The next big project on my bench is a Stickley wardrobe. I am pretty closely following the plan provided by Robert Lang from his site (and from his excellent Shop Drawing for Craftsman Interiors book). One of our bedrooms has no closet, and draping clothes over a folding chair and a plastic storage tub is getting old quickly.
As I am trying to do with each project, I am adding something new to this one. Instead of using veneered plywood for the 1/4" panels, I am using solid wood panels. This makes the build different in a lot of ways.
With the plywood panel method, building each frame-and-panel part (sides, back, doors) involves...
- stub mortise and tenon joinery for the frame
- a panel that is exactly the size of opening plus grooves
- glueing the panel into the frame
- finishing the panel and frame at the same time
This is all possible because the plywood panels are stable, and don't grow or shrink with humidity the way solid wood does. The panel then is glued to the frames, adding strength to the part. And, as it isn't going to move, can be finished at the end, when the rest of the piece is.
With solid wood panels, things change significantly...
- the panels are slightly smaller than the openings plus groove, allowing them to move (expand & contract)
- because they aren't glued to the frame, the don't provide any strength to the frame; joinery is now full mortise and tenon
- Also, because the panels are loose, and may slightly expand & contract, the panels must be fully finished to their edges before the frame is assembled and glued
In the end, either method provides a perfectly acceptable piece of furniture. So why choose the solid wood method over plywood? Am I trying to earn "authentic" points? Nope. Instead I choose to try this out because I've never done it before, and I want to see how it goes. Yes, it will be more work, but I'll also learn something I wouldn't have otherwise.