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Introduction: 18th Century Spice Cabinet by 21st Century Woodworking

This Instructable is two Instructables in one.

First, this Instuctable is about designing and making a piece of 18th-Century American furniture, a spice cabinet, using 21st-Century woodworking techniques.  Second, this Instructable is also about the process of designing and making.  So its your lucky day!

Spice cabinets are from the 17th and 18th-Centuries in England and in "", as in that time some small amounts of some spices cost the same amount as a horse.  Spices were an economic force that carved ancient trade routes on land and sea.  From the West Indies and beyond, spices came into Colonial Philadelphia for sale to the wealthy.  In 17th-Century England, and then in "", valuable spices were often locked up in spice cabinets.  Almost all spice cabinets were made within 75-miles of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and most in Chester County Pennsylvania, according to Lee Ellen Griffith in her book The Pennsylvania Spice Box: Paneled Doors and Secret Drawers (Chester Country Historical Society,  1986).

What is 21st-Century Woodworking?  Woodworking in this century includes: Hand tools, power tools, computer programs, and CNC machines.  Hand tools include: hammers, chisels, planes, files, fret saw, small pull saw,  folding rule, and clamps, lots and lots of clamps.  Power tools include: table saw, jointer, planer, router, router table and specialized router table accessories, a dust collector and a shop dust filter, and the ever present and very necessary shop  vac.  Computer programs include: A CAD program, a CAM program, and a word processing program and a spread sheet program.  The small 3-axis CNC router is of the shop-built variety used to explore CNC possibilities for fine woodworking.  And lets not forget: Pencil [and eraser!], paper, and a three-note book.

The spice cabinet in this Instructable is not completed as this Instructable is more about the very important, and often ignored, process of designing and making.  Though the narrative is meant to be instructive [obviously], the pictures also contain a significant amount of information that is most easily conveyed visually.

Remember this:  No thinking while making.

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Step 1: The Source of Inspiration

Any good [or fanatic depending on one''s article in Fine Woodworking [Issue 196]: Pennsylvania Spice Box. After a bit of a search in my library I also found D. Douglas Mooberry''s Spicy Pennsylvania Box article in Popular Woodworking [Issue [191].

In addition, there were ideas in books by one of the first, and probably the best [as he was scholarly and so very detail-oriented] home woodworking popularizers: Franklin H. Gottshall. One in Reproducing Antique Furniture (Crown Publishers, 1971) Spice Cabinet [Chapter 30], and one in Making Furniture Masterpieces (Dover Publishers, 1996) Utility Cabinet [Chapter 5].

Step 2: The Prototype

After the inspiration and the decision to redesign the spice cabinet based on the Golden Ratio [To be explained], a CAD drawing was done.  While a CAD drawing is nice and can tell a lot, it still does not have a physical presence so the visual impact of the object on humans can be assessed and judge.  After all, if you are making something no doubt it would be cool to be able to sell a few to help support your bad habits, or to help you develop more.  That is the use of a prototype.

The prototype is made from pine from an old closet shelf and some plywood cut-offs from a previous project.  All that rat holing finally paid off.  The prototype is just over 40-inches high.  When I showed it to some female friends who are custom jewelry makers [as women with lots of jewelry are the major audience for these] their first reaction was blunt:  ""   ""  

I then showed it to a couple male friends who are cabinet makers, they were just as subtle:  ""  ""

I got the point and redesigned so the next one is smaller.  The final design  for the new spice cabinet  is a mere 27-inches high, with proportionally smaller width and depth.  Sad though, I rather like the size of the prototype.  A spice cabinet is not a subtle piece of furniture, so why even try? 

Step 3: Design Tools

The spice cabinets in the three magazine articles and the Utility Box by Gottshall are gorgeous pieces.  The design of them all is based on a square.

For anyone  who designs based on classical architecture these design are .. well .. square.

Here are two conceptual tools that can be used to improve the visual appeal of any object::

1. The Golden Ratio [or Golden Mean]

http://www.thegoldenmean.com/
http://www.goldennumber.net/goldsect.htm
http://www.goldennumber.net/design.htm
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/GoldenRatio.html


2.  The Orders

http://theclassicalorders.com/


Reading the above web sites and one book on each of the above will be greatly entertaining and expand one''t have them then wear an air purifying  half-mask  respirator.  NOT THE CLOTH DISPOSABLE ONES.

9.  KEEPING A SHOP CLEAN IS PART OF THE PROCESS OF WORKING WOOD.


Remember, there is nothing cool about having only 9 fingers.

Step 5: Tools

OK, the good part.

You like tools so you can make things, or is it you like to make things so you can buy tools.  Decisions.  Decisions.

The Tool List:

1.  A three-ring notebook.  As simple as this sounds, a three-ring note book will help you stay organized.  No more loose or lost [usually] pieces of paper with critical drawing or calculations.  Also, get a three-hole punch to punch those piece of paper without holes.

2.  Pencils, the cheap mechanical kind if you tend to lose them.  Get the ones with a larger body as it is easier to write with them.  Use soft lead too, 3B preferably.

3. Erasers.  A couple left here and there will not hurt.

4.  White chalk.  Great for writing on wood, especially dark woods.  Wipes off easily.  You won''s; I find  Starrett brand are the easiest to read.   A set of digital calipers that reads in both inches and 10th''s preferences.  I use the JoinTech Joinery System to make dovetails.   Incra makes a similar system.  Both are high quality.   The other accessories I use are table saw sleds that are used to hold wood to make cross cuts, miter cuts and cut 45-degree angles.  There are photos later in this Instructable of all of these.

g.  CNC router.  I bought a partially completed 3-axis CNC router and finished it, both mechanically and electronically.  To make curved pieces and small pieces of moulding, there is nothing better.  The cutting area is approximate 20-inches by 20-inches.  Some of the pieces I made for the spice chest took only minutes to cut.  PRO: What you can imagine, a CNC router can make.  Most common are 3-axis, though a 4, 5 or 6-aixs CNC router for woodworking would be nirvana.  CON:  STEEP learning curve to make one, steep curve to learn CAD, CAM and the controller program [MACH3 or EMC2] which are all necessary, REALLY STEEP learning curve to get proficient and productive with a CNC router.  For big time help: cnczone.com; sorting though all the postings and threads looking for the solution to your problem is a tough job, though educational.  Beats what''s capabilities in fine woodworking.  From this vantage point, it chief use looks to be the realization of curvilinear parts, though with a larger CNC router, I am sure that the uses will multiple.  Curved parts as now made require huge amounts of time.  First to make a pattern, then to cut the object, then to clean the object up.  And if several such objects are needed, getting them to be all the same size is a major the 1 last update 2020/07/06 chore.

Being able to make a curved object or part to an object that is created in my mind has to be one of the biggest thrills of  making and owning this little CNC router.  In addition, that my hands are far away from the cutting tool may be an even greater benefit.



OK, the good part.

You like tools so you can make things, or is it you like to make things so you can buy tools.  Decisions.  Decisions.

The Tool List:

1.  A three-ring notebook.  As simple as this sounds, a three-ring note book will help you stay organized.  No more loose or lost [usually] pieces of paper with critical drawing or calculations.  Also, get a three-hole punch to punch those piece of paper without holes.

2.  Pencils, the cheap mechanical kind if you tend to lose them.  Get the ones with a larger body as it is easier to write with them.  Use soft lead too, 3B preferably.

3. Erasers.  A couple left here and there will not hurt.

4.  White chalk.  Great for writing on wood, especially dark woods.  Wipes off easily.  You won''s; I find  Starrett brand are the easiest to read.   A set of digital calipers that reads in both inches and 10th''s preferences.  I use the JoinTech Joinery System to make dovetails.   Incra makes a similar system.  Both are high quality.   The other accessories I use are table saw sleds that are used to hold wood to make cross cuts, miter cuts and cut 45-degree angles.  There are photos later in this Instructable of all of these.

g.  CNC router.  I bought a partially completed 3-axis CNC router and finished it, both mechanically and electronically.  To make curved pieces and small pieces of moulding, there is nothing better.  The cutting area is approximate 20-inches by 20-inches.  Some of the pieces I made for the spice chest took only minutes to cut.  PRO: What you can imagine, a CNC router can make.  Most common are 3-axis, though a 4, 5 or 6-aixs CNC router for woodworking would be nirvana.  CON:  STEEP learning curve to make one, steep curve to learn CAD, CAM and the controller program [MACH3 or EMC2] which are all necessary, REALLY STEEP learning curve to get proficient and productive with a CNC router.  For big time help: cnczone.com; sorting though all the postings and threads looking for the solution to your problem is a tough job, though educational.  Beats what''s capabilities in fine woodworking.  From this vantage point, it chief use looks to be the realization of curvilinear parts, though with a larger CNC router, I am sure that the uses will multiple.  Curved parts as now made require huge amounts of time.  First to make a pattern, then to cut the object, then to clean the object up.  And if several such objects are needed, getting them to be all the same size is a major chore.

Being able to make a curved object or part to an object that is created in my mind has to be one of the biggest thrills of  making and owning this little CNC router.  In addition, that my hands are far away from the cutting tool may be an even greater benefit.



Step 11: A Note on a Design Failure

When I went to assemble the pediment, I discovered that the design did not comport with the reality of physics.  A physical object does not stay in place when glued to air.

This of course is operator error.  Some of it came from the CAD program I used, or maybe I used it wrong, as the program did not have the capability of show sufficient detail about the intersection of parts of object.

Secondly, I did not check thoroughly enough in the process of compiling the cut-list and overlooked the obviously incorrect manner in which the various parts do the pediment intersected.  I am finding that one has to proceed in a different manner in double-checking curvilinear parts and their intersecting with linear and curvilinear parts as compared to linear parts intersecting with linear parts.

Back to the drawing board!

And stay tuned for another Instructable, with lots of drawing and photos, on redesign problem solving.



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    2 Discussions

    0
    mousewrites

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, that''d love to have my spices in a cabinet instead of a drawer. Good job!

    0
    Imaginable

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    free tv stand plans for flat screen tvs youtubehow to free tv stand plans for flat screen tvs youtube for Thanks for the nice compliment. Hope to have the 1 last update 2020/07/06 the completed object up soon. Stay tuned.Thanks for the nice compliment. Hope to have the completed object up soon. Stay tuned.