me.

    Great to see your assistant help. Cherish this time. It only gets worse. Hah! And, you don't need to be over protective. I was mixing oil paints from powder at four, and stealing Dad's tools at under three. The number of lost nails we found in our feet would build several forts.

  24. Bruce,

    some mornings, the nicest thing is to receive a real comment and not another spam attempt. Happy 2018!

    The steel wool is messy, but I haven't found I've liked the results from various texture cloths so far. since I am working the finish and not the wood itself, it is very easy to clean off and I don't find I end up with any residue problems. Even if some of it ended up on bare wood, bubinga does not seem to have any susceptibility to oxide staining from what I have seen.

    Don't worry about me being over protective – I'm wired quite the opposite way in fact, and am appalled to find myself living within a society in which you can't leave your kid in a car for two minutes, or let them walk to school, without someone reporting you to child protective services. So different from when I was a child.

Anything to add?