Chris Schwarz's Blog

Questions (and Answers) About the Shaker Cupboard

Several readers have asked some questions about the Shaker Wall Cupboard I built for the February 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine (mailing now to subscribers). Here are the answers.

Question:
While I think it’s a handsome piece, where do you anticipate someone
using it in their home? Do you actually advocate hanging this thing up
on a wall somewhere? Why not show a picture of the finished product
being used in someone’s home?

Answer: While I don’t know what
the cabinet was used for by the Shakers, this is a good size for a
small spice cabinet or bathroom cabinet in a guest bath. We didn’t take a
photo of it on the wall because I had built the project during a class I
was teaching at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking and left the
cabinet there. So that’s where Kelly took the photo. So it was a
practical reason, not an artistic one.

Also…just curious….if
you’re going to make a piece of “Shaker” furniture, why do you use
modern butt hinges? They don’t go with the piece at all and stick out
like a sore thumb. Especially since you went to the trouble of making a
“stay” to hold the door closed. Why bother with that if you’re just
going to slap some Home Depot hinges on it?

The original had
butt hinges. I’ve struggled to find the right hinges for this piece. The
best ones I’ve found were delicate steel ones from a hardware store in
Germany. Then we burned off the finish and made them look crusty.

So
once again, my answer is practical – those are the hinges we could find
in bulk for the class I taught. I am always struggling with finding
good hardware, especially for small projects.

Why clout nails on the back instead of 2d cut finishing nails?

I
like clout nails for backs because they have more of a head than finish
nails. A headed nail is more likely to keep the back in place over the
long haul, especially where there will be dramatic seasonal expansion
and contraction (as on this piece). Also, headed nails (roseheads,
clouts etc.) are easier to remove if the back ever needs repair.

What did you use for the red wash finish?

Kelly applied the finish and used “Old Fashioned Milk Paint.”
The color he used was “Barn Red.” You can easily manipulate a milk
paint to show some of the grain below by making it thinner.

— Christopher Schwarz

Other Shaker Stuff to Read
• Here’s a free plan to a nice walnut side table I built from the White Water Shaker community. And a free article I wrote about the White Water community.

• “Masterpieces of Shaker Furniture” by Edward Deming Andrews is on of the least expensive entryways into the world of Shaker furniture.

• “Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture” by Kerry Pierce is one of the few great books on the community and furniture of this Western Shaker community.

2 thoughts on “Questions (and Answers) About the Shaker Cupboard

  1. wapitiscat

    I’ll admit it. I don’t like this piece (not yours in particular CS but the piece in general). I’ve seen this project a number of times and I’m always put off by my perception that the door is too narrow. Could you shed some light on the design decisions that went into this cabinet style. Perhaps if I had some insight into the door design, I could nod approvingly with new found understanding and move on. Maybe it was something as simple as available lumber dimensions. I suppose I could do some research myself but I’m lazy and figure you have an answer already.

    Todd

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