Towards the end of last year I was contacted about making a Mechanical Cellarette. Now, this was something I’d never heard of before and my research turned up very little information. Essentially, it is a cabinet used to store liquor and there are some references to it on auction sites. I met with the client, he showed me the intended location and shared his vision of what he had in mind. I submitted this basic plan to him which he approved and the work began. It’s taken a while to get all of the parts and pieces together but the timing worked perfectly as I just completed Nick’s Media Stand when the mechanical part of this project was delivered.
The project will be in my clients office which is a brand new space. Fantastic finishes on the walls and the flooring is Brazilian Rosewood. Images I had found of the Mechanical Cellarette were mostly in the Victorian style with lots of carvings and applied moldings and my design and style is more Shaker inspired. I prefer letting the wood itself be the star of the show. To that end, he suggested using Bubinga which is a beautiful wood from the western jungles of Africa. This will be teamed up with a top of inlaid Italian Marble. I knew going into this project that Bubinga is a difficult wood to work with, extremely dense and heavy but that’s the correlation: beautiful wood = challenging work!
The first parts to arrive were these brass leg cups from Lee Valley. We decided they would add a nice style element to the cabinet. This was the first of many challenges to come for this project. The legs will be approximately 1 3/4″ square and taper towards the inside bottom. The leg cups also taper from 1 3/8″ at the top to 1 1/8″ (inside dimensions) at the bottom. This requires a combination of machine and hand tool work to get the fit just right. A trial piece was done on Poplar and I took notes so to be able to do the same thing on the Bubinga. I know that it won’t cut as easily as the Poplar will but at least now I have the process down.
I ordered the 8/4 Bubinga from Woodworkers Source in Arizona. You’re looking at just under $500.00 worth of material which is enough for the top and framework for the Cellarette. Rod Stewart’s classic “The First Cut is the Deepest” always plays in my head as I begin to cut apart the materials. I substitute hardest for deepest because you just can’t afford to make a mistake here! Careful planning is called for when using expensive woods, especially since the supply is limited and hard to obtain. I’ll be purchasing the 4/4 Bubinga from Peterman Lumber here locally — they don’t stock 8/4. Once things were laid out it was time to begin the actual cutting.
Even after carefully honing the blade on my old Stanley #7 jointer plane it had a difficult time with this interlocked grain of this wood. By taking the thinnest of cuts with the tightest mouth possible the jack plane gave me an acceptable surface. I can tell that there will be a lot of hand scraping to achieve the finish I want on this Bubinga! I was pleasantly surprised to see that the resaw process went better than I feared. The bandsaw is fitted with a Wood Slicer resaw blade from Highland Woodworking. This is a time that proves buying the Powermatic planer with the upgrade, Byrd Shelix cutter was a good investment. It was able to surface the resawn pieces and achieve a good finish. As always, it will require a smooth plane and card scraper for the final surface preparation but that’s to be expected.
At the end of this work day I reduced the stack of 8/4 Bubinga to these pieces. They will sit for a few days to stabilize before the joinery work begins. The small piece at the lower left is a cut-off that I’ve applied the first coat of finish to. This really brings out the richness and beauty of the wood. I’ll take it with me to select the Italian marble for the top. The mechanism for the unit is under the bag to keep it as dust free as possible in a shop environment. I wanted to see how smoothly this unit from Auton worked so made this little video as a demonstration. I’ve used television lifts before and they usually have a single lift mechanism located at the rear of the unit and can exhibit some instability as the raise and lower. This unit features four gears on either side of a rack that the unit essentially “crawls up”, well worth the money as this unit seems to be of very high quality. Here’s my video:
So there’s the first step of many to come on the creation of the Mechanical Cellarette. Time to order the marble and pick up the remaining Bubinga here from Peterman.