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An introduction to my philosophy:

I find that good design starts with an acclimatized eye. As Federico Mendez once told me, "take time to nurture your eye and mind with good aesthetics; pay attention to details, shapes, proportions, and color... that process takes time."


So we begin using our eyes, with thoughtful contemplation, taking into account the material at hand. No one would plan a painting without taking into account the different paints available to work with. Likewise, good furniture design normally begins with examining an old 

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“Workmanship is the application of technique to making, by the exercise of care, judgment, and dexterity.”
― David Pye, The Nature and Art of Workmanship

Adjusting a hand plane iron by eye, a rewarding way of working...

– well dried plank of wood. Every fine cabinetmaker should surround themselves with a fine library of wood so they may peruse the colors and textures for the right plank. Live amidst the rich material, letting the eye graze over each line in the plank throughout your day, teasing out a design. Can the grain work within the context of your idea? Or will you sketch a design and command the wood to become the fruition of your idea? This is risky business. Good design is a creative co-operative with the material at hand. 

Speaking of risk, it seems that in an industrially staged generation, repeatability is counted as a desirable thing, yet removes the risk of failure or better yet discovery. I would agree with much of the sentiment of David Pye's book, "The Nature and Art of Workmanship" - eluding that true craftsmanship implies inherent risk in the process. A machine almost eliminates the chance of failure, but at what cost? When we rely on our hands to work instead of machines, we become more skilled, which gives us freedom of expression. Now, because of our very personal investment into the work, we inevitably imprint our personality into it.


Diverse woods living together in harmony...


Let's talk about doors. I began with an old plank of English brown oak from London, UK. The board was given to me by friend and mentor, Robert Van Norman of Inside Passage School of Fine Cabinetmaking. The plank was air dried for 40 years and was riddled with various checks making the selection of grain graphics challenging.


I originally thought the cabinet would be a single door piece, but upon finding a beautiful parabolic arch, I decided to listen to the wood and work in a double door design.

Cabinet Doors. Parabolic arches meet in the middle, trimmed by a dark leopard print on each side.

A note about measurements.


Before I learned to trust my eye and use story sticks as measuring devices, I remember holding very tightly to dimensions. I am purposely very loose in my measurements when designing a cabinet. It is my hope that in each piece made, I explore dimension and width by eye. Perhaps by doing so, I will discover an even more aesthetically pleasing version of the piece by doing so - a more human outlook on the matter shall we say. I begin with the doors, because all measurements are based on the doors completed dimensions. 

Coopering a door is one of my favorite parts of building a cabinet. There is a great deal of freedom with the process. I chose to work with book matched pieces of wood at roughly ¾” thickness. I broke the desired stock down by ripping two parallel cuts into each piece. The cut more medial should be larger than the lateral cut to achieve a tighter curve. I drew cabinet maker’s marks to avoid mismatching pieces.

Cutting the Staves. Notice I have ripped my lines not for perfect accuracy, but where the grain lines will conceal the edge joint in a glue up.

Now that the stock is broken down, I add equal bevels either by leaning back the fence on a jointer, or more typically, by eye with a hand plane. These angles are not critical, as I will reference a template I've made on a thin poplar scrap to create the final shaping. One by one, edge joint and glue the staves together.

Template Stock. I create a single template on thin stock (1/8”), to desired door thickness/curve to transfer onto the top and bottom of each door’s end grain. Trace with a pencil or sharpie to indicate waste removal.

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Finally, I create cauls out of scrap wood to align the ends I intend to rabbet (parallel to fence on the router table). The rabbet on the concave door will be done by raising the collet up to match the required depth. The rabbet on the convex door will be done with a much lower collet setting as depicted. 

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