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Sunday, 18 April 2010


Building a dresser. We've found it hard work. Except for a level floor, the alcove into which we are building it is without a straight line - vertical or horizontal. We began work about seven days ago when we found the window and frame by bins on a road out of the village and took it home, cleaned it up and found it fitted the alcove almost exactly. Almost. Fine-tuning the fitting of the frame seemed to go on forever. It seemed easiest at first to remove the windows and work with just their lighter frame. After getting what seemed a neat fit we replaced the windows and found the frame, on its own, too distorted to accept the windows. We switched to working with the heavier ensemble, offering up repeatedly, after planing frame and, chipping plaster and stonework from the alcove - the latter covering everything in the dining room, including us, in fine white dust. At last the fitting was done and held with a mix of glue, foam, finished off with plaster. Next came the drawer - the one we'd recovered full of woodworm and a couple of mouse holes from a derelict in Venetia. Sanded it looked fine, even venerable, but to fit it we needed guides that matched fixed on sidewall and drawer. This entailed measuring, cutting and glueing tapering wedges to the wall on the right and to the drawer on the left, sanding them, offering up, sanding again, offering up, sanding again….until after about an hour the drawer slid easily in and out.
That sorted we turned to using part of another recovered window frame to fill the space below the drawer. That went fine as our capacity to judge the odd angles of the space were, by the third day's work, quite improved. "It's beginning to look like a dresser. Let's have some wine and watch a film of death and destruction."
Day four and we've found some large pieces of cardboard on a flytip to use as templates for three sturdy plywood shelves cut out of the larger sheets we'd used for the front room wall in February. Economic. Each shelf was different of course, with the additional complication that rather than making them all horizontal - our preference - we needed two of them lined up with the window divisions which were not. "Bugger!" ""Come off it. So long as a marble doesn't roll what's a little slope matter?" Each shelf support was carefully lined up and glued on before drilling into the unpredictable stone wall. Bottom shelf was easy enough. The next two were trickier as the right dimension for the space they were supposed to go wasn't for the process of edging them into place. Indeed once the supports for the highest shelf were in place they prevent the middle one being put in place, so we had to make various small adjustments, like cutting out a corner to get it in place and glueing the corner back on again once the shelf was in place. Phew. Day five we are making the bottom doors, using pieces of shallow skirting to edge pieces of plywood. These needed to be mitred, their curved edges chamfered into a smooth angle and a centre line grooved down one door with the male rebate.
"I'm quite proud of those two." "I'll drop down to the shops and get some hinges. All ours are too large." 20 kilometres later staring to fit the hinges. "I've bought all left hand hinges! Malaka!" Another 20 kilometres to get replacements and we're on our way, except that the neatly cut in hinges screwed onto door and frame leave the doors way out of line. "There are people out there who know how to do this." Day 6 and we've bedded the hinges in fast setting glue and no screws, and done some undercoating of the shelves - along with lots of other little jobs in other places while waiting for glue and filler to set. The doors, which fit their space perfectly are gently opened and we add the screws and scrape away excess glue. Success! On one door at least. Day 7 we'll take a break and finish door two in the afternoon - but look at that rebate! It works. Nearly. After that there's more sanding, filling and painting and a window pane to replace, the room to be cleaned, and then we can start using this thing we've made, recovering our lives, learning deep appreciation of the art and craft of the true carpenter, thinking of all the things we'd do if we ever tried this again, and all the wrinkles a professional joiner could have passed on to us that we haven't even imagined.


  1. Nice work Simon! There's nothing like trying to retro-fit when there's not a true angle in the house. But to do it with reclaimed wood is truely inspiring!


  2. ...and we're still working on it.


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