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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Oak Bobbin Cabinet (ca.1920)

The Completed Cabinet
Recently I worked on a piece that is a bit of a mystery. It is an Oak cabinet that was made sometime in the early part of the 20th century. The cabinet has a large door that opens to reveal six drawers. The drawers all had bottoms that had holes drilled in them every three or four inches in a grid pattern. There is also a shadow of some pieces that cris-cross the holes in a x-pattern. The owner of the cabinet thought it might have something to do with an old record player, like a Victrola. The thing that first came to my mind when I saw it was that the holes had dowels in them at one time and that these dowels received bobbins of thread that were not in use. If this were true than the bobbins would have to have been pretty large in diameter and height and also the cabinet would have had the capacity to store many bobbins. If it was used for this purpose, it was likely used in a commercial setting. 

All of that being said, I really have no idea what this cabinet was initially used for. The cabinet was made from Oak and portions of the case were veneered with book matched panels of  Quarter Sawn Oak with a very pronounced grain pattern. If it was used in a commercial setting, I wonder why the manufacturer made it look so good?

The cabinet was in pretty rough shape when I received it. The finish was cracked and the top was marred with scratches and rings. In addition, the cabinet was missing a portion of the bottom of the case as well as two feet (one a carved lions foot) and it was also missing a drawer. Below are some photos of the restoration of this mysterious Oak cabinet. 

The first thing I did was to remove the finish from the cabinet. Once that was done I set about the repairs and also making the drawer and the missing feet. To make the drawer, I disassembled an original drawer so that I could make copies of each individual component. The photo below shows the drawer disassembled. The blue tape shows me the orientation of each board for reassembly.

The front edges of the two side boards were dovetailed into the front of the drawer using a half blind dovetail. This means that the ends of the dovetails on the sides are concealed by the front of the drawer. These original dovetails wer produced by machine and so I faithfully reproduced the originals using my router. To do this I built a cross cut sled for my router that allowed me to move the edge of a board across a moving bit. I then set up the router in the table with a dovetail bit and cut my dovetails. Below is a close up of this operation folllowed by a shot taken from further back.

I used a similar procedure to cut the mortices for the dovetail pins into the board that would be the front of the drawer. Here is a close up of the completed dovetail on one side of the drawer.
This photo shows the new drawer constructed minus the bottom.
This photo ( a little out of sequence) shows the new drawer sides beside one of the sides I had copied.
The next two photos show the completed drawer with the bottom. The bottoms of the original drawers were plywood that was nailed onto the bottoms of boards. I kept with this design when I made my drawer.

This last photo shows the new drawer on the left being glued next to the one I disassembled. I glued them on the table saw to ensure that they were flat.
To make the missing feet, I first had to glue up some Oak to create a block large enough to accommodate the size of the feet. Once again, this was done on the original cabinet instead of using a thick stock of Oak. The next two photos show the blocks being glued up.

 To create  the carved foot, I traced the profile of the original (seen above in the photo below) and cut two sides of the block. The block is seen after the cuts were made in the photo below.
Using double sided tape, I then reassembled the block and cut the adjacent sides. After those cuts were made. I removed the unwanted sections, as well as the tape. The photo below shows the double sided tape on the piece to the right.
The photo below shows the sawn block roughed out to the shape of the original foot. I then carved the detail of the toes by hand. One quick side note: When carving with an extremely sharp gouge on tough White Oak, try not to point the gouge towards your hand. I slipped and it went straight into the inside of my knuckle! That meant a trip to the ER and two stitches. Oh well, It happens to the best of us, but I am happy to say that the finger has healed and I am currently typing with it!!

Jumping ahead in time, This photo shows the assembled cabinet with all of the feet and the new drawer in place, ready to be stained.
The last few photos show the completed cabinet. The new drawer is on the bottom in these photos.

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