This is post 1 of a 3 (+) part series. Expect installment 2 at a later date when this furniture piece is closer to completion.
A few weeks ago, as I was on my Saturday morning drive to a Wedding Show, I spotted 2 things alongside the road that always catch my attention: an abused piece of furniture and a sign that read “FREE.” Actually, it was sitting in the midst of tarp-covered tables at a garage sale as it was quite early and had rained during the night. I stomped on the brakes (safely, looking in my rear view mirror first), and pulled along the road to get a better look. It was a table height cabinet, one drawer across the top and two hinged doors at the bottom. Having been rained on and a in a bit of disrepair (completely falling apart), I got back in my car and drove off. 20 minutes later down the road, I called my sister (waking her up far to early for her Saturday) and asked her to pick it up for me. If there is one thing that adds even more enjoyment to furniture refinishing, it would have to be getting the furniture piece for free. On top of that it would be saving a furniture piece from inevitable death by bonfire or life sentence to a landfill. That same week I began peddling with the piece, completely disassembling it in my garage for a few hours each evening. The cabinet was not built very well, nor was it even very old in age; it was, however, free lumber, already designed, sawn to the right sizes, and a desired piece of furniture that I knew I could find a use for.
(this is where I would insert the before photo. unfortunately, I did not photograph the piece before I began disassembling and sanding it.)
The cabinet is very similar in size and shape to this Better Homes & Garden Entertainment Hutch which sells for over $200 at various home stores and isn’t solid wood (a major criteria for furniture of mine).
After a few weeks of sanding (burning up my orbital sander in the process), I was ready to assemble it this week. Not having to work Thursday, I loaded all the pieces into the mini van (my make-shift pickup) and headed to my Grandfather’s woodworking shop a short drive north from Van Wert. Although someone else built and cut all the lumber for it, with my woodworking background I intended to build it better, stronger, faster.
Now for a quick lesson in woodworking joinery. For starters, you don’t attach end grain directly to face grain. It just doesn’t work well. First attempt a dado joint.
A dado wouldn’t have worked for this, it would have made the cabinet slightly narrower and I was afraid the drawer would have rubbed on each side. Second choice? Nailing strip or cleat.
A more noticeable choice, but I wasn’t concerned. After an entire afternoon of trying to put the cabinet back together (make sure to label every piece), I finally have the cabinet reassembled…with my Grandfather’s help.
Here is a photo of the bottom shelf, taken from the back. It shows how I attached the bottom shelf to the side wall of the cabinet using a cleat. The cleat is glued and stapled with brads to the side wall, then the shelf is glued and stapled to the cleat and the side wall. Using a cleat here practically triples the glued surface areas.
Between this post and part 2, I will be filling all the nail holes (from the original builder; I used mostly wood glue and clamps and a brad nailer where necessary) with a good stainable wood putty, finish sanding and finding hardware (I really didn’t like the hardware that was on it when I picked it up). You can see from this photograph that this piece has knots everywhere and steep variances in color. I will discuss how I will select a stain color, prepare the cabinet, and finally stain it in the second post of this project. Expect that post in a few weeks, with the final during and after photographs shortly!