Mid Century Dresser in Avodire

Norah's Dresser (2a)

These past few months I took on my most ambitious furniture project to date – a full size dresser for my daughter.  I wanted to add some visual depth to the standard box of drawers, which would be in the mid-century style.  My search for inspiration images lead to a fantastic collection of mid-century furniture photos compiled by a fellow name Whit Blazemore on flickr.

I settled on a step back design – the top drawer section (2×2) would set back a couple inches from the bottom section (1×3).  I also did not want to have any division between the drawers, the front would be uninterrupted. And since this was my first dresser I wanted to do it right with dovetails all around.  Norah's Dresser (20)

To accomplish these requirements, I knew that I would need some overhang on drawer fronts in various spots to cover the structural dividers within.  I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to pull this off, but I knew the case construction would be fairly standard so I started there and knew that I would figure out the final details as I went. Ultimately the top drawers ended up as false fronts hanging on side slides, and the bottom drawers have traditional center mounted run guides.

For the wood I used Avodire, a tropical African hardwood, which I discovered at Midwest Lumber’s purge a couple years ago.  I had never heard of Avodire before and was intrigued by its creamy light color.  I think I bought the whole supply!  I have enough left for a couple side tables.Norah's Dresser (3a)

As with most of the wood at Midwest, this stuff was probably sitting around in the rough for decades – so I really didn’t know what it would look like after it was milled.  In general I prefer clear, straight grained wood over the figured stuff, and after I had run through the machines I had a nice mix of both.  I used the straight grain boards for the sides, and moderate figure for the drawers and heavy figure for the top.  Poplar was the secondary wood for base, back, dividers and drawer sides and backs.

Case construction was half blind dovetails to connect the base, floating tenons to secure the top, and sliding dovetails for the concealed dividers.  Drawers were dovetailed all around.  I also made the handles out of Avodire as well, will put up a separate post on how those were made.Norah's Dresser (1)

For the finish I wanted to keep the wood as light as possible, so I only applied shellac that I mixed with Super Blond BT&C Tiger Flakes, and buffed to a soft luster with steel wool and Ruelle Restorations Natural Beeswax Paste.  The result is hallmark traits of a shellac/wax finish – sublime and soft to the touch!Norah's Dresser (3c)

Mid Century Cabinets

IMG_3273I recently finished a couple of mid century cabinets in walnut for our family room.  Nicole and I like the clean lines of this style, so we modeled the design from pictures of a few cabinets we liked.  The final dimensions were based on the space they were to occupy, along with the wood itself.  The smaller piece has a couple drawers and sliding panels to hold incidentals when coming and going from home (keys, glasses, diaper bag, hats, etc.) and the larger has only sliding panels to hold our daughter’s books.

The sliding panels are 1/2″ ply veneered with Italian Walnut from Veneer Supplies. This was my first go at veneer work – once I understood the process was surprised at how straightforward the work was.  For the smaller cabinet panels I used a manual vacuum press from Lee Valley with a couple MDF platens. These were notched with table saw kerfs to allow for efficient air removal and even pressure, which worked well.

The panels for the larger cabinet were too big for the bag – for these I used my workbench as a flat reference with the panels between plywood platens and clamped with maple battens.  The battens are V shaped on the bottom, rising about 1/8″ from the center to the ends.  I placed the “V” in the middle and of the platen and clamped the ends to each side of the the bench, which flattened the battens to the work, ensuring consistent pressure across the clamp surface.   Worked great, should have used this method on the smaller panels and saved my money on the vacuum bag!DSC00158

The case construction was straightforward – loose tenons and sliding dovetails. I carefully laid out the stopped grooves that the panels ride in (1/8″ deep on bottom,  7/16″ on top, cut on a router table).  There was some trial and error cutting the door panel rabbets on a test board, but once properly fitted and lightly waxed, they glide effortlessly with very little play.


 IMG_2408Finished with boiled linseed oil and shellac and put into service!