Several years ago I was commissioned to build a Bombe Chest on Chest, a reproduction of one at the DeWitt Wallace Museum in Williamsburg, VA. In the early days of posting videos, Sherri put together a slide show of the process, it has been viewed over 17K times on youtube.com. I have probably received more questions and comments about this piece than any other I have built. Many have requested a video or DVD on the build but sometimes, video is impossible so we thought we would do the next best thing and blog the build. The Bombe currently being built is being done with a gentleman from New Jersey, so I want to warn you now that this build will be done in segments. This week we have three working days and then we will be on hold until January.
First, we start with a slab of mahogany. The sides of the bottom case finish out at 31 1/4″ tall x 23″ wide and are shaped from 12/4 stock. Here we are using 16/4 because it is what I could get at the time so it’s just a little more stock removal. You will remove more stock than you keep, sort of heart breaking, all that wood and $$ headed to the dumpster, but….it is what it is.
Now, since we will be removing a lot of material, we are going to open up some adverse drying conditions. The inside of these pieces are not as dry as the outside, so moving ariound, trying to cup, all that is possible so we added 3″ to the length of the sides and screwed a caul to each end for two reasons. One, it provides a true guide on each end and second, it prevents it from cupping. Now, a little later I will tell you how to get the profile and the drawer spacing, but fornow, let me show you how we begin.
Shaping the Piece – Cutting the Sliding Dovetails
Once the platform is cut, we plowed a dado 3/4″ wide for the router guide to run in, then using a 3/4″, 14 degree dovetail bit and a 3/4″ guide, we cut the first sliding dovetail across the piece to a depth of 5/16″ on the case.
The next drawer, because it was not as deep into the case, we simply plowed a groove for the router guide and again, cut a 5/156″ deep dovetail all the way across. The top drawer divider, we will do on the router table as it is almost flush to the case side and there is no room to cut the guide slot.
With our two dovetai slots cut, we focus on “whittling out” the side profile.
A dado works great and as well, angling the dado, you can cut the arch almost perfectly. Just remember to keep the sliding dovetail slots flat, or better put, at 90 degrees to the dovetail slot, that way our cross pieces are a straight fit, no having to cut angled pins to fit the slots.
Now, that’s as far as we got on Day 1, but I want you to note a couple of things.
First, the mahogany blanks have to be square and as flat as possible to keep everything in line. I have a large drum sander and with the 16/4 material I was able to insure flat panels. If you buy 12/4, be careful, it’s right on the line, as the sides are right at 2 7/8″=3″ at the widest point, so 12/4 will do, but it leaves little room if the piece is not pretty straight and flat to start with. A skill saw and a guide, again, having to cut from both sides (16/4) is a good way to cross cut the big slabs. Start long, so you have room to make any corrections if needed.
Note that I have not angled my dado except for one cut on the end of the arch. I just let the little steps created by using the dado blade vertical be a good hand plane clean up. Also note my ‘idiot’ stick, just a piece of wood with the profile drawn to use with my miter slide to set the blade height and the fence.
There are a lot of passes to be made here and this stuff isn’t getting any lighter, lifting, but it will……there are some more photos following for your review. More tomorrow.