In the last episode, we finished the main boxes assembly. Sort of anticipate 2 more write-ups including this one, with the last one covering the final assembly – hinges, glass, etc. Here, I’m going to go over the door construction, staining, and a bit of ‘internal’ assembly.
Staring with the doors. I need a total of 5 doors: 2 tall narrow doors for the top cabinet and 1 ‘narrow’ long door for the middle cabinet – both of these will have glass panels. In addition, I need two doors for the bottom cabinet – these are sort of ‘traditional’ cabinet doors and will have 1/4 inch plywood panels. I do most of my doors in ‘Shaker’ style. As it pertains to cabinet doors, Shaker style is simple – create a rectangle, no fancy edges or profiles. And I think it looks good! If/when I build a bunch of kitchen cabinets, I may do fancier raised panel doors, but for my, ah, “friends”, gun cabinet I think a Shaker style is actually aesthetically the right choice. For joinery I used something like an exposed mortise and tenon. Basically, one cuts an insert on one of the pieces and a slot on the other that will fit the insert. By through cutting, the cuts are easier to make – and I like the contrast between edge and face grain.
So one starts by cutting all the pieces one will need to the right lengths. I need 4 long stiles (vertical members) and 4 short rails (horizontal members) for the rifle cabinet doors, 2 short stiles and 2 long rails for the middle ‘angled’ cabinet. All three of these doors
will need to have rabbets routed out on the inside of the back to accommodate the glass. For the bottom cabinet, I need 4 rails and 4 stiles, all roughly of the same length; here rather than a rabbet, I need to cut a slot on the inside edges of both the rails and stiles that the 1/4 panels will slide into and be ‘locked’ in. So off to the ‘finished’ cabinet boxes to make some measurements and the wood pile to cut a bunch of pieces to the right length. I’ll also note I measured for full overlay doors – the doors will cover the edges of the cabinet box fully. For the mortise and tenons, I just set up the table saw to make all the cuts. One the tenons, I just made multiple passes and then cleaned it up with a chisel. One major mistake I made was to plane the door thickness way down; generally doors are 3/4″ thick; I planned these down to 1/2″ – it will come back to haunt me in the hinge section of the story.
With the doors finished, I moved onto making the rifle butt and barrel rests for the upper cabinet. The butt rest and the barrel rest both consist of a single piece of wood with the same length as the inside width of the cabinet. The barrel rest is relatively thin (in the depth dimension) and the butt rest is almost the same depth as the cabinet. For the butt rest, I need to cut slots for the rifles to slide into. The width of the slots is somewhat arbitrary as long as they are wide enough to fit the typical butt stock; I choose to make them 2″ wide. From there, lay out an evenly divisible number of slots that will leave sufficiently wide ‘fingers’ between the individual rest slots; these parameters left me with 10 evenly spaced slots. I’ll need to address any empties when this is all finished. With those measurements laid out, use a 2″ forstner bit to drill out holes that will act as the inside curve of the slots. Then I mapped the spacing onto the barrel rest piece of and used a 1/2″ forstner bit to drill the corresponding barrel rest holes.
Now it’s a matter of cutting the slots in the butt rest perpendicular to the long edge of the piece and tangent to the round holes that were just cut. With a chisel and sand paper, flatten out the edges of the barrel rest. After that, since I didn’t want sharp corners on the rests, I used a round over bit to provide some ‘relief’. With some sanding, I end up with the final rests. I’ll note that, at the height I wanted the barrel rest to be in the cabinet, the Garand’s wood forestock was at the level of the barrel rest and wouldn’t fit into the 1/2″ barrel rests, so I widened one of them out to accommodate the M1.
OK, onto “stain”. I’ll leave off the many tedious rounds of sanding and move straight to the finish. I wanted to use a cherry stain so I could pretend I built out of cherry wood. Someone here (cough, Tundra, cough) sang the praises of gel stain, so I grabbed some of that. You know, I used to like Tundra, might have even wanted to be like him when I grew up. I have to reconsider both of those positions now. Gel stain HMs. SLD aside, there ought to be a law against calling it a stain. It’s paint. Or some horrid bastardization trying to be both and succeeding at neither. Spit. We hates it. So anyway. Staining. I pre-conditioned the wood to more evenly absorb the “stain” then applied 2 coats of the stain-paint. Followed up with about 3 coats of polyurethane.
Well, this is going longer than I thought… but I’ll endeavor to persevere with a quick look at joining the top and bottom cabinets. Since the whole thing will be pretty heavy at the end of the day, I wanted to be able to disassemble the pieces while still having a stable connection. So I decided to use some lag bolts. But I also didn’t want the lag bolts to be visible. The perfect solution is to locate them below the rifle butt rest. That means the bolt heads need to recessed into the bottom of the top cabinet and penetrate into the lower box (couldn’t resist one little bit of in-your-endo) to be fastened with nuts that can be removed when you want to separate the pieces. But the bolts will be permanently fixed once the butt rest goes in. So I lined up the top and bottom cabinets as well as I could, clamped them in place and drilled insets using a Forstner bit of the appropriate size for the lag bolts, and then drilled through both cabinets. The bolts then get inserted – however, the lag bolts have a square base near the head to lock in, so I need to chisel out a matching square inside the recessed hole so that the bolts would lock – otherwise, they would just spin when you tried to tighten them up to connect the two pieces, since the rifle butt rest would cover the bolt heads (permanently). With all that done, I now have a means to connect the top and bottom pieces securely while still being able to separate them easily but not have ugly visible fasteners. Once the bolts are secure, attach the butt rest with wood glue and few screws. Similarly, the barrel rest is attached to the back of the cabinet – one of the reasons I used 1/2″ plywood for the top rather than my normal 1/4″.
I think that’s more than enough for now! The final step is to mount the glass in the doors, attach the doors and hardware and fill with guns. Donations accepted for the last item to address the paucity of handguns. Will NOT trade steak though.
I leave you with my favorite things – well, two out of three ain’t bad