Monday, March 9, 2015

Mockup of Necessity

We are looking at doing a renovation in one of our living spaces.  The Frau and I decided we need a largish cabinet for storing some of our stuff.  For some reason that I can't fathom, she seems to think I have enough unfinished projects that there is no point relying on me to build something, so she started looking on the internet for something to purchase.

Panic time for me, as it means either putting up with crappy termite poop furniture in our living room, or selling a kidney to afford something that is a bit more to our taste.

Sooooo... I thought I would try to surprise her with a quick and dirty version of a cabinet similar to this one while I had a couple days off.  My version will be joined with nails and painted, but should turn out to be nice.

I think that many readers will not be so crazy about this cabinet design.  It is fashionable in Europe at the moment, but it looks like it was born to be made on a table saw.  This should be an interesting exercise with hand tools.  Being a mockup, this piece should teach me a bit on how to do the next one better.

The problem is we really don't know if the space we have will look right with a cabinet like this, so this build I will dub a mockup, but the finished product will be a perfectly functional piece.  We will probably want one made of beech with proper joinery.  The mockup can be used in our second appartment, the Frau's office at work, or we could even sell it.

First step for me when building quick and dirty furniture like this is laminated wood.  They had a great deal on spruce, which is one of my least favorite woods to use.  The great part about this stuff is it comes in whatever widths you need, and they will cross cut them at the home center for free.  Once I came up with a cut list, an hour at the home center found me on my way home with all of the parts I needed already cut to length.

Not exactly the finest material, but it will work for this purpose.
Basically, this vitrine is just two boxes stacked on top of one another.  It is a simple thing to make some rabbets and nail the carcasses together.
Rabbeting the carcass.
A factory making a hundred of these a day probably would have all kinds of jigs and machines to do things like this in a hurry.  Just for this one, though, layout with dividers and an eggbeater drill work just fine for adjustable shelves.

Laying out adjustable shelves.
One thing that I chose to do during this build is not get overly crazy about straight and square.  I made a choice that the crosscuts from the panel saw at the home center looked square enough to me, so they will probably look square enough in the finished piece.  We'll see if this is a mistake or not.  I'll get right into nailing it together.
I clamped the carcase together, and set the nails below the surface a bit.

It's before noon on the first day and I have one box nailed up!
Nails can be very sturdy for case construction.  The strength is in the rabbet, and pounding the nails in at opposing angles results in a fairly strong joint, with no waiting for glue to dry!
Case number two.
A note about my shop.  It is small.  I don't often build big furniture in it.  Usually I find another shop to use if I do.  But, I thought it would be fun to try.  My bench is almost two meters long, and the long boards I have here are exactly two meters.  My space is not much longer than the bench, so as you can see, it is a challenge.
My small shop.  I am actually standing outside the door to take this pic.

The end of day two ended in completion of the basic carcase of this piece.  The center part has temporary plywood spacers holding the place that will eventually be glass that has been ordered.  It should be a fine looking vitrine if it doesn't collapse in a heap.
End of day two.
Day three was all about the doors.  I shiplapped the boards for the door and applied a cross-grain batten using clinched nails for support.
Here I am laying out the position of the batten.  Notice I have already painted the shiplaps, as I won't really be able to reach them later.
If you have never clinched nails before, it is fun.  And a very strong joint.  I don't know if this door could be taken apart without destroying all of the wood.  I think there are about seven hundred and eighty three ways to clinch nails.  You should be able to find a way that works for you with a google search.  I'll post about how I do it at a later date.
I just used regular unplated wire nails from the home center.
Day three shows something that is starting to look like a cabinet.  All that is left is to tune the hinges (they are cheap European cabinet hinges), paint, and install the glass.  I might even put a light in the glass compartment.
When I got to this point, I said, "this vitrine is cool!"  The Frau, who is a lawyer, said, "this vitrine will be cool!"
I probably won't get to work on it again for a few days, but I will post some photos as soon as it is done.


  1. Hello,
    great post. I had a smile on my face while reading it.
    I know that "problem" pretty well. Your wife has got an idea and while you are thinking about it as a possible new project, she is already reading a catalog or surfing in the internet.
    Your mock up is great. Hope she likes it.


    1. I must report, that this mockup worked exactly as planned. Even though it is not done, she decided where this one will live and what the next one I build should look like!

  2. Very neat! I agree, that it is already cool!

  3. Now this is an inspiration to get a go an quick projects!
    Could you help me with the term "shiplap". How would you translate it to German?
    Thanks Frederik

    1. Hi Frederik, thanks for the comment! According to the dictionary on, the translation is: "Überfälzung, dachziegelartiger Aufbau z. B. einer Schrankrückwand." No promises regarding the accuracy of that translation, I don't know that word auf Deutsch.

    2. Here's a good explanation: