Canadian Woodworking
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Illusions in wood

Blog by Rob Brown
Nobody’s Going to Know

We needed a dresser for our bedroom, so I designed a six-drawer piece made with a solid cherry frame and veneered maple panels and drawer fronts.

I went to the lumberyard, bought enough wood (well, almost enough, but I’m getting ahead of myself) and headed back to the shop to start breaking out all the solid cherry frame parts.

An admission of guilt

I should back up a bit. When I’m making a piece for a client, corners are never cut. On the other hand, when I’m making a piece for a non-paying customer, there are times I make an adjustment to the design or an overall dimension in order to speed the build, reduce the cost or make things go more smoothly. This was one of those times.

It’s certainly not a case of the cobbler’s children going shoeless, as there are countless pieces of well-made furniture and other wooden objects all around our house. When it comes to furniture and woodwork, my family doesn’t suffer. It’s more of a case of the pieces in our house aren’t quite as nice as the pieces of furniture in my paying clients’ homes. But, to be honest, I doubt any of my family members looking at the furniture in our home would come to that conclusion.

Back to the dresser project

As I was breaking out the material, I realized I wasn’t going to have enough solid wood for all the frame pieces. I was missing one long rail that would tie the lower, rear of the dresser together. I could go back to the lumberyard, fork over a relatively substantial amount of money for another stick of black cherry (which isn’t cheap these days!) and return to the shop before breaking out this last piece, but that takes time and money.

I had a little bit of white ash laying around, but nothing thick enough. The frame parts were all about 1-3/4″ thick. I did have a piece of 2×4 as well, and decided to laminate the two together to create one lower rear rail that was large enough to work. The rail was about 99% hidden, unless you viewed the dresser from the back. The only portions of the rail that are visible in normal use are the two end grain sections at either end of the rail and about 3/4″ on two upper and front surfaces, where the rail protrudes beyond the frame members that make up the gables.

The thought was to cover all of these surfaces with layers of solid cherry just under 1/8″ thick. If this dresser were mishandled during a move there’s a half decent chance these pieces could get damaged and potentially come off the rail, but since it would be me moving the dresser, I could just make sure it was moved carefully.

It was a quick and dirty approach to solving this material shortage problem. Sure, it would require a bit of labour, but certainly not more than heading back to the lumberyard. And saving the cost of a large enough piece of 8/4 black cherry, especially when I wasn’t making any money on this project, was a good feeling.

Machine and assemble

I broke out the parts, cut all the joinery, sanded and assembled all the parts, then started to deal with covering up the visible portions of the lower back rail that wasn’t black cherry. I had a few offcuts from all the breakout that were large enough and even matched the grain and colour of the other frame parts very closely.

I started with the end grain slice that got adhered to the two ends of the rail. The idea was to apply these parts first, flush to the four sides of the rails, then add the other two slices of cherry so they overlapped the end grain slice. This would mean the pieces attached to the sides and top would assist in keeping the end grain slice intact.

I glue-sized the end grain slice, allowed it to dry for a minute or two, then reapplied a bit of glue and positioned it in place, before adding a clamp and a caul to the situation. Thirty minutes later, the piece was dry and I repeated this process on the other end. While that one was drying, I flushed the four sides of the first end grain slice and prepped the two side pieces. First, I added the front layer onto the front face of the rear rail before letting it dry, flushing it with the two sides and adding the upper piece of thick veneer. I eventually repeated this process with the other end.

When the parts were all dry and flush you could still see the joints between the parts, but once I added a chamfer onto their mating edges, the glue line virtually disappeared. I then made sure the veneer was flush on the rear and lower faces, so it wouldn’t ever get caught on something and tear off.

Once a finish was on the piece, and it was put in place in our bedroom, you’d never know the lower, rear rail isn’t solid black cherry. It isn’t technically the best approach to building furniture, but sometimes you have to look outside the box, especially when you don’t have to answer to a paying customer. And if my wife ever does question my unique shortcut to making her a piece of furniture, I’ll remind her I was trying to wrap that project up so I could start on her mirror frame as early as possible. Projects for the home never seem to end, but I’m okay with that. Having a house partially full of custom-made pieces of furniture is definitely satisfying.

Nobody’s Going to Know

The lower, rear rail looks like it’s made of solid black cherry, but there’s no reason to let my wife know that’s not the case.

Nobody’s Going to Know

Not the Right Species

As you can see, white ash and spruce are visible in this black cherry dresser. We can’t have that.

Not the Right Species

An End Grain Slice

This slice of end grain cherry will be added to both ends of the lower, rear rail before the other slices are added overlapping two edges of this end grain slice.

An End Grain Slice

Glue Sizing

A light layer of glue on the end grain surface that will get adhered to one end of the rail will ensure enough glue is there. It will also help create a boundary layer of partially cured glue so the fresh glue won’t seep through the end grain during glue-up.

Glue Sizing

Glue It On

Here, I’ve added a clamp and a caul to help bring the end grain slice into its final position.

Glue It On

Add More Layers

Here, the second layer of black cherry veneer has been added, and the third and final layer is ready for action.

Add More Layers

The Rear View

When you pull the dresser away from the wall and view it from the back you can clearly see where I’ve added the additional black cherry pieces.

The Rear View
Published:
Last modified: May 30, 2024

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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