Children’s Bookshelf in Lacquered Poplar

A bit behind on the build of this piece, first delayed by the hurricane, then a flurry of birthdays and out-of-towners.  More specifically, I neglected posting about the start of this project in the beginning of September, though the project was started a couple of weeks ago.  The client requested a piece to match an existing bedroom set he has bought from Fireside Antiques, to fit against a bedroom wall under a light switch, with details to echo the construction of the factory pieces.  These are reasonably well-built pieces, by manufactured furniture standards, and have a tinted lacquer finished.  I’m not a big fan of painted furniture; I love to see the beauty in grain and to see the effects of light and age on naturally finished wood.

Moreover, I haven’t done much work with coloring lacquer, but I looked forward to trying a method I read about somewhere (anyone know where?) of tinting waterborne pre-catalyzed lacquer (Hydrocote Resisthane, in this case) with standard interior latex, color-matched to the knob from the existing bedroom set.  Here is the existing furniture that will be matched:

Turned foot and column detail

manufactured desk whose details will be matched









As a substrate for “painted” finishes, poplar is a good alternative to engineered products like mdf or plywood, reasonably priced, and takes paint well.  For the client who requested solid wood construction, this was an easy choice.

Regrettably, I neglected to save photos of the construction, but a brief description follows:

  • Panels were glued up for the top, case pieces and adjustable shelves (3)
  • Hand flattened each panel, cut to length and then smoothed with the trusty Stanley 604.
  • cut the dadoes and rabbets (top and bottom of the case were rabbeted), Sides were dadoed to mate leaving a flush top and bottom on the case.
  • Since the column detail on the existing pieces are made to look like a quartered column, I decided to face frame the case but add a backer behind the stiles to make an 1 -5/8″ square column to which a substantial (almost 3/4″ radius) bead could be formed.  I had no intention of purchasing a roundover bit that big for what would likely be a limited use, so I formed it with a few carefully placed table saw cuts, followed by ample sculpting with a rabbet plane, block plane, scrapers and chisels. Note: this was done pre-assembly, with the face frame/backer installed on the sides of the case pieces.
  • case glue-up:  not much of note here, but as others have said before, do the dry-fit to make sure it will go smoothly once the glue is opened.
  • base construction:  A 1-1/4″ frame was constructed to be affixed on the bottom of the case, with an overhang to allow for the edge treatment like the existing pieces.  The corners were rounded by hand to be concentric to the radius of the column on the case.  A 3/4″ hole for the tenon of each of the turned feet was drilled on the base assembly, concentric with the center point of each column.
  • The feet were turned from a glued-up blank, two feet from each blank, using a template (photo below) from a printout of a CAD drawing derived from the overall dimensions measured directly from the feet of the desk, and a scaled photo of the foot.  The feet were installed with a wedge tenon and glue into the base.
  • The base was installed with glue and screws at the front of the case, and slotted screw holes along the rear, which will allow for seasonal movement of the solid case.
  • The top was shaped, corners again concentric with the column, and the top edge was treated with a table-edge bit, similar to the profile of the existing pieces.  A note: The thickness of the top, after final build and setting it on the case, appeared out of proportion to the case, which was not apparent in the design phase.  I chose to thin it (by hand, using a high-cambered jack plane, since I haven’t sprung for a scrub plane yet) by about 1/4″, which was sweaty work, given the ultra-humid conditions we’ve been experiencing.
  • The top was installed using glue and screws from below, with tapered plugs installed to hide the screws.  The grain direction is the same for the top and the case panels, so accommodation for seasonal movement was unnecessary.
  • Sand, sand, sand, sand, sand (to 320)
Turned Foot template

Turned Foot Template

Well that’s about where we are, and since this project was right for spraying, I thought I should finally build the spray booth I’ve been talking about for a couple years.  Given the exceedingly high, (and unseasonable) humidity, I delayed finishing and built a 8x8x8 (roughly) cardboard and plastic (and foldable) spray booth in the garage, with filtered intake and exhaust.  This is large enough to roll a dolly and worktable in and out, and rotate them for spraying larger pieces. (image below, sorry about the poor quality)

I will be waiting until the humidity breaks to spray (though I did a test spray and it looks good so far, the turbine motor of my cheap HVLP smells like it’s going to catch fire, so a new one is on the way)

A bit on the finish:  I’m using roughly the following mixture:  4:2:1 of Hydrocote Resisthane:color-matched Ben Moore satin latex:water, which sprayed “ok” with the larger nozzle of my HVLP, though it was at the low end of the recommended viscosity.  I think the smaller nozzle will atomize better, though the finish leveled well, and there were only a few runs on the test piece, due to operator error not the finish itself.  So more on this to come…

Spray booth

Spray booth

About Nick

Nick Roulleau is founder, craftsman, designer, joiner, finisher, floor-sweep and all of the other roles at Mansfield Fine Furniture. A woodworker for more than a decade, Nick started the company with the goal of filling the need for heirloom-quality furniture hand-made from premium woods. Every piece is designed to suit the customer's needs and desires, hand-picking each piece of wood, and built one piece at a time, using both modern and centuries-old traditional methods to yield furniture to last for generations.