the Carpentry Way: A Ming-inspired Cabinet (2)                                                          

A Ming-inspired Cabinet (2)

In the previous post I outlined some of the background to the design challenges I have faced over the past couple of years as I've attempted to come up with a satisfactory design for a sideboard. That post left off with a survey of the current design effort, and I received a couple of helpful comments from readers afterward, along with another private message on the Craftsmanship in Wood forum.

While I am not interested in 'design by committee', or some sort of crowd-sourced design, I often find that people's comments are quite insightful and helpful, as they cause me to re-examine designs that I have been staring at for a long time.

One comment expressed a preference for a taller more rectangular case, while another warned against making the case too high for a variety of very valid reasons.

After further reflection, I decided to revisit a few areas of the design and play with some of the dimensions and part arrangements. I had initially designed the overall piece to have its mass as a golden rectangle, while later revisions squashed the height down closer to a common ratio one finds in many tansu, about 1:1.2, width to height. that, in an effort to reduce what I felt was an uncomfortable 'looming' tendency with tall pieces of furniture.

Taking a look-see, I pushed the height back up by another 6", and found that it improved the overall proportion, and kept the height in a range such that the upper portions of the cabinet would not be difficult to access or inspect. Here's a side by side of the 'before and after':

Now, the 2D woman in the scene is a little taller than the average woman, at 5'-10", (178cm), however she is about average male height.

I also played around with the arrangement of horizontal elements in the support stand, reversing the positions of pillow blocks and upper ties. Though similar, it is is not exactly the same as a previous arrangement where there were two sets of stretchers, and I think it does increase the sense of vertical compression at the bottom of the cabinet - its grounded-ness, in other words - while at the same time also increasing a contra-distinct aspect, which is the sense of 'airy-ness' of the stand. Here's how the cabinet looks with the revised stand framing:

The revised framing also involves a return to a leg section with sharp arrises and a outer concave bead, which increases the tie-in between the stand framing and the two tables already made for the client.

Part and parcel of the revised lower framing was the incorporation of crossed pillow blocks, a detail already part of the two tables:

Also, the cabinet sill assembly atop the pillow blocks was widened slightly.

I'm feeling like I have made some good progress with those design aspects just in the past 24 hours.

Okay, what of the inside of this cabinet? At this stage, the arrangement inside remains provisional, however I have a clear idea as to what sort of items the client wishes to store inside, and am arranging the interior elements accordingly, solving first for practicality, then for aesthetics, more or less.

As mentioned in the previous post, the doors are bi-fold in nature so as to be able to fully open and swing 270˚ around to fold against the cabinet sides:

Open sesame:

With the doors fully folded back, this then is the current interior configuration:

At this point, the interior cabinet components are in American Black Cherry, which I feel to be a complimentary material to the bubinga. It makes the interior tonally lighter than it would be otherwise, and adds a certain unexpected surprise when opening the cabinet. I will likely explore other woods - Shedua (ovangkol) is one I'm considering as well, along with Swiss Pearwood.

I had originally designed the interior with an asymmetric position of parts however I have moved to a symmetrical arrangement, save for the suspended shelves in the middle, which vary only in their arrangement, not in volume.

At this point, the back panel has been omitted as the interior design work remains 'in progress'.

A perspective view:

The middle section down at the bottom is for storing serving platters. The drawers are slightly graduated in height. Up top, the sliding doors are glassed for the moment, however they may have wood panels put in - not sure yet. The staggered shelves, chigai-dana, are useable for display or for parking coffee cups. The frame and panel work surface allows for a variety of situations to be accommodated.

Keep in mind that there will be hardware like drawer pulls, hiki-te for the sliding doors, etc. so that will enrich the scene later on. Also, all the drawers will feature the glue-less through tenoned construction I prototyped on the side table, so the drawer fronts will have several through-tenon ends exposed to view.

That's where things, er, stand for the time being. I imagine further tweaks will come but I'm feeling more comfortable with the design more and more.

All for now, over and out. Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. On to post 3