View Full Version : A very large walnut and walnut burl credenza (PIX)

John Fry
12-03-2007, 1:37 AM
First I want to thank everyone who visited and responded to my last project post;

A carved, ebonized, and gilded, wing back chair. (Pix) (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=61465)

As always, I welcome your comments AND critiques on this latest project.

This very large credenza was designed as an entertainment center to sit below a big, wall-mounted, plasma TV. It is 76” wide 24-1/2” deep, and 34” tall. The cabinet and base are all solid walnut and the doors are bookmatched walnut burl both inside and out.


The main carcass panels are finished at 15/16” thick, so I floated the carcass 15/16” off the base. The center door plaques are gilded with 23K gold leaf and aged to match an antique bronze sculpture that sits in the room.


This elevated and angled shot shows the beautiful walnut grain in the top and the “near gloss” finish that was selected by the client.


The open carcass reveals the back panel that was veneered from the same lumber as the carcass for a perfect match. The center compartment has a bridge that supports the main amplifier and the subwoofer below. It all gets exposed for surround sound use with the center doors being pocket doors. The outside compartments have adjustable shelves.


I started by milling and gluing up the carcass panels. I ordered premium and custom selected by my vendor, 6/4 black walnut, and I requested it be selected for NO knots and NO sapwood and skip planed to 5/4 to be sure they cold see it clearly. AND, I needed nine, 8 foot boards that I could net 9” wide clear lumber. They took good care of me and found exactly what I wanted. ….I paid dearly for it!!


For panels this size, after they were all glued up I rented time on a big wide belt sander to surface all three of them, (I hadn’t cut the panel for the two ends in half yet). We surfaced out at the 15/16” dimension that I wanted as a minimum thickness. Then I ripped the panels to width and beveled the ends.


Crosscutting a bevel on a 24-1/2” wide panel that is 78” long, and doing it accurately is not an easy task. Using my bevel sled that is deep enough to cut 26”, at the long end of extension table, I made a runner with a strip of “slick tape” to keep the panel level and then securely clamped the panel to my sled’s fence. These cuts had to be perfect or my case would be out of square.


I used the domino as a joinery method for these beveled corners.


Next I drilled the shelf pin holes in all the vertical members. This is one of the center dividers. Note the 1” vertical cutouts that will become the “cable portals”. All of the cabling will exit the credenza through one of the four vertical partition members that have these openings.


The design calls for the front edges of the carcass to be cross banded with straight grained walnut veneer to “frame” the burl doors. I harvested block of straight walnut and glued them up and then resawed them into 1/16” thick veneers.

John Fry
12-03-2007, 1:38 AM

After gluing them on, I flushed trimmed them with a router. I did them in pairs for extra router support to prevent tipping.


Now it is time to glue up the carcass. It is big, It is heavy, and if it isn’t perfectly square the doors won’t fit or work properly. I made two large MDF “squaring” panels that fit the inside dimension. By clamping the glue up with them inside, I should get a square case. I installed the dominos, and only glued one corner at a time, but I assembled the complete case each time. After I glued the second corner, the final two joints would be done at once.


I made a spacer as a router guide to cut the dados for the vertical members in both the top and bottom panels. Again, this should insure squareness.


Then I made a second one to cut the dados for the “bridge” that would be attached to the bottom panel only.


I used those dados to measure and fit the panels for the bridge. I dry fitted the side panels into the dados and then measured and cut the bevels for the top. I glued it all up in the case to insure a perfect fit. When completed, the bridge will be installed by screws from the bottom. It must be removable in case any thing goes wrong with the pocket door hardware and it needs to be accessed.


It is time to start on the base structure and its 3-way mitered legs. I created a template for the sculpted legs. They will get cut from rift sawn 12/4 walnut blanks.


After band sawing both sides of the blank, I sculpted and final shaped with rasps. You can also see the bottom has a round mortise for a foot pad. It would be easier to lay out drill into a 3” square block, so I drilled them with a forstner bit prior to cutting the leg blanks.


The base frame design called for triple groove reeding. I used two laminate routers, one set at dead center and the other set to the correct inset to rout form either edge. I did the grooving before I cut the 3-way miters.


I cut the “rail to rail” mortises using the domino, and I cut the leg to rail mortises on the FMT.


Once the four rails had dried, I dry fitted the legs and marked the junction of where the reed grooves met at the 45 degree miter. I put each leg in the vice and hand carved the grooves. I couldn’t figure any way to rout them on the concave curve and a tapered face.

John Fry
12-03-2007, 1:40 AM

Clamping took some ingenuity too. I used epoxy so I didn’t need extreme pressures, but I did need to get some downward and inward forces going to get everything lined up right. I made this clamping fixture to accomplish this.


Here is the base ready to go the finishing room. I have installed the 15/16” recessed riser to “float” the cabinet, and you can see the elongated mounting holes to allow for expansion of the solid wood carcass. It will get a dark “black coffee brown” stain and then be mounted to the cabinet.


Now to get the doors veneered. I needed large walnut burl veneers to get the door faces done in two pieces. I did not want to go with a four way bookmatch. I found a large, high class flitch at Certainly Woods that would work. It was 28” by 14” and would allow me to harvest the two pieces without any white wood. And it was a 20 sheet flitch, enough to veneer the inside and outside of each door. I started by using a commercially made flattener, soaked each sheet and pressed them until dry and flat.


I used an MDF substrate, framed with 2”walnut. I veneered the edges, tops and sides, of each door with a double thickness of burl veneer. This gave me enough meat to be able to soften the sharp edges lightly after the face veneer was applied.


This is the router template that I used to rout out the recess for the gilded door plaques on the two center doors.


After I cut the recess, I stained and finished the doors prior to gluing in the plaques. You can see the effects of the veneered edges in this photo.


The gilded plaque is epoxied in. After investing so much time in a component like these doors, after cutting, trimming, veneering, and scraping etc. and hours of total time, it scares the heck out of me every time I have to go back to a machine or a process that could cause harm to a component. I survived and everything went together as planned.


This shot of the back shows the veneered Baltic birch ply I used for the back panels. The vertical recesses are the cable portals I mentioned earlier. Each side of those indentations has the 1” wide, double openings. They not only allow the cables to go in and out, but they allow 19 square inches of ventilation to each compartment.

The Chisel and Bit Medallion is inlaid in the back.


Here are a couple of detail shots. This one shows the inside of the veneered door.


This detail shot shows the perfect 3/64” gap around all the doors, the finished 3-way miter and the hand carved grooves in the curved and sculpted leg. The cross banded walnut veneered accent on the edges of the cabinet really frames and highlights the veneer.

This was not an extremely difficult piece to build from a technical point of view, but it had to come out absolutely square at every critical cut and glue up, or nothing would have worked. It was also very difficult to maneuver around the shop.

Thanks for looking.

Rob Will
12-03-2007, 2:10 AM
John, that is one of the best pieces we have seen. Incredible joinery!
There was certainly no room for error on that one.
Congrats on a job well done.


Steve Wargo
12-03-2007, 2:11 AM
Sweet Piece. It's nice to see a piece that has as much detail on the back as on the front. Very clean, I especially like the base of the cabinet. Very nice. Congrats on another great piece... but the drum table is still my favorite :D !

Craig D Peltier
12-03-2007, 2:26 AM
That is sweet. Thanks for taking the time.

Great job, pretty talented there!

Andy Pedler
12-03-2007, 2:55 AM
Wow...thanks again for showing such detail about how you put together an incredible piece. Absolutely stunning.

Andy - Newark, CA

Rick de Roque
12-03-2007, 3:40 AM
Another great project. Love the burl. Your attention to detail amazes me every time. I learn something new on each of your posts. Thanks for taking the time to detail the build on each of your pieces.


Tim Martin
12-03-2007, 3:50 AM
great post and beautiful piece of work, thanks for taking the time.

Dave MacArthur
12-03-2007, 4:17 AM
Awesome! thx for posting the great writeup!

Jim Becker
12-03-2007, 10:22 AM
Um...wow! That's one really beautiful and unique piece!

Mike Wilkins
12-03-2007, 10:36 AM
Awesome. Really nice work. I love those reeded details on the base. Hope you don't mind if I borrow this idea for a future project. Nice detail.

Larry Fox
12-03-2007, 11:32 AM
OMG - that is amazing. Very, very nice work.

Art Mann
12-03-2007, 11:43 AM

While I am not really fond of that style of furniture, I am always just amazed at your work. You are truly an extraordinary craftsman. Thanks for sharing yet another masterpiece. I gives me something to aspire to.


Mark Valsi
12-03-2007, 12:12 PM

Sorry for yelling, but that is great !! And many THANKS for showing us the construciton process.

I know you shouldn't talk about money on this board, but how much did you get for that ? If you didn't get over $5000, they got a deal !!!

Thomas Knighton
12-03-2007, 12:19 PM
I'm sitting here feeling the need to comment, but words just completely fail me. Beautiful work!


julie Graf
12-03-2007, 12:25 PM
very nice indeed.

Bill Huber
12-03-2007, 12:30 PM
John, that is a really nice looking credenza, just beautiful.

I would also like to thank you for all the detail in how it was made, that really helps me a lot.


Chris Foley
12-03-2007, 12:32 PM
{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{ Speechless }}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}


John Hedges
12-03-2007, 5:59 PM
I hate looking at your posts John. It always feel like selling all my tools and taking up a new hobby. Incredible work

Grant Morris
12-03-2007, 6:35 PM
Truly spectacular.

Ryan Bess
12-03-2007, 7:44 PM
I'm afraid all of my woodworking projects look like firewood compared to your project. Absolutely amazing work, and thanks for sharing!

John A. Williams
12-03-2007, 8:43 PM
Very nice! You do great work. Who is your lumber supplier?

John Fry
12-03-2007, 9:09 PM
Thank you everyone for all the kind words!

Very nice! You do great work. Who is your lumber supplier?

As far as "lumber" goes, I've been buying most everything lately from Saroyan Lumber in Huntington Park. But I also use Kelley-Wright in Anaheim, and Phillips Plywood in Pacoima. I rarely ever go to any of these places, I order and have the lumber delivered, so it is important to have trust in your sales rep, (which I do).

For specialty stuff and exotics, which I use a lot of, I do go and pick out the sticks I want or need. (Except for uncontrolled phone order splurges at Gilmerwood!) :o I generally use Eisandbrand in Torrance, or Mitch at Tropical Exotic Hardwoods in Carlsbad.

Jared Cuneo
12-03-2007, 9:22 PM
I can't count the ways I would have screwed this project up :)

VERY attractive piece.....


Bruce Page
12-03-2007, 9:26 PM
Definitely FWW centerfold material. (The magazine;))

Have you submitted it yet?

Bert Johansen
12-03-2007, 10:42 PM
You did it again! And what a marvelous, stupendous, awesome project! Your work inspires and teaches us to reach higher, knowing the skills are, after all, something learned. What a fabulous teacher your are. Thanks for posting.

Carroll Courtney
12-03-2007, 11:02 PM
John,that should make the cover of Fine Woodworking mag.That is one piece of fine furniture.That is the goal of all hobbies,to make something as good as that.Congrats

Vic Damone
12-03-2007, 11:32 PM
Your abilities are clearly evident, stunning piece. Are you actually going to install a subwoofer IN the credenza or did you mean the center channel speaker?


Will Blick
12-04-2007, 3:12 AM
John, stunning work... again....

BTW, when you say the design called for.... who does these designs, you?

John Fry
12-04-2007, 9:21 AM
Your abilities are clearly evident, stunning piece. Are you actually going to install a subwoofer IN the credenza or did you mean the center channel speaker? I may have stated that incorrectly.

This is a commissioned piece for a client that has the 65" plasma TV and a theater quality surround sound system. I'm sure they know where to put the various components for the optimum performance.

I am not an audiophile..........I'm still watching my 25 year old, 27" RCA tube!:D

John, stunning work... again....

BTW, when you say the design called for.... who does these designs, you? MOST of my work is commissioned by interior designers who do most of the actual design work.

When I do client direct work, as this piece was, the design is a collaboration between the client and myself.

rick fulton
12-04-2007, 9:50 AM

That is absolutely fantastic. Nice proportions, great choice of wood, and flawless execution. That is a beautiful piece.

I think we all know what you mean about being afraid to go back and machine (or even put finish on) a piece that is almost "complete". Now that it is complete, I'd worry about how to move / ship it.

Thanks for sharing. Very inspiring.

Ralph Okonieski
12-04-2007, 1:46 PM
I am truly in awe to see such wonderful skill. What a beautiful piece !

Jay MacDougall
12-04-2007, 7:08 PM
So maybe I'm just a big dummy, but how did you go about veneering the edges? Doubling the thickness is something I never would have thought of and will be doing in the future.

Beautiful piece BTW.

John Fry
12-04-2007, 11:40 PM
So maybe I'm just a big dummy, but how did you go about veneering the edges? Doubling the thickness is something I never would have thought of and will be doing in the future.

Beautiful piece BTW.

Hi Jay,

I took all the extra strips of veneer after doing the preliminary trimming for the book matched door layup. I had plenty of them, so I just slapped some Unibond on them and threw them in the vac press to create the double thickness. Then, before veneering the door faces, I just edge glued them to the door panel edges using regular bar clamps and a wide caul to spread the pressure out evenly. I made sure they were extra wide to overhang the edge.

After they dried, I flush trimmed them with a router and then did the adjacent edge to get good clean corners. After the edges were done, I veneered the book matched faces last.

I mostly work with shop sawn veneer at 1/16" thickness, but for commercial veneer, as this burl was, I wanted to be able to soften the edges of the doors and not worry about sanding through. The double thickness helps that quite a bit. I will say that I imagine burl and very straight grain veneers probably work best for this method because if you sand into the second layer right at the edge as you round it over, the burl and straight grain will make it less evident.


Jay MacDougall
12-05-2007, 12:25 AM
Thanks, clamps and cauls is the only way I could think of doing it but I wanted to be sure.

Jameel Abraham
12-05-2007, 1:07 AM
Simply awesome. And I mean that in the classic sense.

Jeffrey Makiel
12-05-2007, 7:45 AM
Great post! Thanks.
-Jeff :)

lou sansone
12-05-2007, 8:55 AM
great piece. thanks for taking the time to post all of the steps

best wishes in your next piece

Chris Padilla
10-23-2008, 3:55 PM
This is worth a revival since I was doing some searching on walnut!

Superb craftsmanship!

Jim Tobias
10-23-2008, 4:17 PM
STUNNING!!! That is not only an extremely beautiful piece, but is also a tremendous step by step on the process. Thanks for the pictorial. It is always helpful to see the "how tos" of a project.
As others have said, this should be in FWW and Woodworks.

Clara Koss
10-23-2008, 6:06 PM
ok,,, i've seen really great work posted,,,but man this i think is my favorite up to now.... i am speachless and it would look so good in my house...can i borrow it forever??? it better go to a good family who will take care of it and put in their will that it must stay with family forever and ever and never in a garage or attick....:D

Lon LeBlanc
10-23-2008, 8:57 PM

That's a stunning piece. Love the legs and the contrast with the burl.


Mark Singer
10-24-2008, 10:12 AM
Wonderful work John!

alex grams
10-24-2008, 10:59 AM
Stating the obvious, that is a rediculous piece of craftsmanship. I would cry having to turn that thing over to someone.

Now, I've got to ask the obvious question of how much time/money you spent on that thing. Feel free to not answer, as this obviously is a business or extremely involved past time for you, I am just curious on what you value/list your work at. Also, roughly how many man hours did you spend on this project?

Thanks, and once again, a very unique, inspiring and beautiful piece of work. I would cringe at the thought of doing the miter joints for the legs/frame.

John Thompson
10-24-2008, 11:57 AM
Extremely well done John with the emphasis on "extreme". Very well done pictorial also that gives a glimpse of all the detail work that goes into a piece of that nature.


Frank Drew
10-24-2008, 5:02 PM
Very, very nice work, John. Thanks for walking us through the job with all the pictures.

Chris Padilla
10-24-2008, 5:38 PM

Just so you're aware, I revived this approximate 1 year old thread so John may not be looking. You may wish to PM him. :)