August 19, 2008 – My Progression

Well, I’m building a walnut step back cupboard and I thought I would invite you to tag along as it comes together.

It is walnut primary and poplar secondary.  So far I’ve glued up the sides and cut the dadoes for the internal structure of the bottom case.  At this point I have my layout and drawer structures ready to be attached.  I will pull all of this apart and do a little dying and finishing to the inside of the drawer tower as I will make it look like walnut even though it is poplar.  I do it now because getting inside after it is installed will be very difficult.

I use what I call “Drawer Frames,”  I’ve been doing it this way forever, it works.

I use 1″ front and back pieces and biscuit them to the side drawer runners; sand clean and slide in the dadoes.  Couple of screws or nails to allow the interior panels to expand and contract and I’m good.  When the face frame is glued to the entire front it will all become a nice solid piece.  The interior components all reinforce the face frame and vice versa.


Now, I’m going to use poplar shelves but they will look like walnut, saves a ton of bucks.  I have a lot of really nice wide walnut boards that I got from Bob Kloes.  Two board sides and top on the bottom case and one board sides on the top case.  I just can’t bring myself to use that nice wide stock for shelves that won’t be seen.  Here is an example where knowing exactly how to color everything to match pays off.  The back will most likely be poplar as well.

Not trying to short cut anyone here, client is very aware and is one of those who doesn’t care as long as it looks like what they want….and it will.

In my world you see two clients, one who want a piece of furniture and that’s about as far as they go, then you get the connoisseur who will want everything walnut and singed and dated and all that.  Actually there is a third, that’s the guy who tells you the “cheapest” furniture store in town has night stands on sale for $69.95 and asks if you can do better.  In the furniture business you see all kinds.  Always make sure your I’s are dotted and your T’s crossed.  If not, as in the case here, the client can come back and say they want it “all” walnut for the agreed price that considered using the poplar as a secondary.

Now here is the kicker…the value of the completed piece is not diminished by use of a secondary, but in reality is expected.  To build this out of solid walnut throughout would not add any significant value.  Furniture value is still determined by comparison to our beloved antiques built by what is considered the “Old Masters.”  Secondary woods were the way they did it for exactly the same reasons we use them.  Like veneers, the old guys used them all the time and guess what, even with the old hide glue they held up pretty well.  Not until the Industrial Revolution and assembly lines did veneers start getting a bad rap.  Poor adhesives and mass production all served to make an inferior product.  Now days, with the new adhesives and better substrates veneer is making a comeback and rightfully so, works good.

Okay, got to get to work or won’t have nothing to show you tomorrow.

Catch ya later!

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3 Responses to August 19, 2008 – My Progression

  1. Denis Rezendes says:

    very nice! can’t wait to see some finished pictures! it seems like we have a lot of the third people around here. its hard for us woodworkers to compete against those other places and so many people just don’t get that that stuff is horrible and our stuff will last a life time and then some.

  2. David Harms says:


    when using poplar instead of plywood to build the internal structure how do you account for expansion, do you only put glue in the back half of the dado then pin with nails?

  3. intheworkshop says:

    actually david i only use some glue in the FRONT so any expansion will be forced to the rear thus leaving my face frame and frontal fit areas stationary..the other thing is the floor the dividers and so forth the grain is running in the same direction as the sides ,so it will expand and contract together…where the drawer slides are set in the dados ..just the front is glued as stated and a few nails as you stated..been doing it this way about 30 years or so now and never had an issue..

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