Furniture design in the last two centuries has swung back and forth wildly between austere and outrageous. One year everything’s Rococo and carved; the next year the far simpler Hepplewhite style is the thing. Then comes the ornate Victorian stuff, which is followed immediately by the straight-lined Arts & Crafts style. It’s no wonder furniture manufacturers stay in business.If you haven’t noticed yet, the country is heading into another era where simple is better. And while some of these clean and contemporary pieces are criticized as merely boring wooden crates with drawers, others show off the elegant proportions of the furniture using only understated accents. We hope you’ll agree that the subtle black accents on this wardrobe have achieved that goal.
The wardrobe uses frameless construction, and it is built almost entirely of plywood so it’s stable and lightweight. The visible plywood edges are covered with iron-on veneer tape to retain the simple clean lines of the piece. The concealed hinges (above) provide smooth door operation without interrupting the proportions of the door and drawer arrangement of the front. The pulls are unobtrusive and echo the black line of the reveal at the top and the bottom and the black base.
Construction begins by cutting the case pieces to size. Next, cut 3/8″ x 3/4″ rabbets on the back, top and bottom of both side pieces to accept the back, top and bottom. Also rabbet the top and bottom pieces on the back edge to hold the back. Now cut a 3/8″-deep x 3/4″-wide dado in the top and bottom pieces to leave an 11″ opening between the right side and the vertical partition.
Before rushing to assemble the case, there are a few things to do first. Cut your four drawer dividers to size and apply veneer tape to the front edge of each. Mark the location of the drawer dividers and decide whether you want to use biscuits or dowels to hold the drawer dividers in place between the left side and the partition. The drawer openings are graduated in size and should be as follows from top to bottom: 5″; 5-7/8″; 7-1/4″; 9″ and 11-1/8″.
Because the door section of the wardrobe is only 11″ wide, it’s a good idea to pre-drill the right side and partition for shelf pins and also for the European-style hinge plates before assembly. One more pre-assembly task: sand the inside of the shelf section and the part of the back that’s visible. You’ll be glad you did.
Now assemble the case using glue and by driving nails through the top and bottom pieces into the sides and partition. When in place, the drawer dividers should be proud of the front edge of the case by the thickness of the veneer tape. Lastly, nail the back in place into the rabbets. This will square up the case.
With the case assembled, go nab your spouse’s iron. Apply veneer tape to the front edges of the case, and to the top of the case on the front edge and sides to hide the rabbet joint. The 7/8″-wide tape is plenty because the reveal will only show 1/4″ of the top of the case.
The false top is simply a piece of plywood edged with veneer tape. Check the size against the finished size of the assembled case to make sure the false top will flush up with the sides, front and back. Remember that the false top extends over the door and drawers and should flush up to them. The 1/4″ reveal between the top and case is created using strips of 1/4″ x 1″ hardboard, with one edge spray painted black. Fit the strips to the underside of the top, allowing the 1/4″ setback on the front and sides. Add a fourth strip flush to the rear of the top to level it out. With the strips fit, use black spray enamel paint to coat the visible edge and the underside of the front piece, then attach the reveal strips to the underside of the top.
Now attach the false top to the case. Drill clearance holes through the case and attach the false top using screws up through the inside of the case, again, flushing the back edges of the case and the false top.
The base is a simple frame held together by biscuits, dowels or mortise-and-tenon joinery, with the legs attached between the stretchers at the corners. With the base glued and assembled, add 1/4″ x 13/16″ hardboard strips to the top edge as you did to the underside of the top. Next, finish the base and strip with black paint to add visual “weight” at the base of the chest. When dry, attach the base to the cabinet using metal chair braces at the corners.
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