Walnut Drinks and Media Cabinet


Walnut Drinks and Media Cabinet:
Louise Biggs explains how she made a beautiful walnut cabinet to a client’s specification…

Louise Biggs explains how she made a beautiful walnut cabinet to a client’s specification…

The cabinet complements the fire surround built previously. As the room is panelled with traditional plaster moulding the cabinet was to fit in a large recess and had to be designed around some specific criteria from the clients:
● Panels on the doors had to match the height and position of the plaster wall panels.
● Mouldings used on the cabinet were to match the plaster mouldings.
● Upper side cupboards had to house metal racks that would hold the media/computer electrical components. These were to sit central to the tinted glass in the two side doors.
● There had to be sufficient access for the cables to come through into each cabinet.
● Upper side cabinets needed access to the air conditioning system above.
● The bottom centre cupboard would house a mini fridge and dishwasher.
● The bottom side cupboards had to store the maximum amount of CDs and DVDs as possible with complete visual access.
● Doors for the top middle cupboard should protrude the minimum amount into the room when open.
● The clients would install a level plinth structure for the cabinet to sit on.
● Top doors were to extend to the underside of the plaster cornice moulding in line with the wall panels.

Upper side cupboards had to house metal racks that would hold the media/computer electrical components

Tool list
• Panel/tablesaw
• Planer/thicknesser
• Bandsaw
• Various router cutters
• Planes, chisels and squares – various sizes
• Marking gauges
• Drill and drill bits
• Glue pot with animal/hide glue
• Veneer hammers
• Straight edge and knife
• Screwdrivers
• Sash and ‘F’ and ‘G’ cramps

The cabinet was made in sections for transportation before being fitted and finished on site. Made from American black walnut (Juglans nigra) burr veneer and timber and pre-veneered MDF, the inside carcase sides were plain MDF. 

1. The bottom centre section was joined at the bottom corners using  a tongue and groove formed on the MDF panels using a router. The wide top rails were dovetailed on both ends and cut into the top of each side. The side panels wouldn’t be seen so the joints were reinforced with screws, which were kept in from the edges. Pilot holes were then drilled to prevent the MDF splitting apart on the bottom panels. The centre partition was recessed into a groove on the bottom panel and top rails. The back panel was rebated and screwed into the back edges. The cable holes for the electrical appliances were cut before assembling the carcase

2. The top and bottom of the top centre section were tongue and grooved to the side panels, which were hand veneered with a pattern of burr veneer panels and crown cut veneer. Recessed bookcase strips were cut into the side panels using a router before the carcase was put together. The back panel (holding two pieces of mirror) was a timber frame with a central support constructed using mortise and tenons. The safety mirror was supported by two pieces of 6mm MDF, with a double rebate cut on the front side of the frame to accept the two thicknesses and the rebated moulding. This moulding matched the one used around the centre panel of the fire surround last month. A recess was routed into the central support to take a bookcase strip and extended metal shelf rests made, which were recessed into wooden brackets to give a central support to long narrow toughened glass shelves

3. The width of the top and bottom side units were based on the requirements of the metal racks.
To centre the racks these units had to be double-sided to still create the full width of the unit. The inner sides recessed into grooves in the bottom panels were left long to take the outer side panels with cut outs made to take the top rails. When put together a softwood spacer, planed to the correct thickness, was screwed into position on the sides with a secondary front tongue and grooved into place

4. The top rails extended to be dovetailed into the outer sides. The inner sides and spacers were kept at 6mm, allowing for the back panels. The outer sides were rebated for the back panels, glued and cramped into position before screwing the back panels in place

5. Top rails were used on the top side cabinets which allowed entry to the air conditioning system access panels directly above. At the same time a false panel was made to be fitted to the ceiling to disguise the access hole

6. The front frames were made by joining the components with mortise and tenon joints. The side frames extending past the carcase to eventually cover the join between the sections and the battens screwed to the walls for fixing on site. Recesses were cut into the far right and left stiles, top and bottom, in order to take a burr veneer panel

7. The frames were screwed into position and then covered by the skirting and dado mouldings and the recessed panels. A spacer board was positioned on the bottom units with a timber front edge piece as this would be seen when the doors were opened

8. The drawer boxes were made with machine cut dovetails, the bottom panels fitted within a groove and fitted to double extending runners so the back of the drawer could be clearly seen. A secondary front, fitted from behind should cover the front of the runners and have a drawer pull groove routed across each drawer front

9. The door frames were made using mortise and tenon joints. The panels were fitted from the front of the door to gain the effect of the wall panels so a double rebate was cut around the front inside edges.  I used one rebate for the panel and the second for the rebated moulding. The frames for the centre top doors were formed 4mm wider creating a flat in the shaped top rail to allow for a saw cut when they were cut in half

10. The panels would be moulded to match the plaster fielded panels so would need a timber edging around the MDF centre. To align the grain on the top and bottom edges were short sections glued between the longer side sections extending far enough to clear the moulded areas. They were tongue and grooved to the MDF with the tongue on the timber section to avoid the mould profile. The centre top doors had an additional timber section through the centre of the panel 4mm wider than required to allow for splitting the door in half

11. A rebate was cut around the panels to create the step of the raised panel and remove waste material. The centre moulding was then routed using a panel bead cutter. A straight edged vertical profile cutter was used to cut the raised panel chamfer. To hold the panel vertically on the router table, slightly tilting the panel to gain the client’s required profile and work safely, angled support blocks were taped to the router table against the fence to support the panel between them and the fence edge

12. Minor adjustments to the profile were carried out using a shoulder plane, before being cleaned up with abrasives

13. With the centre top doors split so they can fold in half an additional centre support was added to the back, being glued to the panels and dovetailed into the top and bottom rails. The panels of these doors were screwed into the rebate making sure to keep the screws clear of the cut line

14. The edges were veneered and the placement of the hinges established to keep them in line with those on the outside between the doors and frames. The outer edges of the mouldings set the top and bottom hinges with one placed centre of these two on the top doors

15. Two marking gauges were set, one for the width and one for the thickness of the hinges and these gauge lines were applied to each hinge setting

16. Using a flush cut saw the shoulder lines of the hinges were cut at an angle to the point of the gauge lines and squared up using a chisel

17. There were two options available for removing the waste. The first by hand, making small cuts across the waste area, cleaning out the debris and repeating until the required depth was reached. Ideal for cutting out a couple of hinges, but labour intensive when cutting 20 hinges

18. The second option was to use a router taking as much of the waste as possible before trimming the corners by hand with a chisel

19. With the cut outs made the hinges were then fitted drilling pilot holes for the screws. The screw heads were aligned on the final fitting with new screws. With the hinges and doors fitted it was found additional support was required on the split doors to keep the two halves of the doors flush when closed. Brass guide pins consisting of a pin and collar were judged to be the solution as these work very effectively in positioning table leaves on extendable tables and the principle was the same

20. Once the positions were marked out, a depth stop was formed by drilling through a section of timber and cutting it to the right length. This stayed on the drill bit forming the stop between the door edge and drill chuck

21. Now that the hinges and guide pins were fitted the folding doors were completed. The main
door hinges were cut in exactly the same way

22. The cabinet constructed, it was disassembled before being transported and fitted on site. A corner of the fire surround can be seen in the reflection of the mirror


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