Huntboard in Maple and Cherry
September 1, 2013
Garrett Hack is one of my most admired woodworkers. Although I’ve never met the man, a general perusal of the woodworking world will find you eying many of his fabulous pieces
and a great wealth of useful instruction and tips. When I was deciding what to build next after the spalted maple cabinet, I wanted to expand on the skills
I had developed to try something a bit larger and more challenging. Seeing Garrett’s hunt board article in Fine WoodWorking (FWW #187), this looked
like the project I was looking for (although, not coincidently, we have a perfect place in our living room for a hunt board). A lot of copies of this piece have been build in
the woodworking world. Except for a few modifications to suit my skill level and taste, I followed Garrett’s dimensions exactly, as I think his proportions are graceful and well suited
for this design. There is a lot of joinery in this piece, and seasonal wood-movement must be carefully considered for most of that joinery. He deals cleverly with this on the sides
and back by doing a 3-part construction, with the center panel a sold piece running horizontally with the aprons, but only connected loosely with non-glued splines to hold
it all together. I preferred the more traditional look of panels running vertical to the aprons, with appropriate spacing and gluing to deal with the
wood movement. I also chose to make the front rail with a concave arc, as opposed to his convex arc, and to connect the rail to the bottom board with biscuits.
My project will be made with bird’s eye maple for most of the case and, to add some contrast, cherry for the door panels and drawer fronts. These
photos show the mortise and tenon joinery for the ends and how I dadoed the side and back lower apron to accept the rabbitted edge of the bottom piece.
The bottom will be glued in the center of each side, but not in the back to allow the rather large piece of maple to seasonally move in and out of the back dado.
The front stretcher is critical to strengthening the case and is one of the more difficult and time-consuming pieces to construct (notice the drop of
blood on the leg end!). Although the joints won’t be seen on the finished case, having them fit tightly will add to the sturdiness of its
construction. The front lower apron and stretcher ends are then mortised to accept the knife hinges to swing the doors. And finally, the lower apron is
biscuited to the case bottom edge for ease and strength in assembly. Next the end and side panels are glued up and rabbitted with my router lift.
The top and bottom aprons, as well as the legs, are then dadoed to accept the panels. I added two additional vertical stiles to the back piece to
avoid having to use exceptionally large panels. The case ends and back are glued up separately to simplify case assembly.
Early January and we are all feeling the close companionship of our wood stoves. Indeed, chopping kindling and hauling firewood comprise the majority
of our few available outdoor activities this time of year. However, after a pause for the holidays, it’s a great time for hunkering down to work in a
warm work shop. All of the various pieces of the hunt board (and there are many of them) are finally coming together for final case glue up.
I have designed the construction process to glue up the case separately as a unit and then add in the drawer-divider frame assembly as a separate piece.
Case glue-ups are stressful enough for me, so I’m hoping this two-step process will offer some relief from that stress, while still maintaining the
integrity of the finished product.
I begin the assembly with double-tenoning the blades into the front stiles,
which themselves have been tenoned to fit into the corresponding mortises in
the top stretcher and bottom front apron.The stiles are biscuited to the ends of the case divider (this adds
strength and significantly adds to ease of assembly). The other advantage of
biscuits is that they can be spaced so as not to interfere with the blade
mortise and tenon joinery. Next the drawer runners are tenoned into the back
of the blades where they meet with the stiles. The runners will be glued to
the sides of the case dividers, but only near the front so as to allow the
dividers to seasonally expand (as they, like everything else in this project, are solid maple).
The entire drawer-runner-divider assembly is then glued-up as a separate
entity. If everything is done right, it will fit perfectly into the mortises
in the bottom rail and top stretcher.
The top kickers are mortised into both the top stretcher and the back upper apron. This gives the finished case a great deal of rigidity. Finally,
the entire drawer entity is glued into the case, starting with the bottom
apron mortises, and then adding the top kickers and stretcher. I also added
a couple of screws from the case bottom up into the dividers (near the
front, so the rear can expand). As can be seen from the photo, the dividers
stop short of the back of the case, in order to allow for seasonal movement,
but the top kickers attach to the back. I also check everything for square before applying the full pressure of the clamps.
Often, just before the completion of a lengthy project, I grow impatient
with looking at the piece in my shop and just wish it was finished. I’m
eager to move on to the ‘real woodworking’ (i.e.; cutting, sawing, planning,
and fitting joinery) of the next project and to be done with the more
tedious tasks of sanding, applying finishes, fitting doors and drawers,
fine-tuning the hardware, etc of the current piece. Of course, this is when
the woodworker’s attentions need to be most focused, as it is the above
mentioned tasks that can dramatically affect the quality of the finished
piece. I’ve found that, if some of these loathsome tasks can be addressed
while the project is underway earlier, such as sanding pieces before glue-up
and closely fitting the hinges and other hardware as the piece is
constructed, then things go easier and smoother at the end. The final stages
of the Hunt board were relatively painless, mostly as a result of trying to
be proactive with these things during the construction phases.
Door frames were built of bird’s eye maple and the panels of figured
cherry, with the frame mortised and tenoned together and dadoed to accept
the panel. The panel ‘floats’ along the outside edges of the frame, in order
to allow for seasonal wood movement.
I created a simple jig just for installing knife hinges and it works not only for the door top and bottoms, but also for the stretchers (or blades)
that support the hinges on the case. The jig is simply an outline of the hinge dimensions, with the thickness of the router guide added to it that
allows the router straight bit follow the edge guide and mortise the proper size and depth for the hinge. A stop on the underside allows the jig to be
spaced the correct distance from the door front, while the jig is clamped to the work. Simply flip the jig over and reattached the underside stop in
order to router the hinge mortise on the opposite door. To do all the dovetails, I created a stopped-board that follows the desired dovetail angle (here, I’m using a 1/7).
The jig is slid along the band saw fence with the work to cut the tails and then the work is flipped over for doing the opposite side of the tail.
After assembling the drawers, I hand plane the tops, bottoms, and sides to fit them to the case. The Lie-Nielson #164 low angle smoothing plane,
with a super-sharp 38 degree blade works perfectly for this task, even with the sometimes uncooperative maple drawer sides. Even though I took care to
insure the drawers were square at glue-up, sometimes they still lack a perfect flush fit with the front of the case. To address this, the drawer
bottoms (Alaska Birch, in this case) are glued (a little glue in the middle of each side, so as to still allow the bottom to seasonally move) while
applying pressure to the drawer fronts in the case to achieve a flush perfect fit. When gluing up a large top like this, I generally like to use clamping cauls to insure
as even a surface as possible. As this top to too large for my planer, I will need to use hand planes to smooth out all the imperfections of the glue-up and will want
to make that process as painless as possible. Bird's Eye maple can have a very convoluted grain, making the use of scrapers also necessary.