This is a build I did for the Rockler Bent Wood Challenge put on by the Modern Maker Podcast Folks. It’s not heavy on the bent wood but it does incorporate some interesting aspects. After some talks with the brain trust I figured tambour doors act in a weird way as bent wood… although not exactly bending wood. Then in effort to appease the masses I went ahead and did a bent lamination base for good measure. The carcass is dovetailed together. You can do that but honestly a myriad of different corner joints work for this. Pocket hole it for all I care… use melted crayon… whatever. (Spoiler alert melted crayon won't join wood... at least I haven't tried it) Just get a square carcass and have fun.
3/4 stock for the carcass
1/4 stock for the backer
3/8 stock for the tambour door
Plunge or trim router (a plunge router does make this easier)
1/2 inch pattern router bit
1/4 inch straight up spiral router bit
Double Stick Tape
3/4 inch plywood
3/4 or 1/2 inch scrap sheet good stock
Speed Square (Varying sizes of squares are helpful)
CA Glue and Activator (not necessary but a godsend for me here)
Circular Form (I used an empty coffee can)
Finish of your choosing and applicators of your choosing (I went with blue shop rags and foam brushes)
Dovetail Saw (Push or pull saw whatever you’re into)
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Step 1: Building the Carcass
I’m starting off just measuring up the carcass for the build. This is a vertical setup so I want to be able to fit one bottle and two low ball glasses. I’m just using a circular saw and speed square to get everything cross cut roughly before taking it to the table saw.
With tops and bottom done I’m going to hand cut some dovetails. This is a variation on the Rob Cosman method. I start by laying out my tail board and then using the table saw to get a slight rabbet on the inside of the carcass. After cutting the tail board and paring everything to where I want it, I transcribe the marks to the pin board and get to work there. I always make sure to mark my waste and cut close to but not on the line.
A couple tips I can give in relation to dovetails are as follows: when chopping out waste go about halfway from each side and to be very patient with your layout. The more time and attention that goes into the layout the better success you’ll have.
I also like to fine tune things with a file until I get a proper fit. With some mistakes that do still happen on occasion. You can solve a lot of mistakes as far as gaps are concerned with some creative thinking. I filed a pin too far and just used a chip with CA glue to fill it.
Step 2: Tambour Door and Back Panel
Now I’m going to cut the back panel which is from some resawn mahogany at 1/4 thickness. I’m also going to cut strips for the tambour door and I’m just using the featherboard as a stop block to get equal width strips. I want a continuous grain so I’m just making sure to keep them all in order here before making a tambour jig out of some leftover plywood.
The jig is pretty simple, just a quick frame with some melamine around the tambour strips. I’m making sure everything is square before brad nailing everything in. These wedges were cut so that they can be tapped in apply pressure and get the strips tight in the jig. A bit after the fact I wrapped the wedges in packing tape to keep glue from sticking to them.
I then used a piece of duck canvas cut to size and got a regular iron going on a medium heat setting. Then I applied glue to the strips and used the iron to help the glue set. As you can see my domestic skills leave a lot to be desired. When the glue was dry, I tapped the wedges out and rolled the door to make sure that the glue hadn’t cured between the strips.
Back at the table saw I trimmed up the ends before sanding the tambour.
Step 3: Router Work
I also used some scrap to make a corner jig that is going to be a template to rout with. I applied some double stick tape and mounted the corner jig to the top and bottom of the carcass and also taped it to my workbench. Then using a plunge router and a pattern bit I routed the track for the tambour door. Using a quarter inch straight bit and a fence, I also routed a groove for the back panel. I also routed some grooves that are going to accept some coasters which will double as shelves. Those are cut from some leftover back panel. To square off the dados for the shelves, I’m just using a similarly sized chisel to knock the corners out.
Step 4: Dry Assembly, Scraping, and Sanding
Then with a piece of scrap padauk, I used some wood glue and a couple dabs of CA glue and activator to attach it to the door after a dry fit.
I then burnished up the card scraper and went to town. I’m a big fan of using card scrapers to get a sheared surface that is finer than most sanded finishes. I used some 600 grit sand paper as a final and to get between the grooves of the tambour.
Step 5: Bent Lamination
To start the bent lamination process I cut some strips of white oak on the table saw. They’re all about 1/16 of inch thick. I then soaked them overnight and pre bent them around a coffee can as a form. After another 24 hours, I glued them up around the same form using spring clamps. And after a cure, trimmed them up using a bevel jig on the table saw before filling in voids with glue and sawdust and trimming again to even height. Everything got sanded and I brushed some lacquer onto the coaster shelves.
Step 6: Final Assembly and Finishing
Since this was my submission for the Rockler Bent Wood Challenge, it was only fitting that I used simple finish. I assembled this live for a charity auction with the Salvation Army so having a quick drying finish like simple finish was a must. I finished the inside before glue up and assembly. I also rubbed some paste wax on the tambour door track to keep it gliding smoothly. Then I finished the outside and attached the legs by pre drilling and countersinking holes before mounting with brass screws.
And then we’re done. This was a bit of a gimmicky project but I really liked the end result. The Tambour door was a fun experiment and the cabinet itself has a very Danish modern and midcentury modern look to it. Hope you make your own versions with whatever joinery or wood species you desire and be sure to let me know if you end up making your own.