Compactum Pt 1 archive

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Anthony Bailey starts work on this compactum storage unit

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Every bedroom needs a wardrobe of some sort for hanging clothes, trousers, skirts, jackets etc, and this compact solution ties in nicely with the other project pieces in the Mission bedroom series. It is perfectly possible to build a huge wardrobe but many of us have bedrooms that make smaller pieces of furniture more appropriate.

This design could easily be extended in any direction to make it larger, especially upwards to provide more hanging height or an extra drawer. Strictly speaking this version, I believe, should be described as a 'compactum'. It can accommodate all normal hanging needs except full-length skirts. The bottom drawer is for clothes that are usually folded or rolled such as socks, pants and T-shirts.

Like other pieces in the series, this is my interpretation of Mission style and is quite simple in appearance but pleasing to the eye. The legs are 60mm square sections built up from three pieces to get the right thickness. This avoids trying to get extra thick boards which may be unobtainable in any case and may not be so stable when cut because the middle may not be as dry as the outside and indeed may be 'case hardened' where the kilning is uneven.


Prepare the cutting list from the plans and choose your boards carefully for colour, figure and grain direction. American white oak can vary quite a lot in appearance so careful selection is necessary, see All About American White Oak on page 51.

1 Do all the basic crosscutting overlength and then rip the boards down leaving enough extra width to plane off.

Mark up the boards as components, using a code such as 'ST' for stile, 'LOW R' for lower rail and so forth.

Carefully set up the planer, making sure the fence is truly at 90 degrees to the beds. This is what I battle with most, as planer fences are never quite solid or accurate enough to be set and left alone without constant checking with an engineer's square - not an ordinary try square as these are invariably unreliable.

Plane one face and edge of each component using face and edge marks to show which are the 'good' surfaces.

Leg components

2-3 Note that the leg components only have both faces planed and thicknessed as they will be laminated together and then each assembly will be face and edged once dry.

Now set up the planer for thicknessing mode and machine everything down to final thickness.

End construction

The ends consist of two legs or stiles depending how you consider them, a straight top rail and a lower rail curved on the underside to match other pieces in this series. Between the rail sits a 180mm-wide muntin.

Here, all these components are Dominoed together using 8 x 50s for the leg joints and 6 x 40s for the muntins, but if you use more standard methods such as mortise and tenons then add the necessary tenon lengths to component sizes.

Between each leg and the muntin a 6mm (nominal) oak-faced MDF panel is let into a groove.

Cutting, taping & sanding

4 Cut all components for the carcass ends to exact length on a dimensioning saw or mitre saw with a length stop.

Using double-sided tape, fix the two lower rails together, then mark out the curve using a thin length of waste wood or MDF as a guide by bending it to line up with a pencil mark for the centre of the curve.

5-6 Bandsaw carefully to the line with a sharp blade, then belt sand with a coarse grit belt in the vice until a smooth curve is achieved. Separate the two rails and clean off the tape.

Leg joints

Mark up the leg joints, ensuring that the lower rail is in the correct position when the muntin is in place by laying out the components together. Two 8 x 50 Dominoes are needed per rail end if using this jointing method. At the same time mark out the muntin position and their Domino joints, three per end.

7-8 Use the Domino machine's standard settings to do the muntin joints using a 6mm cutter and the rails using an 9.5mm cutter. However, to centre the slots in the legs you need to remove the plastic caps off the top of the Domino faceplate so the fence will rise up sufficiently to centre in the leg at 30mm using the scale on the machine.

Ensure you have extraction fitted or there will be a tendency for the machine to move out of alignment as it becomes choked with chippings.

Grooving panel

Now make the groove for the oak-faced MDF panel; these are closer to 7mm thick as the veneers are bonded on to 6mm MDF. No one would have a 7mm straight router cutter available, so set the router table fence so the 6mm cutter is fractionally off centre, machine all the grooves and reset the fence a fraction off centre in the other direction, then re-pass over the cutter to finish with a slightly widened groove.

Note that you should arrange it so the fence has to go back slightly, meaning that you are feeding the wood onto the advancing cutter edge. If the fence is moved towards you and only the back cutter edge is cutting it will be in effect 'back feeding', in other words not slicing into the wood but trying to pull it across the table instead with possibly unfortunate results.

Grooving rails

9-11 The rails can be grooved from the front end and stopped before reaching the first Domino joint then 'dropped on' after the third one, not literally of course, but fed down on to the cutter slowly to full depth, then pushed over the cutter.

The legs are only 'drop on' cuts and again start and stop short of the Domino slots. The way to ensure the slots don't go over length is to mark a line on the component sides where the cut should start or finish.

12 Clean the grooves with abrasive paper and sand all meeting faces and edges to avoid sanding problems after assembly.

End assembly

13 Cut the oak-faced MDF panels to fit the openings and proceed to glue and assemble each carcass end.

14-15 This is not too stressful an operation but you will need a long sash cramp for cramping the rails to the muntins. Once glued and cramped, wipe off the surplus glue and leave to set.

Click here for: Part 2

Woodworkers Institute

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"This design could easily be extended in any direction to make it larger"

Top Tips

- Incidentally, I don’t always get the face to an absolute finish, that is, smooth all over. Instead I get most of the surface area flat, any limited surface defects being removed when they are thicknessed.
- When I make a project I invariably make the carcass ends first as sub-assemblies. This is standard practice and indeed I'm not sure if there is any other practical way of doing it. Mentally, it also makes a complex project easier to cope with. However, it is important to consider whether any joint preparation will be required for the carcass front and back before making up the ends. In this case the front and back joints can be done afterwards so it isn't an issue

All About American White Oak

The Mission suite is constructed from American white oak. Not English oak, otherwise known as European oak, but American white oak. The reason is more to do with practicality than the fact that Mission furniture originated in America
Unlike English (European) oak, the American variety comes ready milled so there are no waney edges to deal with, and that's quite a consideration for the home woodworker. White oak is similar in colour and appearance to English oak. The sapwood is light coloured and the heartwood is light to dark brown. White oak is mostly straight grained with a medium to coarse texture, with longer rays than American red oak. White oak therefore has more figure, this including swirls, crotch pattern, burrs and a tiger-ray flake pattern
White oak machines well, and nails and screws well so long as you pre-bore, and reacts with iron as does its European cousin. The wood planes, turns, bores, sands, mortises, stains and polishes well
Take care
The adhesive properties of white oak are variable, the wood dries slowly and care is needed to avoid end and surface checks, honeycombing, collapse, ring failure and iron staining while drying. Due to its high shrinkage it can be susceptible to movement
It has a moderate blunting effect on cutting edges but generally works well. While resistant to decay, the heartwood can be attacked by ambrosia beetles and other insects. The heartwood is resistant to preservative treatment and the sapwood moderately so
American white oak
English oak