the Cupboard Project: planing pentagonal stiles

Just like the title says. The upper case of the cupboard has a recessed portion; semi-hexagonal in shape. Its front stiles are pentagons. You can see one of them on the right-hand side of this photo (the cover of Trent’s anthology of Antiques Magazine articles from ages ago.)

Here’s how I fumbled around to plane them. I last did this sort of work about 2008 or so, and before that, 1998. So I tend to forget how in-between. It starts with this billet of oak, in this case, white oak. That chunk is maybe 4″ square, by 22″ long or so. The template on top of it is the shape I’m after, with the two front faces towards us.

billet for pentagonal stile

After riving some excess off the back of it, I laid out the centerline and marked the cross-section on the end.

initial layout

Then began hewing it to shape. This is to establish the rough shape.

hewing oak

I have a chalkline down the center and one on each edge guiding my hewing.

Then it comes in the shop to begin planing it at the bench. I have the piece shimmed so that the face I’m planing is pretty much level. This took some fumbling around (which you’ll see if you watch the video of this process) – that fumbling I attribute to that notion of doing this work only every ten or twelve years or so.

planing the angled faces

This is what I’m after at this point – two faces flat & straight, with the proper angle between them. Those faces are extra wide at this point.

halfway there

So the next layout shows where I need to go back to the hewing hatchet. The faces I’ve penciled in there are 90-degrees to the original two faces I planed. The bottom surface doesn’t matter at all, and is left un-planed.

After hewing, it comes back to the bench for more shimming & planing. This next photo reminds me of “the piano has been drinking, not me.” The camera was tilted, not the bench. But I’ve shimmed the stile now between two pieces of 2″ x 2″ oak, one of which is held with a holdfast, the other with a handscrew. Then the stile slips between them.

and back to planing. next time these pieces make it to the blog, they’ll be propped in similar positions for mortising. But that will be a while. First, they need to dry some, & I need to build the lower case.

If you’d like to watch a video of me making one of these, here it is. It’s long, and shows the fumbling-around in mostly real time. But some of the concepts might be helpful if you’re ever in the position of planing weird shapes.

(pt 6 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

9 thoughts on “the Cupboard Project: planing pentagonal stiles

  1. My late father had many sayings, or “Dadisms”, one of which was “There’re tricks to every trade.” Seems like you have quite a few up your sleeve.

  2. Just discovered this site this morning. And your you tube channel a few days ago. I think they really compliment each other. Been a fan though since seeing you on The Woodwright Shop many years ago and have in fact watched those episodes many many times. This is fabulous and I’m here to stay.

  3. Hello Peter,

    A wonderful opportunity to make such a complex piece! I’m enjoying your videos and descriptions of the steps involved. A quick question: what is the scrub plane you are using first after the hewing steps? Looks like a Primus or similar make? And with such wet wood, are you wiping down the blades to prevent rust?


    John Aniano

    • Thanks, John. The planes I used there are a homemade scrub plane by my friend Bill Anderson, an Ulmia smooth plane and a 24″ jointer, probably American. For cleaning the blades, see about the 23:00 minute mark of this video (more detail about some of the planes there too)

  4. I loved your video for this portion, and following along with this build in general so far. I am having trouble seeing where the squashed pentagonal posts will go on the piece though.


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