Today, my wife helped me. She helped me a lot. Without her help I would have gotten little accomplished.
Today I decided to assemble the cabinet, and with that I also decided to stain the back panels rather than to try and do that after everything was already put together. My wife, who has much more patience than I when it comes to something like staining, did the grunt work. But before all that could happen I had to sand/plane much of that material in preparation for finish. I’ll leave out the boring details, and I did not take any photos, because if you want to see me sanding then I am both flattered and worried about you at the same time.
In any event, as I sanded those boards, my wife took them and applied wood conditioner. After a few hours we started the staining process. As I said in a prior post, I am using Mahogany gel stain for this project. If you have never used gel stain, you may want to take my advice and not follow the instructions at all. For instance, on the can it says something to the effect of “apply liberally, wait 15 minutes, and wipe off the excess”. I can say from past experience that 15 minutes is around 12 minutes too long. If you wait that long to wipe off the stain, you will need sandpaper to do it. So as my wife brushed on the stain, I stood by with a rag waiting to wipe it down. We got into a rhythm, and the after three back boards we did the shelves, the top board, the inside of the case, and the bottom trim piece. After a few hours of drying time, we applied a second coat, which goes on easier and you can leave on a bit longer, though I still wouldn’t use the time recommendations on the can.
I let the pieces dry for a few hours, took a break, and figured out an assembly procedure. With (8) dados, (2) mortise and tenon joints, and (2) rabbets, this case isn’t overloaded with joinery, but there still is a sequence that needs to be followed. Firstly, I predrilled all nail the nail holes. I used exactly (52) nails, and every one of them was nailed in a symmetrical pattern, so I had to lay out for each pilot hole. I then assembled the case by laying it on its side on top of the workbench, attaching the shelves and trim board with some glue, and nailing the top board to the underside of the top shelf. Once that was complete I assembled the three back panels and nailed them in place. After that, it was a matter of hammering and nailing. Though I’m pretty sure-handed with a hammer, I did have one miscue, so I had to break out the steam iron to fix it. Otherwise, the case went together without a hitch. One really good part about using dado joinery is the fact that if your dados are square, your case will be square. Dovetails may be stronger, but dovetails also have a propensity to compress, or be slightly asymmetrical, which can lead to an out of square piece of furniture. A dado joint does not work that way, and this cabinet is dead square all the way around.
Once the case was assembled I used the new block plane to trim the shelves flush, did a little light hand sanding, and called it a night. Next weekend I should be able to get the case sides stained and a few coats of wax applied. That should call it a completed display case. It’s actually been a fun project, and has turned out even more nicely than I had hoped. I’m most proud of the dado work, as they are all nearly perfect. But I can honestly say that everything has turned out according to plan (mostly) And it should have. This has been my first real furniture project in many months. I’ve had a lot of time to think about every little detail, and aside from changing the overall height of the cabinet, it has basically turned out how I imagined it would. Couple that with the fact that my wife helped me, and I have little to complain about.