Building a White Oak Sideboard
On a recent trip home to visit I ended up coming home with a trunk load of home sawn White Oak. (Too bad I was not driving a truck 😉 After staring at it for several months in the corner of my shop I finally determined that I would build a small sideboard with it. The inspiration for it came from a picture my wife found on line but it quickly morphed into this sideboard due to the amount of Oak I had to work with and frankly some if it was not to my taste.
First the plans
As you can see the plans I used to build this project were minimal to say the least. But they were to scale so I could pull dimensions off this drawing easily with a scaling ruler. I generally do not like to spend more energy than necessary on drawings. Mostly because no design I have ever drawn including this one, ever survived the build. As you can see I originally intended to make this more of a craftsman piece with pinned joints everywhere. By the time I got to the preliminary assembly I was already pretty sure that I did not want to go there. Preferring instead to keep it clean and very simple.
Then the bad news
The first thing that I learned about this oak tree is that in the couple of hundred years it was soaking up the sun on my uncles farm. It developed a pretty foul attitude. The minute I pulled my first chips from this very old oak I knew this was going to be no picnic. This old tree was going to fight me every step of the way. Although the grain at first glance looked pretty straight, in reality it had grown with a twist which put a lot of fun into finding the direction to plane. On top of that it was harder than diamonds and sent me on a lot of trips to the sharpening stones. But it looked good so, I moved on.
Since all of the oak that I had was 1″ and I wanted the grain to match. I needed to build my legs up from 1″ stock. While this is not my favorite way to do legs, since this oak all came from the same tree I was able to match the pieces pretty well. In the end I am pretty happy with the results. This was a multi-step process since I could not simply build them up into 2″ billets. I matched not only the grain pattern but also grain direction since this was pretty cantankerous wood to plane. I also added extra beef anywhere I was going to cut a mortise. The finished legs at the right turned out to be pretty accurate and looked like they belonged together.
The legs are not solid all the way through since I had just enough oak for the project. I had no material to waste, so I could not afford any excess, or any mistakes for that matter.
The panels for the ends and doors were for the most part pretty straight forward. But this is one of the rare times I used power tools on this job. (My original intent was to use none.) I used my table saw to deeply curf each side of the board I wanted to resaw. Then finished up with my frame saw by hand. This actually worked really well, and left me with bookmatched panels I was pretty happy with.
The frames I mortised by hand and grooved with my home built plow plane. I think that was the most fun aspect of this whole project. I was using wood grown on my uncles farm. And I was using about 6 or 8 of my hand built tools to make this sideboard for my wife. The whole thing left me feeling very connected to the piece.
Putting it all together
Assembly was in some ways the most challenging part. I had to borrow some big pipe clamps first of all, since I did not have enough. But mostly the challenges were in getting the drawer rails just right. I did not use any hardware so I lined the runners with white oak strips and seriously over built them. I knew that these drawers were going to be heavy so they had to fit right and be very strong. I also had to design a drawer stop that I could flip out of the way when I wanted to remove the drawers.
That just left me with final fitting of the drawers and doors. Which went without a hitch for the most part. This was a blessing since sometimes doors can really be a pain to get right.
I finished this project with Danish Oil Finish. Not always my favorite but it did work really well in this case. The finish turned out with just the right amount of sheen which for me is very little. I like the wood to be rich colored and to glow. I do not like a shiny plastic coating and for the most part I despise paint, no matter how many people tell me how good it looks.