Book Cabinet — Shaping the Top

Double arcs roughly cut with jig saw. Later spokeshaves and rasps will refine the edge.
Double arcs roughly cut with jig saw. Later spokeshaves and rasps will refine the edge.

A plank of nicely figured sinker Honduras Mahogany will become the cabinet top. I will mostly follow the shape as it came from the river (Belize) and sawmill ( The back left corner will be perpendicular, the left front an obtuse, indeterminate angle and the right side irregular with free-form arcs. The straight sections terminate with small diameter rounds (created with rasps).

Hand plane, spokeshaves and rasps create the edge treatment.
Hand plane, spokeshaves and rasps create the edge treatment.

The edges have a flat on top and slight bevel on the lower portion. Edges also eased with rasps and sandpaper. The right front edge arc has a number of large cracks to be filled with West Systems epoxy. Epoxy is also used for numerous internal cracks.

A blend of varnish/boiled linseed oil/mineral spirits is my go-to finish and will be used on this project as well. The poplar components (legs, shelves and back slats) are given a few thin coats of black milk paint followed by top coat of the oil/varnish blend. Wet sanding of the top coat removes black pigment  from some edges and transition points to give the piece a lived-in look.

3 thoughts on “Book Cabinet — Shaping the Top”

  1. Tom, this cabinet is really shaping up. It looks great. Maybe I missed it, but what are you using for milk paint on the poplar base? I’m in need of doing something similar on the dining table we corresponded about a few months ago. After the dresser, it’s next up.


    1. I spoke of the milk paint process (not in depth) back in August 9th post. I used Old-Fashioned (brand) Milk Paint, Pitch Black. Mixed it pretty thin (not measured), applied with rag. I tried with cheap rollers (ala Chris Schwarz) and with brush, but I am just a rag guy at heart. For most, I did two coats, then several top coats of oil/varnish mix. Also applied by rag (and wet sanding after initial coat) removes pigment on some sharp edges and even a few other parts. I like the look. A light spray shellac might eliminate that issue if it mattered to you. Test first, of course.
      For a more uniform black going the ebonizing route is probably preferred. I’ve done a few tests with that process but did not get to comfort level. My brother-in-law uses it to great effect on his stunning work(s).
      I like milk paint. For background on using it I watched the recent Chris Schwarz (PW) bookcase video. I had also read an old FWW (?) piece by Michael Dunbar as well as Peter Galbert’s Chairmaker’s Notebook. Used those resources for a beginning and then made it my own.
      Thanks for checking in, Shawn. I look forward to your dresser as it nears completion. BTW, the bookcase is now in the house and awaiting a photo session.

      1. Thanks Tom. I’ve had good luck with just a foam brush. At first I used cheap foam brushes (out of ignorance) and the pad came off mid paint job. Then I switched to a nicer ones from Lee Valley won’t ever look back.,190,43034

        I wonder if that’ll help with things?

        I’d like to get into the ebonizing but there are too many irons in the fire right now. I can’t wait for the final pics.


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