This past Saturday (March 10,2012), I delivered my largest free-standing project to date. It was an armoire or wardrobe unit built entirely out of solid soft maple and soft tiger maple. The physical dimensions were 7′-0″tall x 60″wide x 23.5″deep.
Customers often ask why I need to see the house or apartment that the piece will reside in. Saturday proved my point. Although I had previously asked to visit the house that would house this wardrobe unit, the opportunity never presented itself. To say the least there were more turns and knuckle pinching door frames than I would have liked.
The wardrobe unit was a design collaboration between the customer and myself (as most custom pieces are). There was to be no plywood in this piece. One half had a large closet and 27″ x 68″ raised panel door. All the doors were wedged through mortise and tenon for strength. The other half had a 27″ x 24″ raised panel door, two small drawers and five drawers graduating in height. All the drawers were half blind dovetails in the front and through dovetail in the back with solid raised panel bottoms. Details such as hand planed beading and custom crown molding are just a few of the finishing touches that went into this piece. There are even custom-made adjustable shelf supports( they look like saw teeth).
All the joinery was either sliding dovetail, dovetail, through mortise & tenon and dado. Do to the units size and width careful attention was paid to seasonal movement of the entire unit. From over 25 years of experience I knew not to build the armoire with the base, top and back permanently attached. The base would later be attached with screw from the underside. The top was a solid slab with mitered breadboard ends and all the crown moldings in one piece. The top was slid into position after the cabinet had been set vertically. Two small dovetail keys and slotted screw slots in the back held the top in place. All the hardware was brushed solid brass.
The wardrobe unit was dyed (twice), oiled with linseed oil and coated with four coats de-waxed pale shellac. Once the finish had cured it was rubbed out with wax, mineral spirits and steel wool. The rubbing out alone took over four days to complete. All in all the entire project took over 450 hours to complete. The customer was so please with the final product, he asked if I could build a second one.