Wall Cabinet Contest
March 1, 2005
Entry Details

# 112
Jim Rowell
Brighton, MI
Dimensions (inches):  
  Width:   16
  Height:   30
  Depth:   7
Materials:   Spalted Maple, American Walnut, Antique German Glass, Brass Hardware

I have always been attracted to eclectic, unusual, theme type, studio furniture pieces. I am a former carpenter, now a Building Official, recently certified as a Fire Inspector. During one of my fire inspections with our F.D., I was drawn to a melted and charred cabinet. The homeowner had installed an electric candle inside the cabinet for "atmosphere". The heat soon started a small fire. The wood was charred but survived. The plastic parts, which had a wood grain finish, had melted.

I looked through my collection of books for inspiration and decided to build my "melting" cabinet, modeled in theory after this cabinet.

My cabinet is made up of walnet and spalted maple. I decided on maple because its character fit my project. The grain replicates the stains on the original cabinet. The walnut adds contrast and replicates the charred pieces.

I milled all the pieces from 5/4 and 6/4 rough sawn stock. I left the sides of the cabinet thicker than a usual cabinet to throw it out of scale, which I thought added interest. All parts except for the top moulding were assembled using only glue. The sides, top and bottom are attached with hand-cut finger joints.

The doors are also spalted maple and walnut. I cut and joined all the pieces and carefully fit the curved elements of the doors before doweling and glueing the pieces together. To book match the flat "crown" type moulding on the front, it was cut from the same pieces of the doors. All the pieces of the front were glued up using a biscuit jointer. The back pieces are all rabbitted into the sides, top and bottom, including the stretchers.

The shelf was made, by turning a piece of 6/4 walnut on edge, and cutting the curves with a re-saw blade on my bandsaw. I then glued a piece of walnut on the edge and shaped it with carving tools.

After melting a real candle for a model, I carved my candle from a single piece of walnut with hand-carving tools. I don't have a lathe, so to make up the base of the candle holder, I used a hole saw to cut a blank. I put a bolt through the pilot hole on the blank, and mounted it in my drill press to make sort of a vertical lathe, and shaped it with sharp chisels, files and sandpaper.

My local glass supplier was very interested in my project and supplied the antique restoration glass, which has small bubbles in it and appears to be boiling. To save a few dollars, ($40 per hour), he let me cut the glass myself using his glass cutting bandsaw. Because of the complex curves, I milled some of the small detailed pieces on the back of the door, so I could use larger pieces of glass and avoid some of the real tight cuts with the glass.

I struggled with different types of stops and retainers for the glass. I went back to look at the original cabinet, and decided to use simple hot glue which is actually melted into place. Brass hardware is recessed into the bottom rail for a flush look. Everything is finished with numerous coats of tung oil, for a soft, non-commercial look. I am still deciding whether or not to install door handles, and if so, what design. Maybe hand-carved ones that look like wood stick matches, fire extinguishers or fire hydrants.

Without the help I received from our local F.D., I would not have received my F.I. certification. I will probably donate my cabinet to them (if they want it) in gratitude, for all of their help and support.

Judges Comments
AJH : This is one unusual, creative, and slightly over-the-edge piece. I'm especially intrigued by how you joined the walnut portions of the upper door frames (and the one piece on the lower left) to the solid maple.
DM : Very unusual. I find myself drawn to the layers of walnut underneath the spalted maple. Very creative and intriguing.
EW : What a beautiful and creative effort! You came up with an intriguing concept, and you have taken it to great lengths, with the sculpted shelf and carved candlestick, not to mention your very dedicated and meticulous treatment of the graphical elements of the frontal appearance.This is an inspired piece of design and workmanship.
LG : Conceptually this is a brilliant piece. It lacks only a bit of polish to be truly wonderful. The hinges look a bit out of place as do the catches. Something much more subtle or nearly concealed would have helped here. The candle holder and candle are a great touch.
RJ : A wonderful story for inspiration and the end result is a success. It's obvious a lot of time, thought, and effort went into this piece and the 'melting' shelf is an inspired surprise.

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