This is Part 3 of my restoration of an Art Nouveau cabinet which I had bought and whose base was riddled with woodworm.
As you will see from Part 2, it was my intention to use 18mm MDF to construct the new base. I decided that it would be best to use dowel joints to join the base to the bottom rail. I thought it best to practise on some offcuts of MDF first.
My first attempt was to measure carefully and then drill by eye. This was a bit of a disaster. Despite several attempts, I just couldn’t get the holes to be perpendicular, which meant wonky joints. I decided that I needed a jig.
I bought a cheap jig for under £7 from Amazon and tried again. Also, I used an offcut of MDF for one side, and some harder wood for the other side as I felt this would be more representative. I think perhaps that I didn’t drill the holes deep enough, and one dowel was a little snug, so I hit the two halves with a rubber mallet to seat them, the MDF just disintegrated.
This setback made me question my decision to use MDF. In fact, the more I read about it, the more I am thinking that it is the wrong material to be using. I’ve therefore decided to abandon the use of MDF (I am sure I will reuse it some other way at some other time, perhaps as an extra shelf in an IKEA cabinet) and instead go with the same construction as the original base. Having measured that with a Digital Vernier Caliper, it is nominally 4mm for the upper plywood layer, 14mm mitred softwood for the middle layer, and contrary to what I previously thought, nominally 4mm plywood on the bottom. Although it looks like it may have had a veneer on the underside. Having researched plywood online, it looks like 3.6mm plywood is a much more common thickness so it could be that with some minor expansion. Or maybe it really is 4mm ply. I don’t know. However, the thickness of the bottom rail is 23mm, which suggests 4mm ply.
Using a sandwiched construction means I can dispense with dowel joints and glue & screw the base to the bottom rail instead. A friend has suggested that I don’t actually need to screw it (or use dowel joints were I to stick with the MDF idea) as wood glue would be sufficient given the base will be screwed to the cabinet sides. But I think I will glue & screw as it gives me more confidence of a solid construction.
Also, using the same sandwich construction that the cabinet originally had is a more sympathetic restoration.
With that decided, I moved on to cleaning up the feet.
I pulled old nails out with a Carpenter’s Pincer which I have owned for decades. Unfortunately in doing so I managed to break the tip of one of the leg brackets but managed to glue this back again with wood glue. Unfortunately I forgot to take a “before” pic. I’m quite pleased with the repair, even though you can see the joins, because it broke off two pieces and I managed to reassemble it like a little jigsaw.
I also used an orbital sander to sand off the old glue from the tops of the legs, and in one case the glued-on residue of the woodworm-eaten soft wood.
The next job is going to be assembling the new base, for which I will need to make a shopping trip, and also to buy some Woodworm Killer and treat all the existing woodwork; especially the mouldings which I will be reusing as they have woodworm holes in them and I’m not sure if there are any dormant larvae in there.