Buffet Hutch - Part six - Doors and Wood Movement

This is a continuation of the posts:

Buffet Hutch - Part one - Drawing up the plans
Part two - Same style different finish
Part three - The buffet face frame
Part four - The buffet sides and web frames
Part five - Drawers

It's time for the doors, but first... more lecturing!

*** those of you that paint wood furniture might want to take note of this***

Did I ever mention that wood moves?  I am in a climate where it is dry in the cold winter and humid in the hot summer.  This means that anything made out of wood that sits in my house will change in width (across a board) from being smaller in the winter when it's dry, to being wider in the summer when it's damp.  So many people do not know this.  I wonder why?

Wood you buy from a reputable source, that is to be used for furniture making, will be kiln dried to an amount that will make the wood move less indoors.  Construction lumber is not kiln dried to the same amount, since it is mostly attached behind walls and with strong nails to keep it firmly in place.  Drying wood costs more, so not drying to this stage saves money for the home owner. Although it can cause walls to be a bit warped in places, people put up with it.  Furniture is a different story.  Most people do not want their chairs or tables or beds to crack and warp.

Standard five-piece door:

Often doors on cabinets will be made in what is called five-piece.  This means there is a four piece frame around the outside of the panel. The frame consists of  horizontal top and bottom pieces, the rails, and vertical side pieces, the stiles.  Sitting inside the frame is a panel.  This is often glued up from a few pieces of wood, and floating.  Floating means that the panel sits inside a groove in the frame and is loose enough to be able to expand and contract with the seasons.  If it fits tightly in the groove, the panel and/or the rails and stiles will crack as the panel expands. This is why it is so important to take wood movement into account when you are designing and making furniture. One way around this is to have the middle panel made out of plywood.  Plywood does not change over time because it is not solid wood, rather a glued together combination of pieces of wood in thin layers.

So, for my door, I wanted something a little different that wasn't one panel but four pieces that would make the middle section of the door look like the original inspiration piece:

This is something I came up with myself.  Not to say it hasn't been done before, but I hadn't seen it.  The rails have a tongue on each end that fits into the groove of the stiles, and the rails are also grooved on their inside edges to hold the panel pieces.
Top view of the frame:

The middle section is four pieces that fit together side-by-side with tongues and grooves.  On the outer edges, there is a tongue that fits into the groove of the rails and stiles... so along two sides and all the top and bottom edges. This gives each piece a chance to move.  And we all know how important that is!

Closeup of panel pieces:

The door parts:

The frame parts are 3/4" thick and the middle panel pieces are 1/2". This allows the middle to sit recessed from the frame.

  On the back, the middle panel area sits level with the frame.

Now, since we know that wood moves ;) a good woodworker will first finish the pieces in the panel, before gluing it all together, so that when it shrinks, you will not see raw wood on the tongues.  That being said, although I did finish the pieces on the stained doors of my second buffet, I purposely did NOT finish the pieces on my milk-painted buffet hutch doors before I glued them together.  The reason for that is that whole piece is heavily distressed and banged up, so it's supposed to look like it's old and has been around for awhile.

Sorry for the poor photo quality but here's my door as originally finished:

And guess what, it HAS shrunk, just to prove that I am right about wood movement, here's a photo I just took today in our dry winter climate.  You can see definite gaps between the panel pieces in a few places, but the one between the third and fourth vertical panel pieces is 1/8" wide.  There is also more space now around the door where it fits into the face frame.

Hopefully this made some sense as to the importance of being educated about wood movement.

Continue on to:  Part seven - Designing the Hutch

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