Joint Project #1 - Part 1
By John Fry and Jack Hutchison "WalnutGuy"
Written by John Fry
October 2005

For over a year now, I have admired and respected the 18th century period work posted on WoodNet by Jack Hutchison, A.K.A. the WalnutGuy.   He has always commented on my much more contemporary style of work, which he likes to refer to as "artsy-fartsy".

After many PMs and emails, sharing questions, answers, and advice, Jack said, "Hey, why don't we do a joint project, your shop or mine makes no difference?".   I jumped at the opportunity and immediately said, "Yes!".   After all, if he comes here I can show him a thing or two about artsy fartsy, and if I go to Texas, he can show me all about that "stuffy", but beautiful, 18th century work.

I didn't have any commissioned work on order that would be worthy of his trip, so I came up with the idea of doing a Krenov style "Cabinet on Stand".   I had some beautiful curly Koa in stock, and picked up some 12/4 Walnut.

So, Jack came to California, stayed seven days, we finalized our concept, and here is what we did in 5 1/2 solid days in my shop.

A veneered curly Koa cabinet on a sculpted, curved leg, stand.

As always, I welcome your comments AND critiques on this new piece.

The doors are bookmatched with a strip of sapwood down the middle.   The turned Gaboon Ebony handles accent the Koa's colors.   The elegance of the sweeping curved legs is complimented by the sculpted and curved form of the apron's bottom edge, and the rounded over upper edges of the stand.

The entire carcass is veneered.   The inside is done in white Maple.

A detail shot of the dovetailed mini drawers, their Ebony pulls, and the careful mating of the cabinet to stand.

We wanted to the back to be as beautiful as the front so the piece could be placed anywhere in a room.   We bookmatched the Maple inside, and bookmatched the Koa in back.

We started by resawing the all the veneers, both Koa and Maple.   We did this first because we were forced to let the "net width" of the prettiest piece of Koa dictate the finished width of our doors, and therefore the cabinet.

The veneer slices went straight to the drum sander for few quick passes.   Jack is inspecting a slice of Koa that will become one of the doors, as he has started sanding the Maple flitch.

We started to break down the 12/4 rough plank of Walnut for the stand, by cutting it to rough length on the RAS.

We planed to a "clean" thickness and I jointed one edge to prep for ripping our leg blanks.

We laid out our desired curve on a piece of 1/4" hardboard and Jack cut it out on the band saw and sanded to final shape.

While Jack was starting on the legs, I edge glued all the veneers that would be bookmatched.   Before veneering, some carcass panels needed to be edged with solid Koa to accommodate rabbets and some strictly for edge appearance.   Then I set up the vacuum bag and started pressing veneers.

These are the two sides of the carcass, fresh out of the press.   Each panel is bookmatched Koa.

While I'm veneering, Jack is working on the legs.   First, one side of each leg is sawn close to the pattern's pencil line.   Then he hot glued the cut-off back onto the sawn side of the leg for support while he cut the second side.

Because the legs are curved on two planes, he used the hand sander for most of the sanding.   The spindle sander and edge sander could only be used for small portions of the legs.

After Jack had finished the basic sanding on the legs, and we had completed the veneering of the front doors, we were able to determine the final dimensions of our cabinet.   With this information, we could cut our aprons to final size and took the stand's pieces to the FMT and I cut all the mortise and tenons.

Here is a shot of leg parts ready for the dry fit.

Jack drew up a gentle curve for the bottom edge of the aprons to compliment the leg's curve, made templates for both dimensions needed for the aprons, and flush trimmed them all on the router table.   The stand is ready for a dry fitting and glue up!

After the glue up, Jack started the hand sculpting of the upper aprons, and routing the softened edges of the legs.

Here it is, all sculpted, sanded, and wiped down.

Meanwhile, I have been scraping and smoothing all the carcass panels.   They were then cut to dimension and the carcass is getting closer to glueup.

After I glued up the Walnut edging on the top and bottom of the carcass, Jack went to work on the dados for the dividers, shelf, and the knife hinges.

After pre-sanding all the parts, and a complete dry fit with doors, it's time to glue up the carcass.   We taped all the parts to assist in any glue squeeze out and glued it up.

Our cabinet design calls for four small drawers.   Here is where Jack's experience doing drop front secretaries, and period desks really came into play.   He is the master of the tiny drawer, secret compartments, and hidden drawer locks.   He set up, cut the parts, and built the gallery framework.

Here are all the drawer parts.   These little babies are only 2" tall and 4 5/8" wide.   The solid Koa fronts were too small to fit in the Leigh D4 jig in the half blind position, so we made a clamping block to hold and support the tiny drawer front.   You can see the wooden spring on the drawer bottom for the secret lock mechanism.

After the drawers were glued up, he hand sanded each one to get that perfect "piston fit".

I made up and installed some Gaboon Ebony pulls, and the final drawer fit was completed.

We wanted a perfect "piston fit" on the carcass back too, so the rabbet was "cornered" by hand chisel, and the back was carefully fit to size.

It's the morning of day six and we started our first coat of oil last night.   The doors, stand, and drawers are starting to show some sheen. The back panel has been glued in and clamped.   After the back has been scraped smooth and sanded, we will mount the base to the stand, another wipe of oil/varnish blend, and we will be into the studio shooting some pictures in no time.

This shot shows the tight fit of the veneered back panel.

This shot shows the detail of the wooden drawer lock spring.   It takes a tiny pushpin sized key in an almost invisible spot to release the catch and open the drawer.

Working with another woodworker is a first for me.   Working with someone of Jack Hutchison's caliber was an opportunity I am very grateful for.   I used to claim I was a self taught woodworker, but I learned so much from him in this short period of time, I probably can no longer make that claim.

To be able to watch someone work that has so much experience and knowledge is a real joy, but to see them apply it with so much confidence is a woodworking treat I'll never forget.

Thanks Jack,


Chisel And Bit
Custom Crafted Furniture

Jack Comments:

Let me start by noting the time of John Fry's post... 1:20 AM.   John didn't sleep, and neither did I as we were both excited about doing a jont project, learning and sharing, and just plain showing off trying to out do one another.

The concept of this project evolved over a period of a couple of months of email correspondence, discussing photos of Krenov's and Maloof's prior work, desired effect, etc.   We jointly agreed that marrying Krenov's rectilinear chest on stand concept with Maloof's sculpted look on the stand would produce an awesome piece.   Our design, however, was mostly on-the-fly using preliminary sketches, as we let the wood dictate our layouts, dimensions, etc.   There are pitfalls with this design approach and we made our share of mistakes, but quickly recovered.

We both thought the Walnut would look great as a compliment to the curly Koa with its varigated coloring and fabulous figure, along with the maple interior.   John bought a 16/4 slab of walnut for making the legs, and wouldn't you know that the monster slab had some decent crotch figure (to be resawn and used on a future project).   The curly Koa was left over from one of John's previous projects... so this piece became part of an ensemble.   We wound up with a bunch of sawdust and a couple of pounds of scraps upon completion.   No sense wasting good wood.

We believed that the case would look best if proportioned to the Golden Ratio, and the stand should be about 33" tall.   The dimensions of the case are nominally 16" x 25" x 10".

The legs were designed free form.   We just laid out the curvature, looked at it, tweaked it and cut a template out of 1/4" MDF, then proceeded to mill the rift sawn portions of 16/4 Walnut stock for best visual appeal and strength.

After bandsawing the blanks they were then block planed and sanded to final size.   Since the legs have a three dimensional profile pattern routing was ruled out thereby necessitating lots of hand tool work.   We used the cut-offs for the stand aprons for best color and grain match.

After milling the mortise & tenons on the squared up stock using the Leigh FMT the stand was glued up and allowed to cure overnite.   The stand was then securely clamped onto the workbench, legs rounded over using a trim router, and the top profile was sculpted using a block plane until it looked "right".   A small piece of 1/4" MDF was used as a template for reproducing the profile on adjacent sides.   Another template was made for the apron bottom profile by eyeballing until it looked "right", yielding a curved apron faired into the legs.

Drawers were made of 3/8" Maple with a solid 1/4" bottom.   Drawers were designed with half-blind dovetails on the front and through dovetails on the back.   The solid bottom is trapped in 1/8" grooves.

All surfaces were power and hand sanded to 200 grit and finished with four coats of Minwax Tung Oil Finish to produce a silky smooth semi gloss sheen.

Neither of us had previously used knife hinges, but these are prefect for this chest on stand design.   It turns out that the hinges require ultra precise positioning for best fit.   Note the 1/32" reveal around the doors, and 1/16" door gap to allow for free swing.   The hinge mortises were routed using a home-made jig designed for this purpose, but they still needed tweaking for final fit of the doors.   Other fits were also ultra precise including a 1/64" reveal around the drawers.   They really feel slick, especially the top drawer with the trick lock.   The snap of the lock upon closing the door is very satisfying.

I also have a Craftsman radial arm saw and find it useful for crosscutting rough lumber, especially the thick stuff.   The small table and thin kerf blades on compound miter saws are not designed for this task, nor could you use a miter saw with dado blades.   The radial arm saw excels in the latter task.

We both use slide miter saws for sneaking up on final cuts with smooth edges that are hard to obtain with the radial arm saw.

If you noted the leg curvature it is in three dimensions.   In order to gain the maximum curvature consistent with the design John purchased the 12/4 slab in LA to meet our requirements.   Cost was around $8 per bd ft...   but he got some nice crotch in the other end of that booger.   It weighed a ton.

A glue up leg blank would have destroyed the value of the piece.   It only costs a little more to go first class.

Designing and building this project was an intensely enjoyable experience for both of us, and we both learned a lot from it.

Thank you, John.

An encore is in order.


The Walnut Guy

"If you are not leading the pack the scenery never changes."
Questions & Answers:

Q:   Were the aprons flat, and standing proud of the legs, after glue up?

A:   Yes.   The upper curve was cut and shaped into the top of the four leg posts and the aprons glued in were flat stock.   The aprons were then shaped to the curve of the corner posts.

Jack left it all a bit wide so we could reshape to the exact fit of the case bottom after it was completed.

Doug Wilkison
Q:   So are you guys going to saw it down the middle or what?

A:   No.   Our deal was to "work for food", I supplied all the material and supplies and the project is mine, (actually my wife has already laid claim).   I came out way ahead 'cause Jack didn't really eat much.

When I go to his place the project will be his.

Q:   I think the vertical divider in the cabinet looks a tad heavy in comparrison to the shelves and horizontal drawer dividers. (?)

A:   Yeah, you could be right Mark.   A bit finer might have looked better, but you've gotta admit we did pretty good on design for a quick and dirty job. Plus we don't have Sketchup!

Dave in Texas
Q:   Oh and inquiring minds want to know if you used the same cameraman as David Marks?

A:   Naw!   I have a photo studio that I put up and take down for each shoot.   I'm getting better though, huh?

Q:   I notice that you do a lot of veneering on all your projects.   Is that to keep the cost down or to spread out the wood so that it ties together the piece with consistency?   Also, I noticed for the first time you have both a RAS and miter saw set up.   Any special reason why?

A:   That Koa fiddleback Koa was $55.00 a board foot, and I can cover a lot more more territory sawing it into veneers.   Veneering allows more bookmatching possibilities, and ways to accomodate for wood movement.   Veneering opens many doors.

BUT, go back through my projects and you'll see the last three were solid wood. (I think?)

I use a RAS for cutting down all rough lumber.   You can through a twisted and crooked board on that bench and not worry about it.   I also use it for big dados and half laps on timbers or thick stock.   I don't really use it for anything else and this lets me keep my 12" slider in perfect alignment,(yes it is a slider).

Joe Lyddon
Q:   Did every drawer have a spring-lock?

A:   No!   Just the top drawer is the one that can't be opened without the "key" .

Q:   His looks like a non slider miter saw.(?)

A:   Paul, here is a different angle, look behind Jack's back.   It is 12" Dewalt 708 slider.

Q:   re: "The entire carcass is veneered.   The inside is done in white maple."

In the cabinet interior, looking at the differences in thickness of supports and cross-members, did you guys use plywood as your veneer substrate in some cases and MDF in others?

If so, any tips you can give on what goes into that decision?

A:   The main cabinet members are 1/16" veneers on 5/8 MDF substrates, resulting in the 3/4" thickness of all the main panels and doors.

The 1/2" horizontal shelf, and all the 1/4" drawer gallery framework is solid maple with the grain running in the same direction.

We also used 1/2" plywood as a substrate for the back panel.   This was veneered on both faces with resawn bookmatched Maple and Koa.

A front-on view of the open cabinet shows a brighter Maple strip down the center to complement the Koa sapwood on the cabinet doors.

John is a master on the "real veneer" process.   Note the mamu Laguna bandsaw equipped with a 1" carblde blade and a power feeder.   I need it.   I want it.   I gotta have it.

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