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A Moroubian Tool Cabinet, Part 1

So, my workbench has a Moravian style base and a Roubo split top; I therefore now call this a Moroubian workbench. Because I need to build a clamp rack to hang all the new clamps I bought to build my Moroubian bench, I first need to get rid of my old tool cabinet, which is where my new clamp rack will go. I still have a few items in my old tool cabinet, so I need to build the Moroubian tool cabinet to gain the last bit of storage space needed prior to moving my old tool cabinet out of the shop. In short, I need to build this new workbench cabinet so I can organize all my new clamps.

The design for this tool cabinet has changed a lot over the years. The original design had 18 drawers (18!!!); there was a version which had eight doors and no drawers, and one design which had just six drawers. Now I have made up my mind and have nailed down the design, so to speak. The cabinet will have six drawers on the front and six more facing the back.

The final design.

Because this cabinet will sit on just the front and rear stretchers with no center support (lengthwise), I designed the cabinet to gain strength by making it like a big I beam with a center divider joining the top and bottom via dadoes. A rabbet joint at the top and bottom of the sides completes the rigid design. Even more, the individual drawer dividers fit into the center divider via long slots. Take a look…

The design; quarter-sawn oak and plywood.

Some drawers sized specifically to keep items like screws, nails and nuts close at hand.

I began construction by cutting the case components to size and added joinery…

The basic case on my assembly bench being checked for fit.

Precision panel cutting with my Norm style cross-cut sled.

Adding notches in the center divider.

Fitting the drawer dividers.

The tool cabinet beginning to take shape.

Note how the cabinet drawers will be accessible from both sides.

I could not be more pleased with a plywood cabinet. My panel cutting sled allowed me to make precision, square cuts taking off 1/32″ if need be (it helps that I have a new blade in my table saw). The fit with the notches for the central structure went very well and the case is very sturdy with just screws and no glue. So I’m off to a very good start. 🙂

Up next: I’ll add drawer slides and get final dimensions for the drawer boxes and begin making the 12 drawers which will include nice quarter-sawn white oak fronts.

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I Use Wudworxs On A Massive Breakfront

A few months ago, at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild, I was talking with some of the SketchUp users about Sketchucation, a website devoted to SketchUp. I said that this site is where all the serious SketchUp users hang out, but I rarely go there since I don’t geek out on SketchUp. One of them looked at me and said, “So you don’t think you geek out on SketchUp?” Clearly he thought I do. Well, I am here to tell you that I have officially become a SketchUp geek because I recently bought a SketchUp extension called Wudworxs. When you pay money on such things you get automatically enrolled into the geeky world of SketchUp.

Wudworxs is really a company which offers a series of extensions for SketchUp, all of which are woodworking related. An extension is a software product which can be added to, and works within SketchUp to automate complex tasks (extensions are sometimes called “plug-ins”). The extensions from Wudworxs simply automate tasks a woodworker would use while drawing in SketchUp. I bought a three pack of extensions from Wudworxs called “Wudworxs Library Version 1” for $20.00.

The Breakfront

My current SketchUp project is another in a series of models based on furniture projects which have influenced my own designs, but are not something I’ll likely ever build (mostly because these pieces of furniture are gigantic and an expensive undertaking). In the past, I modeled an open hutch built by Ron Layport (see it here) and a Pennsylvania Secretary built by Lonnie Bird (see it here). My current project is a breakfront built by the workshop of Douglas Schroeder. It stands 8′ 8″ tall and is 9′ wide. This large breakfront was designed by the famed architectural firm of Robert A.M. Stern to go in a large Stern designed home (20,000 square feet large). The breakfront appeared in Fine Woodworking issue 78, Sept./Oct. 1989. The article titled “Handling Large Commissions” (which is out of print and is surprisingly not available at Finewoodworking.com) tells the story of how Schroeder had to enlarge his shop and hire two additional craftsmen to complete this project. He did not build just one breakfront, rather the commission called for four identical, massive breakfronts and took a solid 18 months to complete.

Over the years, I have borrowed elements from this breakfront and incorporated them into several woodworking projects of my own. A version of the bold cornice profile has been used on my entertainment center and the crown molding in our dining room. The less bold baseboard profile was used with a rare commission from a co-worker which I call the Scott Bookcase.

The Wudworx Extensions

These models are meant to challenge my skills and to meet the challenge, I model virtually every aspect of the furniture design. One daunting task was to make accurate dovetail joinery; the kind you would find on antique furniture. By my count, there are over 200 dovetail pins just for the case work. The drawers also get dovetails front and back, so I looked for a way to automate this process. I had heard of Wudworxs a while back, but never felt I had a project which was so difficult that I would spend money on the extension. But the Schroeder Breakfront certainly qualified. I got three different extensions packaged together for $20 – one for dovetails, one for mortise and tenon joinery and a board maker. See the videos below…

I found these extensions to be excellent and easy to use. By using the dovetail extension, much of the layout is accomplished by simply inputting data such as number of pins, pin angle and length. The extension does all the layout and automates the actual push/pull step as well. Making the mating joinery in the second board is just as easy.

The mortise and tenon extension automates this joinery which I use frequently in my models. As you can see in the video, once you input a little data, making this joint is as easy as clicking on the two boards used in the joint. The extension did not fully work in some odd-shaped boards, but this extension makes creating most M & T joinery a breeze.

The board maker extension automates two steps needed to make a board which is useful. But, making a board in the usual way isn’t hard at all. So, this extension will be nice to have, but it is not nearly as useful as the other two extensions.

The Completed Breakfront

I found the doors to be a major challenge. One of the benefits of making such models is the requirement to think through the correct steps and sequence to make the model. I got to know this breakfront inside and out which is a good thing as I consider future woodworking projects. While I will most likely never build something like this breakfront, in SketchUp I have and I gained more knowledge doing so.

Authentic dovetails for the drawers.

Note the exaggerated cornice molding and all the door muntin work.

I even added a key.

Showing the case interior.

This model is in many ways a faithful reproduction of the original, but not totally. For example, I did not add beading to the drawer fronts, and where the article wasn’t clear, I created some of the joinery the way I would do it in my shop. You can download the SketchUp model from the 3D Warehouse here. There are two mahogany materials used in this model along with a poplar material.

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My New Workbench is Finished

I have been woodworking for almost 35 years. And I guess it is an accomplishment to have so many years of woodworking behind me; all the mistakes, successes and such. But even though I am becoming a woodworking old-timer, there are so many new things I have been trying that in many ways I am a newbie.

For example, after finishing all of the construction steps needed to complete my workbench I had to take it apart (see the photo at the top of this post) and make the all important decision about what protective finish is appropriate for this bench. After much consideration, I went with three different finishes, each one being something I had never worked with before.

The bench top got a coat of boiled linseed oil. The leg assembly was treated with several coats of wax and the oak components (front and rear stretchers, gap stop and wedges) were fumed with ammonia and then got one coat of garnet shellac. Never before worked with BLO, same for waxed bare wood and then fuming oak and top coating with shellac was something I have always wanted to try. Notes on each…

  • BLO: Man this stuff has a deep amber tone. I don’t know why I was surprised by this, but I was. My creamy white ash is no longer. But, the BLO added a rustic quality that I really like and my wife likes the way my workbench smells.
  • Wax: I put multiple coats of wax on the leg structure which is all cedar. This cedar quickly absorbed the wax. I am pleased with the results because I wanted a finish that didn’t drastically change the cedar color. Mission accomplished – the cedar has a slightly darker look; the grain has been enhanced in a pleasing way and it was very easy to apply. And my wife likes the way my workbench smells.
  • Fumed and shellac oak: This was a great experiment. I committed to doing this because the oak is mostly quarter-sawn with some great ray flake and I wanted to see if I could achieve an Arts and Crafts look. Mission accomplished here too, but I was hesitant because ammonia is considered a very harsh chemical and while I did take precautions, I also got a couple of brief whiffs of the ammonia and it is truly something to use with total respect. The shellac was easy to apply and looks great (and doesn’t detract from how great the bench smells).

I got all of this completed this past week and got the workbench set up late Sunday evening and took these photos this morning with my iPhone.

So, the workbench itself is finished. I still plan to make a tool cabinet to sit on the front and rear stretchers and will treat it as a separate project. I will also make an assortment of bench accessories many based on this video from Fine Woodworking’s Mike Pekovich.

For now, I am going to enjoy looking at what will become the workbench I’ll use for the rest of my life.

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Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).