Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Lewellyn Media Cabinet, Pt 1

Cardboard mock-up of early version with fancy-assed walnut plywood in the background.
I finally got started on the media cabinet commission I've had since last August.  In my defense, part of that time was a long design phase.  Then I had to wrap up at Blue Man.  Then Cindy's mom died.  Then I had to go out of town for a week for the Wilderness tour.  Then it was about 6 weeks of work on The Panther Room workshop... And then I had to clean the shop and catch up with all the other stuff that had been languishing - getting the garden planted, finishing the photography phase of a neighborhood survey to extend the historic district... and then the trip to California for blacksmithing and visiting family...

Current drawings, minus 2" of width.
Before I went, I did some experiments with various cutting methods.  The plywood I'm using for this cabinet is SUPER expensive - custom-made 5/8" Russian birch ply with A/A bookmatched walnut veneer finish.  I was afraid (understatement?  perhaps paralyzed with fear?) to cut the stuff and not sure what the best way to cross-cut it without getting tear-out on the veneer would be.  I bought a new 5/8" router bit, thinking I could try to cut it with that (as well as use it for dados to keep the plywood together), and I bought a fine circular saw blade.  It turns out the saw blade won the contest.  With painter's tape on the cross-grain cuts, I didn't get any chipping, and the edge was almost as smooth as it would have been if it were planed.  I free-handed the initial rough cutting, and then I made a circular saw guide and have been switching back and forth between that and my table saw for the final cuts.
Plywood edge as delivered

Plywood edge as cut with sweet new circular saw blade. (fuzz on the underside is painter's tape)
As with many things in life, the plywood didn't come in a state of perfection.  The edges hadn't been trimmed, and the corners weren't square.  So contrary to what we used to do back in my MPC scene shop days, I'm having to cut all 4 sides of each piece and try to get them square (I've resorted to diagonal measuring as a backup for my framing square, which is more flexible and fallible than I would have thought), rather than parallelograms.

I got the bottom, back and sides cut to dimension and started routing out the grooves for the shelves when I realized I had under-estimated the width of the cabinet by about 3/8".  You can't have a cabinet that's made to hold a record player and record cleaner, and neither one will fit!  I had to make a new back (I made it 2" wider to leave more wiggle room) and re-route the dados, but I got it all finished and up-to-snuff by the end of the day.  Good thing I ordered some extra walnut plywood to begin with!

The screw up with the back yesterday reminds me of a time when I'd borrowed Dan's 1970-something Cadillac El Dorado convertible.  I was desperate to return it to him without a scratch, and wouldn't you know it?  I hit a deer on Carmel Valley Road one night.  In that instant, about which I felt terrible (especially for the deer, but also for Dan's car), everything changed!  The thing I was afraid of happening, happened.  And after that, I was much more relaxed.  So it goes with this expensive plywood.  I had to re-cut the largest panel in the whole cabinet project.  There's still enough left over if I make another mistake.  And, although I wanted to call my mom or Cindy to talk my mistake through, I knew the only thing that would fix it was carrying on.  So that's what I did.  That's what I'm doing.  I'm carrying on.  And I'm pretty pleased with my progress.


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