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Queen Anne Style Armoire

author-gravatar craftingwood Jan 20, 2018

This is an armoire in a Queen Anne style, similar to the offerings of Pennsylvania House back in their hayday.  I designed it entirely including the mouldings, which are made using hollows and rounds.  It was built using all hand tools.  Cherry is the primary wood with poplar as the secondary; a bit of scrap white oak was used for high wear parts (drawer rails) but only beacause I had it from the last project.

It is separable into two pieces for moving with a split waist moulding that hides the joint.  It is finished with garnet shellac rubbed out with paste wax to a satin sheen.

The brass is all from Horton Brasses.  I've been very pleased with their quality.  

Complete armoire!  This project took a year and a day to complete.  The design is my own with aesthetics of the Queen Anne period.  The primary wood is cherry with poplar for the secondary and a bit of white oak since I had a bit left over from a previous project.  The finish is garnet shellac buffed to a satin sheen with paste wax.

Brass is from Horton Brasses.

Open cabinet.  Open shelves for sweaters and drawers for everything else.

Start with the carcass.

I found a small void on the inner face of a glue line.  Since it didn't go all the way through, I reinforced it vice redoing the joint.

Carcass dovetailed together.  

Carcass bottom fit onto lower case.

Time for dado!  The stop block helps prevent the router plane from blowing out the end of the stopped dado.  I intended all the dados to be stopped to create a void space inside the doors to add a tie rack.  However, as you see I screwed up the bottom dado and went all the way through.  I just went with it and made it a "feature".  There is still plent of height for a tie rack and it makes the bottom drawer slightly deeper.

Dados done.

Next comes the back.  The back provides the majority of the strength of the case to prevent racking, hence the very stiff structure.  Mortise and tenon joints all around, draw-bored at the corners, with cross laps in the middle of the web.

Front face of the back.  The upper crossbeam is situated so that it can be nailed into the lower shelf.  The upper panels are cherry since they are visible.  However, since they are at the back of the case behind clothes, I used some crappy pieces (check out all the sapwood on the previous photos) with no care for color matching.  The shellac and shadows even the color enough to not notice in the completed piece.

People love pictures of plane shavings... here are all the shavings from the back alone.  I filled the yard waste bin something like 4 times during this project and then it got colds so I saved another 2ish fills to burn in the fireplace.  To all those new to plane shavings, enjoy them for soon you get jaded.

Building the web.  I had a little bit of white oak left from a previous project and used it for the drawer runners of the three big drawers.  Notice the rebate around the back of the carcass to receive the rebated back.

Web detail (before adding the long drawer guides).

Web complete, shelves added and interior finished.  I mentioned before that I accidentally made the lowest dados go all the way through.  Here you see the tiny "shelf" above the lowest drawer in front of the middle bank drawer divider.

Gluing up 4/4 cherry and poplar to make pseudo 8/4 for the crown.

Chopping the crown blank to the rough triangle.  I find a hatchet an indispendible tool in the shop.  If a board needs more than ~1/2" of width removed, I use a hatchet, not a plane.

Crown blank planed to shap and moulding drawn on.  I don't want to bore y'all so if your interested, I went into a lot of detail on the moulding process with hollows and rounds here:

Crown profile rebated.

Crown complete.

Attaching top half of waste moulding (simple quarter round.  You can also see a socket wrench - I put threaded inserts in the bottom case to bolt the top to it.  This is rather belt-and-suspenders since the top sinks 3/4" into the bottom.  Then I finished the top and found how ridiculously heavy it is - bolts are not needed to keep it in place even with serious lateral forces

Attaching crown.  I tried my normal method of attaching moulding (glue front 1/3, cut nails all the way down).  However, with how thick this moulding is, I had trouble driving the nails in.  I gave in here and used an electric hand drill to drill oversized holes from the inside and used steel screws.

Door frames complete.  Finding lumber for the door frames was very difficult.  This being the sort of project you only do once in a lifetime, I insisted on perfect grain and, as it turns out, finding ~4" wide runs of straight, QS or bastard grain cherry ain't easy.

Raising the panels.  I found a beautiful piece of curly cherry 13" wide so that the panels would eac hbe a single pice.

Doors assembled.

Detail of door frames.  To add visual interest, a chamfer was added that fades into the corner.

Fitting doors for hinges.

Doors hinged.  I used the process from Robert Wearing's "The Essential Woodworker" to hinge the doors, which was new to me.  He instructs you to set the hinges in at an angle so that, from the outside, the hinge is entirely contained on one piece (in my case the door) and the other piece has its continuous line preserved.

Detail of hinges set in at an angle.  This was much easier than I expected.  I did a practice joint first (mainly to prove to myself that the door would open).

Doors hinged.

First look all assembled.

Finish applied to the case and doors.  THe most challenging part of this project, and the part with the most flaws in the finished piece, was the finishing.  I had never done a film finish on a complicated piece and it was quite a challenge to do well.

It's very subtle, but you can see how the fading champfers on the door frames around the panels softens the lines.  You can also see the bottom chamfers around the left drawers are catching the light differently that the two adjacent surfaces.

Just needs drawers.

Resawn drawer parts.  After building the bottom case, I made a "Roubo-style" European frame resaw using hardware from Blackburn toolworks (4"x48", 2-1/3 TPI).  The thing is a beast and cuts through wide poplar like butter.  It preserved much more material than using a handsaw, as I did for the bottom case, so I was able to get all pieces in the 3/8" range.  Shannon Rogers says to sticker and clamp boards after resawing to help keep them flatter - not convinced it did anything, but looks impressive.

The drawers were really basic - half blind dovetails at the front, through blind dovetails at the back, drawer groove plowed into the fronts and drawer slips glued to the sides (3/8" sides are plenty strong for a drawer, but not if you plow a 1/4" deep groove in them), solid poplar bottoms glued to the front and nailed to the back.  Check out the lower case post if you want more detail.  For the lower case, I made the sides short of the slot and used kickers to guide the drawer; for the top case I just made the sides full height and skipped the kickers.  Also for the bottom case, I used drawer slips on the fronts to support the bottom and for the life of me can't figure out why I didn't just plow a groove and only use the slips on the sides.  Eliminating the front slips 

Finished product once again.  About 160 bft of lumber roughly event split between cherry and poplar, 3 bottles of liquid hide glue, ~3lbs of shellac, ~3 gallons of denatured alcohol, many smiles, an equally large number of curses, more flaws than I care to enumerate, and possibly a non-zero number of hidden compartments.  Or, in the immortal words of Count Rugen, "I've just sucked one year of your life away."

That's all folks!  Thanks for looking.


Beautiful work! I bet it's an awesome feeling to finish such a large project like this.

A year in the making for many lifetimes of use.


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