Monday, September 25, 2006

Shut that door

Yes, yes, I know. Two blog posts in one day is a bit enthusiastic. Think of it as Friday's that I couldn't post 'cos of the usual damp-string-no-connection problem.

You may have to cast your mind back a bit to thoughts of saw tills and such? Here 'tis. An important point was made in the comments - tambour doors restrict storage space. So I think I need to put forward Alf's Tool Cabinet Vision and thinking behind same, so we're all on the same wavelength. Here's the deal: Three cabinets.

One main one for the "Ready Use Kit" - planes, chisels, screwdrivers, measuring tools, possibly the most frequently used saws etc
One saw till for, er, the saws (D'oh), well the "spares"... And possibly/probably the saw doctorin' stuff
One cabinet to, ha hum, display the combination/plough planes and have them and their many cutters ready for use.

So I see main cabinet in the middle, the others one on each side.

Now my Vision is to have the ready use tool storage where I can grab tool X or Y with one hand - no finicky catches or tool holders, no lifting of one thing to reach the other and so forth. Grab 'n' Use (TM). Now it may be impractical 'cos I have Too Much Stuff, but that's the plan. Seldom used tools can be in a less accessible configuration if necessary, but the main ones have to be easy to get at. So I want to open up the cupboard when I get in the workshop and leave it open and everything visible until the end of my workshop pottering for the day. I don't want to have to close a door in order to get to a combination plane in the other cupboard, f'rinstance... I also don't want a rattle of tools everytime I open and close the tool cupboard door (I just hate that, I don't know why). But things have to be easy to grab, so reconciling the two might be difficult? Well it seems to me I'm quickly ruling out storage inside the doors here... Plus doors that get out of the way will let me have access to the other two cabinets easily too.

Tambour doors I've always had a hankering to do, but I'm open to suggestions here, mainly 'cos I also rather fancied frame and panel construction, and I'm not at all sure how to reconcile the two successfully. I've thought of doors that hinge up and push back, bi-fold doors, all sorts. If you have a cunning idea, speak up! Heck, speak up if you disagree, have appalling tales of "clever" door options or whatever. I'm very open to ideas here, folks.


  1. Having the tools you want to use readily accessible is really important - I currently have the problem that they are not, so I'm with you 100% on that. However, I worry that a tambour door on a tool cabinet may be too fancy for its own good - particularly in a workshop that may be subject to temperature fluctuations and the tambour sticking and getting full of sawdust. I think I would go for a lift up flap, hinged at the top and with one or two of those stays that click and hold it open. Probably not of much help, but they are my thoughts for what they are worth.

    Paul Chapman

  2. Mike Wenzloff (MikeW)9/25/2006 09:52:00 pm

    Hi Alf,

    I personaly think tambours which go up and down the back would be fun to try, at least on a practice cabinet. With enough clearance in the groove and waxed occ. I don't know if it would be an issue.

    Deep pocket doors which when open take the same space as the side cabinets is a tried and true method, though not as interesting to make. Would perhaps need catches to make them non-swinging when open so when you grab for sometthing a door doesn't try to swing.

    Bi- or tri-folds are an option, but would seem fiddly for latching in an open position and they stock out...

    Have fun. Cannot wait to see what you come up with and the process of finding out what works for you.

    Take care, Mike

  3. ALF,

    The first time I heard your idea of the tambour doors, I thought it was a stroke of genius. Still do. Especially on the thought that every piece of shop furniture can prototype a couple of new ideas that you will later use on in-home cabinetry.

    Ruminations Dept.: How does anyone know how many saws to plan for in a case? I would say maybe double your guess at the moment, and that should stand you for 2 years.


  4. Stroke of genius or fit of insanity - it's always a fine line, isn't it? :) As things go at the moment doubling the number of saw spaces I think I'll need should last me all of 2 months... Oh deary me.

    Well the dust issue makes sense and something I hadn't considered to be sure. But giving it a shot on, say, the saw till wouldn't be a total disaster if I had to end up leaving it permanently open. Hmm..

    So how would any of you try to work in a tambour groove into a frame and panel carcass? Or wouldn't you? :)

  5. I don't have a clue about tambour grooves, so I'll continue with my lift-up flap alternative..... If you go with this, your "challenge" (I sense you always like to make it a bit difficult) could be to design some really elegant wooden hinges and equally elegant wooden side stays to hold it open (I guess you would hate to use the commercially available metal ones).

    Paul Chapman

  6. "I sense you always like to make it a bit difficult"

    You think...? ;~)

  7. Mike Wenzloff (MikeW)9/26/2006 03:26:00 pm

    The easiest way to do the groove for a tambour is with a pattern to ensure fair curves and a router using a pattern bit [bearing on the shank end].

    By hand--done it once and that was enough--it is a lot of #271, careful cutting gauge, marking knife and chisel/in-cannel gouge work.

    Take care, Mike

  8. Alf, why not use solid sides to take the grooves? If you're not averse to electric router, Mike's way is the way to go.

    Another thing to think about is the radius of the curve, especially if the door is to disappear behind a false top and false back, so that you have a double top and double back with the door being in the space between them. The radius would be calculated (drawn) so as to get the door 'around the corners' between the inner and outer top and backs. The horizontal tambours I am familiar with use a 2" radius, but that is for a much smaller door. Consult period furniture references. If the door is to remain exposed above and behind the case, this is of course not an issue (but then dust becomes more of an issue).

    You can buy the special glue and canvas needed for backing.


  9. Mike Wenzloff (MikeW)9/26/2006 09:13:00 pm

    Hey Wiley--instead of a double back, I would inset my back panel about 2" to allow the tambour to move between it and a French cleat, which would be dovetailed into the rearmost frame members. I've done that before [for the cleat] and it works well.

    So the tambour would need to clear only the back at the top, the rear frame assmebly's top rail and fit between the back panel and the cleat.

    In fact, just to hide the back's top where it allows the tambour to pass, the bottom of the tambour [whatever it is called that the tambour attaches to] can use the back as a stop and effectively close the gap.

    Take care, Mike
    back to making a wicked rip saw...

  10. Good point, Mike. The wall that the cases are hung on (or lagged to) will serve well as the outer back.

    I would still suggest Alf think about a double top, which wouldn't require much extra timber. The tambour's end piece could then become a decorative element where it catches and closes the gap between the two tops.

    Rip saw? Right on!


  11. Cripes, chaps, your enthusiasm is starting to worry me... Tell you what, why don't you fellows run up a prototype or two, sort out the problems and get back to me with the detailed plan?


    Oh well, it was worth a try... ;~)


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