Something special to display something special

A delivery driver I’ve known for a good while came and found me the other day whilst I was doing my day job. He had been talking to a colleague who mentioned that I was a furniture maker, which I can’t believe he didn’t know because it’s all I ever talk about! It turns out that he’s a former soldier with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, and wanted a cabinet to display his medals. He wanted to incorporate the regimental tartan into the design and gave me a rough size to work to, whilst leaving the design details to me.

As he told me what he wanted I was inspired to make something special. As soon as I got home I made I went through my timber pile and found the perfect piece to use for the carcass, a piece of richly figured and coloured Scottish Ash:

After coming up with a design I was happy with I created a cutting list and grabbed my saw. First I cut the pieces for the carcass and planed them smooth and square on all sides:

Next came my favourite part, cutting the dovetails. Each piece was cut and refined for a perfect fit, then labelled so I could keep track of each joint:

When I was happy I did a dry fit:

Obviously I was happy with that! Next came gluing up. I used some corner clamps that I found for a bargain price and they really made the glue up a lot easier:

The next day I worked on the inlay. This solved two problems. The stock I had was too thin to cut a rebate for the back panel, so doubling it up allowed me to make a much stronger unit without wasting timber. Secondly it added an interesting design feature. I used one of the most satisfying tools I have ever used – the mitre trimmer – to get perfect 45 degree cuts and dry fitted the components until I was happy:

I also needed stock to make the door. I chose some interesting Scottish Oak and cut a groove for the glass to sit in using my new favourite plough plane, the Stanley 50. I also added a chamfer on the front edge to make it look more interesting:

I cut it to the lengths needed and cut the mitres on the mitre trimmer. Next I needed to glue it up. The carcass was a very simple glue up and was easily clamped and put to one side, but the door needed to have the glass inset before I could close the joints. It was one of those glue ups that needed several more hands and a lot more dexterity than I have, but finally I got it sitting in a position I was happy with, and used tape as a clamp to hold it together until the glue had set:

The next morning I headed into the workshop to do one of the most therapeutic jobs I know, fitting the hinges. I used chisels, marking gauges and a router plane to mark and cut the mortises for the hinges to sit in. To my mind there’s nothing more calming than slowly removing slivers of timber to get the perfect fit hardware:

Once I was happy with the hinges I planed all sides of the unit to flush the door to the carcass. I also added a pair of small rare earth magnets to hold the door closed, and some keyhole hangers on the back of the cabinet as it was going to be wall mounted.

The next step was finishing. I chose to use Osmo Raw, this is a mixture of waxes and oils that enhance the figure of the timber without altering the colour of it. I’m never going to be a fan of the smell as you apply it, but the results are always amazing:

The last job to do was also by far the hardest. I cut a piece of plywood to size and glued a thick piece of felt to it. This acts as padding so the medals can be pinned through the tartan and supported without stretching it. That was the easy part. Next I had to fit it in position. As you can imagine, trying to fit a piece of tartan into a cabinet and keeping the lines perfectly straight took several attempts, many swearwords and a vat of coffee. I think that the end result was well worth it though:

And here’s a gratuitous shot of the joinery:

I was so happy with this project. 100% unplugged, well executed and it looks beautiful. I think it might be some of my best work yet. Most importantly of all the recipient was happy!

If you have something you would like to display please contact me with your requirements for a free no obligation quote and design chat. I loved making this so much I’d love to make some more!