Tambour cabinet

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gasman

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'Morning all
Its been a long long time since I did a work in progress on UKW but I have wanted for a long time to make a tambour cabinet / sideboard for our home...
I wrote to Richard Jones of this parish who made the Torpedore cabinet which I admired for a very long time and kept returning to. He very kindly replied with encouraging words and advice but I then found Poritz Studios over in New York State who make amazing tambour-based furniture with the tambour slats on the outside of the piece rather than the inside. This is the piece which I saw and had the 'wow' factor I wanted...
Tambour-Side-Table.gif

I made a writing slope recently which had a tambour section concealing where the pens are kept which helped get the concept of small tambour slats and how to make them slide easily
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So I have designed a sideboard with design elements of both Richard Jones' and Poritz's cabinets in it.
Here is my rough design sketch showing where I have got so far
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The tambour slats will be made from 9mm marine ply with Spanish walnut veneer on the outside and ABW walnut veneer on the inside making them about 10.5mm thick. Each slat will be 15 or so mm wide and about 450mm long on a canvas backing. They will run top and bottom on a 3mm wide brass strip which will run in a 3mm wide groove cut into the top of the slats. The brass strip will be glued into a 3mm slot cut into the top and bottom of the cabinet. The whole of the top and bottom will be ABW with the interior - drawers and cupboard sections - in maple.
Although the membership of this site has changed considerably since the days 10 or so years ago when I did regular WIPs, I still find this site immensely valuable for the insight and advice which the members give. I feel this project is going to generate some tricky problems to solve so I am looking forward to your wise counsel. Thanks guys. Mark
 

John15

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Hi Gasman,
All the best with this very elegant project. Good furniture making subjects are fairly uncommon here now, particularly in the past year where the Joke and General Off Topic sections are taking up a huge amount of space - previously they were only occasionly seen.

John
 

--Tom--

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Really interested to see a WIP for this, always been interested in tambours and how they are done.
 

EddyCurrent

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I would urge you to use birch plywood rather than marine. Any marine plywood I've used has been very rough and ready compared to birch ply.

Large tambour gaps at the corners detract somewhat but would be difficult (impossible ?) to eliminate using the canvas backing method.
 

gasman

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I would urge you to use birch plywood rather than marine. Any marine plywood I've used has been very rough and ready compared to birch ply.

Large tambour gaps at the corners detract somewhat but would be difficult (impossible ?) to eliminate using the canvas backing method.
Thanks Eddy for your advice. The problem with the birch ply would be how pale it was - As the tambours go round the corners, you see the gaps opening up slightly and I want it to look dark, not light, in the inside. I was going to go to Powells in Oxford on Monday to have a looksee at all their plywood
 

Inspector

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I like tambours too so look forward to your WIP.

I would do the tambour ends a touch differently myself by cutting the slat tips to run in the grooves without the brass. If you made a tongue offset to be flush on the inside the groove would be back from the edge a little more and be simpler to make. I used Bruynzeel plywood on a friends boat a long time ago and it was the nicest plywood I have ever played with. Bruynzeel Marine Plywood is the Perfect for Boat Builders plywood It would be my choice too. Are you going to veneer the plywood first and then saw them into strips or cut the slats first and lay them on the veneer and cut through the veneer with a knife between the slats? I haven't tried it but the second method, if successful, would loose virtually none of the pattern.

Pete
 

Sgian Dubh

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I think I'd use solid walnut for the staves, or some other darkish wood cheaper than walnut, somewhere between 16 to 20 mm wide by ~12 mm thick, and maybe 30 - 50 mm longer than you need. When they're made I'd set up a base board with a square framework on its face to hold the staves square, but with a thin spacer of about 0.5 - 1 mm thick between each stave: plastic U shaped cabinet levelling spacers might work, or strips of balancing high pressure laminate. Then apply your veneer. With the spacer between each stave that would give you enough room to knife the veneer between to separate them out again. Clean up the edges with, e.g., a plane, scraper and abrasive paper.

Next, cut the staves to the required length. The next bit is just one method of working a tongue through rejigging the base board to trap the staves (without the spacers used earlier) again and set up a router to work a tongue: as mentioned, you could find other ways to make the tongue. Make the tongue 6 mm thick to fit in a matching slightly wider groove in the cabinet top and bottom. Make the tongue at the bottom end of the staves about 1 mm longer than the depth of the groove in the cabinet bottom. The idea is that the end of the tongues carries the weight of the tambour on the bottom of the groove, not the shoulder of stave tongues rubbing on the visible top face of the cabinet bottom.

Apart from removing the plywood from the construction, this methodology eliminates the thin brass, which being thin will tend to want to wear a deeper groove than a wider wooden tongue, i.e., the same weight on a smaller bearing surface equals more pounds per square inch. The canvas on the back face of the tambour should act as a balancing veneer. Slainte.
 

EddyCurrent

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Thanks Eddy for your advice. The problem with the birch ply would be how pale it was - As the tambours go round the corners, you see the gaps opening up slightly and I want it to look dark, not light, in the inside. I was going to go to Powells in Oxford on Monday to have a looksee at all their plywood

Yes I realised that, I was assuming there would be a matching stain applied to it, or black would look nice.
As Sgian Dubh said, I would maybe tend towards using solid wood slats, possibly laminating two pieces together.
 

gasman

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Thanks all for your helpful comments. I am going to make up a 'trial tambour' and see how it all looks. I have a thin, very sharp CMT blade for my tablesaw with a kerf of only 1.6mm and I had thought I would vacuum veneer the whole sheet on both sides and then cut 16mm strips of it when it was completely dry on the table saw - rather than veneering individual slats - but I might try both methods. I am worried the highly figured veneer on the front would be tricky to avoid 'chips' when cutting the slats apart if I veneered them individually as suggested but I will have a look at both methods. Lots to think about. Thanks again. Mark
 

recipio

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The main feature of the Poritz piece is the figured grain running horizontally. I'm pretty sure they used a paper backed veneer which is available in the US in 8x4 sheets. Using conventional veneer the grain would want to be vertical for ease of cutting and that is going to be a challenge. Not too sure what the advantage of brass is - I had a lot of trouble with the one and only tambour I made, getting the flat tenon ends to run around the radiused groove and vowed to use dowels next time.
 

Droogs

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For cutting the slats after you have veneered the board, i would suggest using a scrollsaw with a #2 blade with a guide-fence set at the required width and just take it slow. That way you minimise the kerf loss and also if you run veneer tape along where each cut is going to be, the chance of cracking or splintering. It is how i intend to make the final slats for my tambour for this project. Then a very light plane or sand of the edges if needed
 

gasman

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Ive had a bit of a ply over the weekend and mocked up a corner to see how it looks:
I took a piece of 9mm birch ply and veneered it both sides using some leftover burr walnut. I routed a 3mm slot in either end then sliced it up on the table saw into 20mm slats and cleaned up the edges. It came out quite well I think - and I think the pattern is not adversely affected by the removal of 1.6mm. I think these slats are too wide - so I will try 16mm next time.
This has really highlighted to me how I either need dark wood for the slats or need to stain the gaps
The mocked up section of cabinet is just made from 18mm mdf. I routed a 3mm slot in the end pieces and then used old sheets of veneer to build up 5 thicknesses and make a 3.25mm thick rail for the tambour to run on
tempImage1WWwbm.png
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Sorry about the quality of the first image - it actually looks fine.
I completely agree with Richard's point about the rail needing to be wider than the depth of the slot in the slats so that the rail runs on the top of the rail. I am having second thought on the brass - I thought I had seen a Poritz tambour done with brass but I can't find that now. So next stage is to mock up a routed groove rather than a rail and reassemble the model like that
Thanks as always for helpful comments and criticism
Mark
 

Droogs

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For the tambour groove I recommend using this stuff. I first create an oversized groove in the side piece and then inlay UHMWPE and then route the path for the tambour in the plastic. It gives a very smooth and non sticky maintenance free action and is very hard wearing

edit typos
 
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gasman

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Thanks but wouldn’t that mean that you could see plastic when the tambour was opened?? That wouldn’t work I think
 

Nelly111s

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I guy I follow on Instagram, Phillip Morley (English, now in US) has just made a tambour cabinet with the tambour on the outside. I think there's some WIP shots on his feed. I contacted him once and he replied, so he may be able to help you.
Here's a link to his stuff Phillip Morley
 

Droogs

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Thanks but wouldn’t that mean that you could see plastic when the tambour was opened?? That wouldn’t work I think
Depends on where you position the track and if your design does not have a lip or frame at the front.
 

recipio

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Tricky things tambours. ! Narrow slats open less in a radiused groove than wide slats so the V shaped gap is also less. I would think at the very minimum you should make the slats out of a dark wood like walnut. Another trick is to machine the edges with radiused and concave profiles so they both interlock and have no gaps. Lastly look at the Armana tambour making set of router bits - pricey but you only have to cry once :p
 

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