partial assembly of MFA cupboard

Assembly of the upper case for the MFA cupboard began this week. It started with plowing the grooves for the soffit that will seal part of the upper case. The cornice hangs down past the top edge of the trapezoidal section; so positioning this groove has to be determined by a test-fit of the two sections of the case.

Plowing groove for soffit

It was also time to bore the peg holes to assemble the cornice frame. The stiles are maple, which produced a standard-shaped hole from the reaming action of a piercer bit. (This bit is something like the slightly-more familiar spoon bit.) As this bit comes around to the transition from cutting along the fibers to cutting across the end-grain of the stock, it tears things up a bit as it digs in. This results in the pointed, somewhat oval hole. Some woods, some bits, result in greater or lesser exaggeration of this shape.

piercer bit & its characteristic hole

Then I pegged the cornice to the rear frame; and test-fitted this section to the trapezoidal part. And then simply nailed the two sections together.

nailing sections of upper case together

Once I had the nails started, I laid the piece on its back, so I could drive the nails home.

detail of nailing sections of upper case

Here is a detail of the existing cupboard in New York, showing the toe-nailed rear stiles of the trapezoidal section meeting the rear frame’s stiles.

nailed rear stiles of original cupboard

Now my cupboard has gone to the musuem for a test-fit in the installation. I hope to goodness it’s the right size. If it is, then when I get it back, it’s time for the soffit, moldings and painting.

5 thoughts on “partial assembly of MFA cupboard

  1. Peter, I admire your continual dedication to authenticity and high standard of craftsmanship.

    I’ve been looking for a couple of piercing bits since I passed my old ones on to my son when I retired. I presume yours is an old one, but do you know of anyone making or selling them still?

    • Jack: Glad you are enjoying the blog…thanks for the encouragement. As far as piercers go, I doubt anyone is making them commercially. I buy old ones, these days in box lots at online auctions. It’s hit or miss, but if I buy a bunch, I usually get several good ones.

  2. LOL @ I hope to goodness it’s the right size.

    Feels pretty sure you measured at least twice however, theres always that anxious moment when it’s fitted to cupboard.

    Relax, its going to fit fine. Guesses it wasnt possible to have cupboard base at your shop while building upper case.

  3. The piercer bit certainly reams out an interesting hole! Your illustration shows this clearly. Perhaps a photo of a pierced hole in oak would show the interaction between the tool’s reaming action and wood’s long fibers more clearly. I call the grain disturbances “sprucks”-the characteristic sound made as the reaming edge digs into end grain. A faceted wooden pin driven into a pierced hole seats its facets into the sprucks and will not rotate.
    You illustrate an open-ended piercer bit. A piercer bit with the same pointed shape but a closed end works just as well.
    Absent a piercer bit, a gimlet will do the job. Avoid those modern gimlets with a standard screw thread at the end. They can split thin stock such as tenons.

  4. I stumbled into MESDA (museum of early southern decorative arts) and was surprised to see this cupboard, 1 of only 2 known southern court cupboards. It certainly looks different than new england cupboards in that there are no drawers, the top is open & there is very little carving. Still,a very impressive cupboard and the title they gave it is quite nice too,

    “I’ve held Fine Silver,Virginia Hams and the undivided attention of anyone who lays eyes on me”


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