Last night I put the final finishing touches on the vanity table I’ve been building over the past few weeks. And good thing—because this morning it left on its way from Iowa to Indiana. I built this as a gift for my niece, who graduates this weekend from high school. When I offered to make something for her, she chose a vanity table and wanted it painted white. So this project led me into several areas (and skills/lessons learned) I’ve not gone before.
One of the first things I learned to appreciate is, knowing that it would be painted, I could use inexpensive poplar and plywood for the construction. Second, I didn’t have to be as fussy as I usually am with projects that get a clear finish. That paint is very forgiving! Third, I’d never painted a piece of furniture before, so this was a new lesson in using a cup sprayer and latex paint. Turns out it’s much easier than I thought. I put four coats (two primer, two finish) of paint on it, and it turned out very nice.
This was also one of the most challenging projects I’ve built. The curved drawer fronts on the side drawers of the “desk” part proved a new experience. After bulding the carcase with that curve, I built the drawers to full assembly, using 8/4 stock for the fronts. I routed the half-blind dovetails on my Leigh D4R, drilled the holes for the pulls, and assembled the drawers and fit them. The last thing I did was cut the curved fronts on my bandsaw. I clamped on an auxiliary MDF table to give me support of the whole drawer, and it worked beautifully. After sanding the fronts smooth they were done. (I made the top to echo these curved drawer fronts; the center drawer is flat.)
The other challenging part was designing the mirror frame and supports for the cheval hinges. I had to toss my first frame attempt because the poplar warped. So I switched to a laminated MDF frame that works perfectly. The uprights I made by just playing around with French curves, the bevel-edge mirror I’d chosen, and a 5-gallon bucket in my shop. I made a pattern and routed them with a flush-trim bit. Then I mounted this support on a three-drawer valet.
All in all, I’m pleased with how this project turned out. I’m also hopeful that I might be able to entice a few yet-to-be-named clients into wanting one by commission. That would give me the chance to possibly build one from cherry or oak, and forcing me to be even more careful when constructing it to avoid scratches, gaps, and flaws and focus more on grain selection and color. I’ve also got many more nieces and nephews graduating in the coming years, and I’m hopeful they’ll want me to build something special for them as well.
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