Byrdcliffe Cabinet




Wood Selection, Milling Wood

Carcase Assembly

Frame and Panel Door

Sanding, Finish Application

Hanging the Final Product



I first saw the Byrdcliffe cabinet in a Popular Woodworking article (February 2007) written by Christopher Schwarz.

The article described the build of the reproduction in creamy poplar.

See web version here.


The orginal cabinet (early 20th century) by Zulma Steele had a darker stain.

Additionally, her door panel design was carved and painted.

Schwarz did his with a scroll saw.

As I read up on the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony and Zulma Steele, I realised that I had seen this cabinet before in CD-ROM that accompanied a Popular Woodworking book "Arts and Crafts Furniture Projects".


The digital version had an article by Schwarz that had in-depth info about the cabinet...

The drawing of the project had some issues but was usable.

The dimensions and joinery of the cabinet made by Schwarz is pretty much duplicated in my design.

I plan to add dowels at the lap joints to provide a little more structure.

I also plan to use a shaker style flat panel on the door.

My rear boards will be v-cut tongue and groove instead of beadboard.

I also checked out a reproduction by Joe McGlynn...part one, part two, and finished cabinet.

McGlynn's version was a nice Mission style rendition of the orginal...with a stained glass door.

My first Sketchup of my design...
Top view of my tongue and groove joinery with v-cuts...

Wood Selection, Milling



I purchased some 4/4 poplar stock from Larry at Heartwood in Star, MS.

Boards were ~8 inches wide and 8 feet long.

Coloration of the poplar ran from creamy white to light green to dark green. I will try to eliminate the darker wood and go with creamy and light green.

The creamy wood with straight grain will be used for the ends and shelves.
After jointing a face and an edge at the PM, we surfaced the other face with the planer, ripped to working stock and identified grain patterns for all of the pieces.
To crosscut and square the ends of all carcase elements we used a crosscut sled on the P66.
We used a sacrificial fence, with an outrigger and a clamp stop to make easily reproducible cuts.

Then we set up the Freud stack dado set to cut a 3/4" wide dado at 1/4" depth.

The crosscut was made with Incra mitre gauge with a sacrificial fence and stop.


These were made for the shelf grooves and the middle support grooves.
The end boards got a 1/4 x 3/4 rebate...cross cut these rebates with the Incra and a PM66 sacrificial fence.
Rip cuts for the rebates were indexed against the sacrificial fence.
End boards with grooves and rebates...
Top and bottom boards with grooves and rebates.

The 7 slats for the rear were ripped to 6 inches...this will result in a show of 5 3/4 inches and a tongue that will project 1/4 inch.

We used a Sommerfeld matched v-cut tongue and groove router bit set...

Routing the tongue plus a chamfer...on six slats.

Routing the groove plus a chamfer...on six slats.

Five of the slats have both a tongue side and a groove side.

Carcase Assembly

The inside surfaces of the carcase elements were sanded and finished with shellac prior to glue up.

James and I started the glue up with the shelf, with the board fitting into the two cross grooves.

This section was then clamped.

Then the bottom and top boards were glued and clamped...

The completed carcase frame...





Rear view of the carcase frame with the rebates...


After the rear slats were sanded and had shellac on the show faces, they were dry fit into the rebates on the back edge of the carcase.

I used the thickness of rulers as a spacer...

I switched to washers as spacers...
Six slats go in as full units...the final slat will be about 1/2 the size of the others...after the dry fit I marked out the width of the final 1/2 slat...3 1/4 inches...

Ripped the board to that size and attempted to dry fit it...a skosh too wide...ripped off a 1/32 and it dropped in.





Taped off the dry-fit panels to maintain the spacing...
...and checked out the look on the show side.

To secure the slats, we began with a full piece on the right end of rear of the carcase. We glued the end edge only and secured with 18g brads 1-1/4 inch.

The left edge of the slat was free to expand.

We continued to add slats properly spaced...

After all slats were in...with the 1/2 slat on the left end glue and naile, all of the properly spaced slats got a brad in the center of the board at the top and bottom and with a #6 1-1/4 screw into the back edge of the shelf.

The tongue and groove spacing will accomodate the expansion and contraction of the slats.

Additionally, to further secure the two end slats, which will be the slats through whicH the mounting screws will go into the wall studs...we added a #6 1-1/4 screw from the top into the slat.
To further solidify the top and bottom joints to the side of the carcase we drilled centered 1-1/4 inch deep dowel holes...
...prepped 2" long 1/4 inch poplar dowels...
pounded them into the holes with a little glue...will flush cut.
Frame and Panel Door

The panel adornment is to be an iris. The original cabinet iris was carved...Schwarz used a scroll saw to create pieces to glue onto the panel.

Here is the pattern he provided.

The material I selected for the flower cut out is a cutoff of northern maple that I planed to a thickness of ~1/4 inch
Pattern on the stock...
Used a #5 skip blade for most of the greenery...for more intricate cuts on the iris I tried out a #2 spiral blade.
After the cutout was finished... I used lilac milk paint to color the iris...the green milk paint that I tried was the stems were stained.

The frame and panel door was made using a shaker style Sommerfeld 3 piece raised panel router bit set.



The rails were cope routed on the ends first...and then the pattern/groove cuts were made.

The panel was routed and then the extruded face of the panel was planed down so that the panel was flush with the groove cuts.

Then the panel was dry fit into the rails and stiles and the iris was given a test fit...the panel art was coplanar with the rails...a decent fit and look.

The panel cabinet door was glued up...trimmed to fit appropriately with the hardware...this is a test fit.
After some edges were padded with shellac, the iris parts were prepped to be glue on...this was done with very judicious amounts of standard wood glue.
Gluing in the pieces...
...with all the pieces in place.
Sanding, Finish Application
Prior to carase assembly, the interior surfaces were sanded with Rotex 150mm with a grit progression of 120x-220x-400x.

I padded on three coats of made with BT&C Amber flakes and Everclear 190 proof alcohol.

Board locations that would be glued were taped off so that shellac would not affect the glue joint.

The slats got the same treatment protocols...3 grits sanding and 3 coast of shellac.
The carcase was sanded at 150x, 220x, and 400x...
...and three coats of 2 lb. amber shellac was padded on.
All of the front edges were sanded by hand and then three coated with amber shellac...padded on.
After the fit was verified on the cabinet door, it was pulled off...appropriate edges were finished with shellac...padded on.
After the iris was glued in place...the panel, the edges of the rails and stile, the iris and the stems all had to have shellac applied...this was done with a brush.
...after the application.
Hanging the Final Product

Screw holes were put throught the 3/4 stock on the backside...these were 32 inches apart to go into the studs.

From the interior, the holes were countersunk and prepped for #10 x 2.5 inch square drive screws.

The cabinet was taken into the office...I set it up on stack of Festool Systainers that made a tower that was about the height that I wanted. This allowed Cindy and I to make sure that we were happy with the height and I could work on securing it without us needing to hold the unit up.

This cabinet will be on the wall above my computer desk.

After everything was prepped I got up onto the desk top...the first order of business is to verify alignment of the first screw...from above I rechecked the stud location and then lined up my marks
...the first screw is in the corner inside the enclosed cabinet space.

After the first screw was in, we used a stack of notecards to make the unit level and then I put in the second screw...and the unit was hung.


I had originally planned to put in some cove moulding to hide the screw head...but after the install, it was almost impossible to see the countersunk screw head in a run of dark I let it be.
The view of the in-service cabinet...looking up from my computer workstation.



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