The design of the armoire built for this instruction article incorporates 2 drawers and 2 doors for media storage. The overall dimensions will approximate 37″ wide x 52″ height x 18″ deep. The design will also have redesigned Chippendale feet which will extend 8″ in from each corner and span the full depth of the chest.
I use basic sketches for my designs and not detailed drawings. The draw back here is that mistakes can be made with respect to dimensions or proportions. In the past I have noticed a tendency to under size the Chippendale feet, so this time I have modified the design to provide a height for the feet of 4-1/2 inches.
The junction of the two pieces forming one of the feet will be mitered and joined with dowels, using the new Dowelmax 45 degree accessory.
Step 1: Design of the Chippendale Feet used to Build the Armoire Frame Assembly Base Section
In order to avoid lamination, I used solid 2 inch thick stock for the feet, milled down to 1-1/2 inch x 4-1/2 inch. The table saw was used to rough out the dimensions then the final cuts were undertaken with the jointer and planer.
To improve the effect and appearance, I routed an ogee at the top outer corner of the feet.
The next step is to cut the miters, then drill the bores for the dowel placement. I have used test pieces to ensure that the table saw blade is set at exactly 45 prior to making cuts on the cherry stock, I also ensure that the table saw blade is properly set and the cross cuts are absolutely 90 degrees to the table saw top.
Disassemble Dowelmax and install the recently designed Dowelmax 45 degree accessory. Install spacers to ensure that the dowel placement is close to the inner edge. This is to ensure complete penetration of the 1-1/2 inch dowel and to increase the strength of the fixture.
The next step is to build the concave section of the front face of the Chippendale foot using a straight edge clamped to the table saw surface. The straight edge is ranged at approx. 45 degrees on the table saw top and a distance of approx. 7/8″ exists between table saw blade and straight edge (fence). NB. It is better to cut the miters and drill the dowel joint bores before cutting the shape into the foot.
Blade rotation is towards the operator, consequently a load is imparted to the wooden work piece, which in effect tends to thrust the work piece towards the operator. For that reason, the fence or straight edge has to be positioned between the blade and the operator.
The Chippendale feet support considerable weight, therefore the join at the miter should be commensurate. I consider that 3 – 3/8″ x 1-1/2 inch dowels will be sufficient for this task.
I cut the miters using a shop made sled. Use a test piece and make sure both the cross cuts and the 45 degree cuts are accurate.
The drilling set up for the miter bores is shown in the photo below.
Note, spacers equaling 1 inch have been inserted for dowel placement closest to the inner corner, providing greater penetration and therefore strength.
Step 2: Design of the Pillars Used to Build the Armoire Frame Assembly Corner Sections
The total height of the armoire is 53-1/2 inches and the design incorporates 4 – vertical pillars at each corner of the frame which measure 1-3/4 x 1-3/4 x 48 inches long. I used a piece of solid cherry 2 inches thick in order to avoid laminations.
It is fairly common when cutting these long sections that the initial cut offs can be slightly bowed, so that has to be corrected. To that end I cut 4 – 2 inch x 2 inch x 50 inch long work pieces, ensuring beforehand by machinist’s square, that the table saw blade is absolutely true with the table saw bed plate.
2 of the pieces cut were indeed slightly bowed, and to correct that anomaly, I constantly reversed the work piece and removed a small amount each time on the table saw. These problems can also be corrected on the jointer (concave face down) with the final face being corrected on the planer.
Each piece was left slightly oversized, following which 2 of the 4 edges were run through the jointer and the remaining 2 edges were then machined on the planer.
Ensure that all 4 corner pillars are identical in thickness and width.
The next step is to cut these pillars to length and ensure that these lengths are all identical.
To achieve this, I used the shop made table saw sled, the table saw fence, and a 1 inch spacer. Since the length of each corner pillar is 48 inches, the fence is set at exactly 49 inches. Note: to ensure that each setting is identical, the cross cut sled must be returned to the same position for each setting. The 1 inch spacer is placed between the end of the pillar and the table saw fence.
CAUTION: The 1 inch spacer must be removed before each cut is undertaken.
It would be desirable for each pillar to extend down to the floor and be affixed to the inside corner of the Chippendale feet, however since the pillar is 1-3/4″ wide, it will in some instances be visible through the front section of the Chippendale feet. We will therefore extend the corner pillars down 1-1/2″ below the top of the Chippendale feet and secure a 1″ x 1″ batten to the inside corner adjacent to the miter. This in effect will provide adequate support for the armoire weight.
Step 3: Design of the Scalloped Vertical Stile Inserts Used to Build the Armoire Frame Assembly Front Section
With this frame assembly design, there are 2 vertical stiles fastened to the inside of the front corner posts, these will measure 7/8″ x 2-1/4″ x 48″. Each will contain 3 scalloped concave grooves. I have constructed a simple box type jig to ensure the 3 scalloped grooves are equidistant.
Front and rear transverse rails used to build the armoire frame assembly front section which total 8 in number.
There are 4 transverse rails at the front and rear framing of the armoire. The 2 intermediate rails adjacent to the 2 drawers, are routed and scalloped to provide a pleasing design.Ensure all the lengths are identical using a table saw, cross cut sled, fence and 1 inch spacer. Caution: return the sled to a predetermined position prior to the set up, and ensure the 1 inch spacer is removed prior to making the cut.
When setting up the router bit, use the test piece and adjust the bit to ensure the bit is centered on the 1 1/2″ face of the transverse rail. If possible use a digital caliper for the set up.
Step 4: Design of the Rails Used to Build the Armoire Frame Assembly Front and Rear Sections
With designs similar to this, I always make the rail system for the front absolutely identical to the rear. This is done not just for structural reasons but to accommodate the slider arrangements for the two drawers. The front rails are attached to the inner verticals and the rear rails are attached to the rear pillars. The top rail is 3 1/2″ wide and accommodates 4 dowels at each end. The 2 intermediate scalloped rails are 1 1/2″ wide and incorporate 2″ dowels at each end. The bottom rail is 3 1/8″ wide, and that rail accommodates 3 dowels at each end. All rails are 7/8″ thick as are the vertical inserts, therefore 1/16″ spacer is used between reference plate and reference block on the Dowelmax, i.e. 1/2 thickness minus 3/8″.
Step 5: Design of the Raised Panels Used to Build the Armoire Frame Side Sections
While I prefer raised panels on the sides, it is perfectly reasonable to employ some other simpler design.
I milled the rails and stiles from 7/8 inch stock and elected on the width of 4 1/4 for the stile and rails. These panels will extend the full height of the corner posts, i.e. 48 inches, the 2 ends are of course identical and the components measure as follows:
Remember to allow an additional 3/4 inch in length or width of the centre panel and 3/4 in length for the upper and lower rails to allow for the stub tenon.
The stock comprising the 10 individual pieces were dressed using the planer, following which these components were sanded with 220 grit.
For the rails and stiles comprising the 2 end panels, I used Freud dual bevel rail and stile bit set. I number the 2 bits #1 being the profile for the stub tenon and mostly for cross grain purposes, and #2 for the profile with the mortise.
CAUTION: Disconnect power before changing bits
The following are tips for set up and routing.
All widths and thicknesses have to be identical.
- Mark outer faces. These faces are placed down on the router table prior to making a cut.
- Make cuts against router bit rotation.
- Make cross cuts first (minor tear out can be removed by long grain cuts.)
- Use mitre guide slide for short cross grain cuts.
- Make several passes before the final cut.
- Avoid hesitation or stopping while making a single pass.
- All final cuts to be made with the same setting.
All the outer faces comprising the work pieces are placed on the router table, face down, and I begin with the #1 cutter. The stock is 7/8 inch thick and the first height setting with #1 cutter aligns the top edge of the cutter with the top face of the work piece.
The 2 router bits should be located and fastened at exactly the same height with respect to each other in order to ensure an ideal fit.
The next step is to rout the bevel on the 4 edges of the center panel. It is a preference thing, however I like a small width bevel approx. 5/8 inch.
As with all face panel components, the face of the panel is placed down on the router table and once again, begin with the cross grain cuts as any tear out will be eliminated by the long grain cuts. Take approx. 3 passes on each edge to finish.
Use the miter gauge in conjunction with the cross grain cuts.
With many of my designs, I like to incorporate raised panels at the ends of most pieces, the finish is pleasing, however has one distinct disadvantage. The router profile includes a small stub tenon with related mortise, the penetration of the stub is approx. 3/8 inch and the entire structure is extremely weak.
The end panels form part of the engineered structure of the cabinet and therefore must be extremely strong to prevent wracking.
Using Dowelmax, I have discovered a way to strengthen these raised panels in order to create a rigid strong structure. The center panel is left floating and 3 – 3/8 x 2 inch dowels are placed at each of the 4 corners.
The rails and stiles are identical in length and width consequently in this particular case we can reference from the top down and from the bottom up. Reference is also made to the front faces. I used numbers rather than check marks to differentiate between the 4 corners. I used a 1/8 inch spacer between reference block and reference bracket and this centers the dowel over the stub tenon (slight misalignment at bracket off centre in these areas is not too important).
In order to center the 3 dowels on the 2 short rails, I made up a small 1 1/4 inch depth gauge (the points are to reduce any element of misalignment).
When drilling into the mortises on the stiles, enter the stiles slowly in order to avoid excessive tear out, and note since the mortise is 3/8″ in depth, that particular drill setting has to be increased by 3/8″. The drill setting for the 2″ dowel will therefore be just over 3 1/8″.
Once the various components comprising the raised panel ends have been trimmed and sanded, glue and clamp the arrangements.
The next step is to join these two raised panel ends to the 4 vertical pillars. Mark the reference marks at the top edges and faces (in this case I use numbers to differentiate the various mating components). Use the 1/16 inch washers for spacers for the 7/8 inch wood, i.e. (centring rule) half of 7/8 = 7/16 minus 3/8 = 1/16 inch.
If you want a relief from the edges of the vertical pillars, then use the 1/4 inch spacer for that purpose.
10 dowels are used for each mating face, and the extended distance gauge is used, set at 9 7/8 inch (aluminum head to point).
At this juncture cut the components for the 2 drawers. Assemble the structure as it is so far using approx. 50% of the required dowels. Lightly clamp the dry fitted assembly as required.
At this juncture, install the slide mechanism for the 2 drawers. This is a new arrangement and design using 2 – 3/8 inch thick spars and a section cut from the T shaped rails supplied by Richelieu (NOTE: This procedure as described is better left until the framework is glued, clamped and cured. This is to ensure proper alignment.
The rails to which the drawer slides are attached are, in this case, of different lengths. Place edge to edge, use a good quality tape measure or digital callipers to centre these one to the other. Find the centre line of both and draw a dotted line across both faces. The width of the Richelieu T section (shuttle) is 9/16 inch, so measure out 9/32 inch from the dotted centre line and draw a firm line again, across both faces. This is now the reference for Dowelmax. The guides measure 3/8 x 1 1/2 x 15 3/16 inch and to centre using the simple formula, half thickness minus 3/8, we have a negative reading of 3/16 inch. In that regard, rather than expanding the width of the device, we have to shrink it. Place the 1/8 inch spacer together with the 2 – 1/16 inch brass washers on the reference face of the reference bracket. Secure with the 2 small cap screws. Mark reference marks on all related faces and edges, in this case I use numbers, ensuring that the numbers are marked on the inside edge of the 2 guides. Align Dowelmax on guide ends and drill 2 – 1/4 inch diameter holes. These are extremely accurate, however they only form function as guides, so no unusual strength is required.
Using Dowelmax in its first configuration, extend the span by using the 3/8 inch spacer between reference block and clamp bracket, align to mark on rail and drill 2 holes. Repeat for remaining 3 guides.
In order to cut the second row of drawer guide holes, we require an accurate spacer. Using the band saw, cut a small section from the base of the Richelieu rail, install between first drawer guide and Dowelmax guide block, and drill through bores #1 and 2.
Repeat for second drawer slide arrangement.
Insert shuttle and test for smooth operation. Sand edges as required to provide an easy sliding motion without undue lateral movement.
Step 6: How to Build the Armoire Drawer and Drawer Slide Assemblies
Overall dimensions: 5 5/8 x 33 1/2 x 15 inches
I am not keen on using plywood for drawers unless it is for the bottom panel. I prefer the walls to be 5/8 inch thick and solid wood. I also like to incorporate mitre joints at the front with exposed through dowels, and butt joints at the rear. The lower panel (plywood) will be set up into the lower section of the walls and will not be visible.
The drawer walls are approximately 6 inches wide and the maximum blade height above bed plate on the table saw is 3 inches, therefore after the first cut we have to turn the work piece upside down in order to complete the process. This requires care and attention. Prior to making these cuts check and make sure that your table saw blade is absolutely vertical and at 90 degrees to the bed plate using a good quality machinist’s square. Make sure the stock is firmly against the fence and at 90 degrees to the bed plate. Use your right hand to push the material through and a push stick to maintain the stock at 90 degrees to the bed plate. Reverse and complete the second cut.
Trim the rough sections on the planer. I prefer not to have any rough edges or laminations showing when the drawer is finished and assembled, consequently the 2 sides should overlap the long transverse walls. Mitring the two front corners will also obviate that problem. And with the exposed dowel (oval in shape) this adds to the aesthetics.
Dado for bottom plywood panel. I am using faced half inch plywood for the bottom panel, and in order to avoid seeing the plywood lamination, I recess the plywood up into the walls of the drawer with a 3/8 x 1/2 inch dado.
I use brads and glue to secure the plywood into the lower recess of the drawer. The plywood is lightly sanded (220) before installation.
The fascia plate for the 2 front drawers, measures 5 15/16 x 33 1/2 inch. I cut bevels on the front face of the plate, using the router table.
The depth of the bevel is 3/4 inch.
Purely for aesthetic reasons, and otherwise unnecessary, I like to add an upper or top bevel plate to the main fascia.
No fastenings are required due to the considerable contact area of the 2 pieces. These are merely glued and clamped.
Take great care to centre these bevel components onto the main drawer fascia.
Step 7: How to Build the Armoire Raised Panel Door Assemblies
The opening measures approximately 26 x 33 3/4 inch, I allow 1/16th at each extremity for trimming on completion. Measurements of all 10 components are as follows:
Dimensions of the rails, stiles and center panels used to build the armoire frame raised panel end sectionAs noted, the 2 centre panels are 10 5/8 inch in width and since it is unlikely we can obtain a single piece of that width without being severely cupped, we are therefore joining 2 pieces 5 5/16 inch in width and will join these using 6 – 3/8 inch dowels.Note: Remember to allow an additional 3/4 inch all round for the main centre panel and for the ends of the upper and lower rails. This is to allow for the small stub tenons.
Place all reference marks, referencing from the front and top, set distance gauge at approximately 6 3/4 inch, drill through sequence for first set: drill through 2 and 3, second set: drill through 1 and 2, and third set: drill through 3 and 4.
Once glued and clamped, ensure panel surfaces are not cupped by clamping pressure, and if required, use wedges or additional clamps to fair these faces.
Once cured, trim and square all edges to the required sizes for the center panels.
The stiles comprising the door, can be left slightly oversize for trimming on completion, however the rails have to be cut to the exact size. That also applies to the center panels.
I use the cross cut sled in conjunction with the table saw, ensuring that the blade is exactly 90 degrees to the table saw bed plate. Trim one end of all 4 rails, then reverse and using the table saw fence in conjunction with the 1 inch stop, cut all rails to the identical size. The rails are 10 5/8 inch long and with the 1 inch spacer installed, the table saw fence is set at 11 5/8 inch.
CAUTION: *REMOVE THE 1 INCH SPACER PRIOR TO MAKING THE CUT*
ROUTING THE RAILS AND STILES FOR THE RAISED PANEL DOORS:
I use the 2 piece Freud router bits (carbide tipped) for this procedure and the following are a few tips I have found useful:
- Disconnect power before changing router bits
- Mark all front faces of rails, stiles and panels and these faces are always down flat on the router table
- Do all cross grain cuts first (the second long grain cuts will remove any tear out)
- The previous procedure will not be valid with respect to some cuts and for these I use a 7/8 x 7/8 inch block to reduce tear out (see photograph)
- Use 3 to 4 passes to finalize all cuts
- Use the miter guide for cross cuts
- I live in a very dry region and therefore for better control of the work piece, I use surgical gloves for each pass
- Use continuous passes. Hesitation or stopping during a pass can alter the surface structure of the wood and adversely affect staining
Once all the rail and stile profiles have been cut, dry fit the assembly and check all ends and edges are fair and even. Inspection revealed a slight raised edge at the upper and lower rails, and those were trimmed using a spoke shave and subsequently sanded.
While I really like the raised panel appearance on furniture, it is a very weak assembly. The stub tenon incorporated in the design is a mere 3/8″ in length, and even after gluing and clamping, the resultant structure will, in my opinion, be extremely weak and vulnerable.
To solve this problem, I use 3 – 3/8″ dowels at the juncture with all rails and stiles. 1 1/2″ dowels are adequate, however to ensure additional strength, 2 inch dowels can be used. The system is not visible on completion, and resultant structure is extremely strong. With this design of chest, the side panels form part of the strength structure and it is therefore essential that these components be strong to avoid racking at any time in the future.
Reference numbers are placed on the relative faces of the rails and stiles and since both rails are identical in length, we can reference from the top down and from the bottom up. Before beginning however, we must ensure proper points of reference and to achieve that we proceed as follows: Dry fit the assembly, including the center panel, then align all components to conform to the final position. Use 2 clamps to create light pressure on the 2 stiles, then tap the rails inward until contact is almost made with the bevel of the center panel. This now gives us the final position of the structure and we can trim the upper and lower edges.
Following that procedure, replace the reference numbers at each corner in preparation for dowel placement. Reference is made from the front and use of a 1 inch spacer will center the dowels over the stub tenon. None of these joints will be visible following assembly of the door.
I use a 6 inch orbital sander to sand 2 door assembly (dry fitted), dowels, then disassemble these components and finish sanding by hand to 220 grit.
I have always had good success with the Richelieu interface bronze hinges. These hinges are 2 inches long and although small, are perfectly adequate for the job. I began by dry fitting the front framework, lightly clamping same and ensuring that the structure is absolutely square and true. Lay the framework on the workshop floor, then trim the 2 doors to fit inside the framework, leaving a small clearance.
The hinges will be ranged 4 inches from the top and 4 inches up from the bottom.
Accuracy is important so therefore I use a digital caliper in this entire process. The result was very successful.
Step 8: How to Build the Armoire Top Plate Main Panel
The top plate’s center main panel is ringed by 3 mitered perimeter rails.
The center main panel measures 7/8 x 20 3/16 x 46 11/16 inch, and is constructed of 3 – 7/8 x 6 x 41 1/2 inch planks (minor trimming required after assembly).
End rails (2): 7/8 x 3 x 20 3/16 inch
Long front rail (1): 7/8 x 3 x 46 11/16 inch
Following gluing and assembly, the inner core of the top plate requires to be trimmed, the forward and rear edges are trimmed in the table saw, however another process is required to trim the 2 ends. I use a router with a straight carbide tipped bit, and use the following items:
- Good quality fence
- 2 pressure pads
- 2 spacers (slightly less width than main work piece)
- machinist’s square
- painter’s tape
- various clamps
VIDEO HERE (Oct. 17)
N.B. While using the router for this procedure, it is essential to work against router bit rotation, in this case, from left to right.
Step 9: Joining the Three Mitered Rails Used to Build the Armoire Top Plate Assembly Perimeter to the Main Center Panel
The front and side rails are 3 inches in width, therefore we must ensure to leave at least 3 inches on each side of the front rail to allow for the 2 miters. In this case, I allowed 3 1/8 inch of extra length at each end, placed the 2 pieces together and drew a fine pencil line at the left hand side at junction of plate and 3 inch rail (this is the reference mark for Dowelmax).
Set the extended distance gauge at 7 3/4 inch (from tip to base), align Dowelmax, drill 3 & 4, insert the extended distance gauge in the last bore, realign Dowelmax and drill 1 & 2. In this manner continue along to the right hand side of the top plate (10 accurately placed dowels).
Use the fine scribed line on the rail to align Dowelmax and use the same extended distance gauge setting to again drill 10 accurately spaced bores.
Erase the fine scribed reference line and dry fit the assembly using 50% of the dowels, i.e. 5, and scribe 2 new fine lines at junction with both work pieces.
The 3 – 3 inch rail components edging the front and sides of the top plate incorporate 2 front mitres. In joining mitres using Dowelmax, the axis of the dowel is usually at 90 degrees to the mitre edge. We cannot use this configuration in this particular case because the axis for the dowel in the mitre has conform with the axis of the dowels on the 2 ends.
Various steps are required for this process, and these are detailed step by step as follows:
Each rail is 3 inches in width, and since we require a mitre at each end, we have to allow at least a 3 inch overlap at both ends (I allow an additional length of 6 1/4 inches).
Step 1: Place the rail in its proper position against the top plate, and when aligned, scribe a fine line at the junction between plate and rail.
Step 2: Using that fine line and the top face as reference, drill through drill guides 3 & 4, install the distance gauge set at 7 3/4 inches, and use that device to create 10 drillings across the rail.
Step 3. Using the left corner as reference for Dowelmax and incorporating the distance gauge at the same setting, drill 10 holes on the top plate to align with the drillings on the front rail.
Step 4: Using 50% of the dowels (5) mate the rail with the top plate, erase the original reference line and draw 2 new reference lines at both ends of the rail (this is the accurate reference for the mitre cut.
Step 5: Use test piece, table saw and mitre gauge to obtain exact 45 degree cut.
Step 6: Align Dowelmax to inside edge of front rail and drill through guides 2 & 3 (ensure that drill hole extends at least 3/4 inch beyond mitre line).
Step 7: Same process at opposing end.
Step 8: Prepare the end rails for alignment using the rear edge and top end for alignment, and incorporating the distance gauge set at approx. 5 inch spacing. Drill through bores 2 & 3 for first bores and drill through 1 & 2 for the remainder (6 dowels in total).
Step 9: Repeat the process for the end rail using the rear end and top face for Dowelmax alignment.
Step 10: Install dowels, attach end rail and scribed line at junction with rail and top plate (scribed line is now reference for mitre cut and additionally for Dowelmax alignment and setting).
PHOTO 3648 shows position for Dowelmax set and drilling into the end mitre.
Step 10: Cutting Miters on the Rails used to Build the Armoire Top Plate Perimeter
I use the mitre guide with the table saw tracks to cut the mitres (I am not in favour of using the chop saw for this operation), and in order to increase the contact area between work piece and mitre guide, I have attached a block of wood to the fence side of the mitre guide.
Begin with the long front rail, but first use a test piece in order to ensure accurate 45 degree cuts. Use the 2 scribed lines on each end of the long rail as a guide for these 45 degree cuts. Some care and patience is required to ensure that these 45’s mate accurately with the corners of the centre plate.
Once accurately cut, insert approx. 50% of the front rail dowels, insert the rail and lightly clamp.
Cut the mitre on the end of the end rail, leaving some material for correction. Align the end rail with the edge of the centre panel, then slide forward until contact is made with the front mitre. Adjust the mitre guide to suit, take a second cut and again try for a good mating edge. Continue in that manner until a perfect mitre joint is created.
The final cut or cuts are then made again using the scribed line on the end rail, until a point is reached where the end rail will slide onto the dowels and make a perfect match with the mitre of the long front rail.
Repeat the process on the opposite end of the top.
Step 11: Adding Filler Pieces into the Relief Between the Armoire Raised Side Panels and Pillars for Installation of a Moulding
A 5/16th inch relief or setback exists in the design at the front, rear and side panels. Since the design incorporates moulded trim at the upper and lower sections of these faces, it is necessary to install suitable filler pieces. The width of these will be exactly the same as the depth of the recess or relief.
With these filler pieces in position (secured by screws from the inside surfaces) the mitre routered decorative pieces will be fitted and secured with these same screws installed from the inside.
Step 12: Gluing and Clamping the Sub-Assembly to Build the Armoire Frame Side Section
I began joining the raised end panels, and clamped these to the corner posts. For alignment purposes, I prefer to join one post at a time and additionally, for alignment purposes, I aligned the top and bottom clamps as shown in photo:
The second corner post is installed, glued and clamped, again with the top and bottom clamps positioned at the upper and lower edges as shown in photo.
Step 13: Gluing and Clamping the Sub Assembly to Build the Armoire Frame Front Section
Prepare clamps before assembly, apply glue to all 8 surfaces, internal peripheries and dowels, assemble and clamp as with side panels using top and bottom clamps above upper and lower ends to maintain alignment whilst under pressure, then use 2 intermediate clamps to take pressure on intermediate rails. Use machinist’s square to ensure assembly is absolutely square and true.
At this point in time it should be noted that if all of your cross cuts are at a true 90 degrees and the lengths of the rails and verticals are identical where required, it is virtually certain that when clamped, the front structure assembly will be absolutely true and square.
Step 14: Staining and Finishing the Armoire Frame Sub-Assemblies Before Final Assembly
My preference is to prep, stain and finish each component prior to assembly, however in this particular case I have elected to assemble the 2 raised panel ends and the front framework prior to prep and staining. Components like doors, drawers and decorative mouldings in all likelihood will have to be adjusted prior to complete assembly and for that reason prep, staining and finish of these items will be left till final assembly.
All components are sanded to 220 grit and in this case I have elected to alter the prep mix to include one part shellac to 4 parts methyl hydrate. Prior to the application of the prep coat, I rub down all surfaces with superfine steel wool.
Apply the first prep coat liberally, with the grain, rub in and leave overnight.
Prior to staining, cover all glued areas with a layer of painter’s tape. Apply a coat of dark walnut gel stain to all surfaces, remove excess and rub in, with the grain. Leave overnight.
The next step is a light rub down with superfine steel wool, following which a second stain coat of 50% dark walnut and 50% gel espresso is applied (with the grain), remove excess and rub in to avoid streaks and blotches. Leave overnight.
The third step requires a light sanding with superfine steel wool, then a final stain application of espresso gel stain.
The staining process is gradual, each additional coat will only enhance and enrich the appearance to a small degree.
View of end panel after application of second coat, i.e. dark walnut/espresso mix
Once the components comprising the front frame, the side panels and the end rails have been prepped, stained and finished, these can now be glued and clamped (drawer guides installed) and with that framework assembled, we can now fine tune the drawers, doors and decorative mouldings.
I never construct furniture pieces using drawings, and as a consequence of that, mistakes can be made, particularly with respect to proportion and aesthetics. Once dry fitted I immediately recognized an error with respect to the top plate. Originally the top plate was 3/4 inch thick, below which decorative mouldings would be fastened. Once dry fitted however, I quickly came to realize the flaw and decided to re-design the top plate. To that end I have installed a 1/2 inch x 2 inch mitred perimeter rail to the underside (ends) of the top plate. When added, this was a very successful feature and it immediately gave the impression of a thick, substantial top.