February Cover Story - Chimney Cupboard - Popular Woodworking Magazine

February Cover Story — Chimney Cupboard

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

Editor Christopher Schwarz (aka my boss) keeps promising in various e-mails and postings that I’ll share an advance drawing of the chimney cupboard Senior Editor Glen D. Huey helped me build for the February 2008 issue, which is pictured at left. So I guess I’d best do so.

There’s a back story here. I took a week off last March to gut and completely rebuild my bathroom from the joists and studs out (actually, I had to replace some studs, too). Anyway, eight months later, I’m almost done. No, really. The picture below of my half-finished bathroom is from July, and since then, I’ve installed the medicine cabinet, and finished the wainscoting and most of the trim (OK…I still have a few small bits to install, and it needs another coat of paint, but at least I can shower now!). One catch — it’s a small space, and there was no way to incorporate built-in storage without taking down interior plaster walls and busting into an adjoining room. I really didn’t want to do that.

So I needed a free-standing cabinet that fit against the wall to the left of the shower; the depth could be no more than that of the small glass panel to which the door is hinged, minus the baseboard and toe kick (otherwise, I couldn’t open the shower door). Oh yeah — and the commode is a mere 22″ to the left of the shower. And I wanted the cabinet height to match the top of the shower. Hard to find cabinets with those specific dimensions at Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware.

So a custom piece was really the only solution. Just so happens, I know a few guys who could help me out. And so they did (thanks guys).

Senior Editor Robert W. Lang gave me a crash course in SketchUp, and Glen taught me to make mortise-and-tenon joints and how to cut half-blind dovetails…and reminded me daily of my math deficiencies. And Chris graciously allowed me the leeway to design and build the cabinet I wanted, and feature it in the magazine. (OK — I actually planned to make it out of poplar and paint it antique white to match the rest of the woodwork in the room…but that desire was beaten out of me.)

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun spending more time in the shop, and I now feel like a somewhat bona fide woodworker (granted, one who still has a lot to learn). I also have a newfound respect for Chris, Bob and Glen, who build full-blown projects and write about them for every issue. Up ’til now, I’ve only done the “I Can Do That” projects, which start with S4S stock, and take all of a few hours to build. This chimney cabinet started with rough lumber, so the milling alone took a few hours.

Full plans and construction steps will be featured in the February 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking, but as promised, below is my initial SketchUp drawing for the front elevation. I suppose I’d best get that toe kick installed before I take my cabinet home…but it sure will be nice to get the towels folded and put away!

— Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 7 comments
  • narconon drug rehab

    Nice work. I’m sure that everyone will learn something from your post. 😉

  • megan fitzpatrick

    Thanks Jim — I think the best lesson I learned was to hire someone to do the tile and drywall finishing! From now on, I’m sticking to the woodworking end of things (the fun part).

  • Jim Shaver

    Well done Megan,

    Nothing like a renovation to give you purpose to design and build a new piece of furniture. I am about to begin a similar adventure myself. The shower you built is almost like the one I have in mind very nice. Your cabinet design is very well thought out, something that has total function for the small space and looks very nice….well Done!

    Take care,

  • Chris Schwarz


    We might need to cover this in an article or long blog entry. It’s a good question.

    Here’s our take on this after discussing it in the office:

    On joinery: As long as you plan for the wood movement, the joinery and glue doesn’t have to be any different. A properly vented bathroom will see some swings in humidity, but they don’t cause crazy swings in wood movement. A few points of MC will make small changes in most panels.

    The biggest difference, as you point out, is in the finish. There are plenty of water resistant lacquers and varnishes that will stand up to a bathroom environment. Paint, of course, is the best protector against water damage.

    But here’s the interesting thing: Paint actually allows more moisture exchange than a film finish. That is why the wood in painted clapboard houses can remain pristine for so long. The paint readily allows water migration in and out of the house. That’s right from Flexner’s book, by the way.


  • Chris C

    I wonder if the painted piece might have been better
    considering this is going in a bathroom where the
    humidity can become very high in a short time.

    I’m curious how it holds up, or if you made any
    additional changes in order to deal with wood
    movement in such a setting. ???


  • Bob Lang

    It’s in the works, but I’m on vacation next week and the file needs a bit of tidying up before we put it online. Look for it the first week of December.


  • Michael Holden

    How about posting the sketchup file?

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