Interdisciplinary Crossover

As a cabinetmaker with an academic background in religious studies,* I’ve been asked more than once whether I specialize in building church pews.

Interdisciplinary crossover has occurred on just three occasions. Once I was asked to turn a part for a ceremonial scroll at a local synagogue. Then I built a display cabinet for a Presbyterian church.

The most recent coincidence of woodworking and religious studies is the sound booth I designed and installed for Bloomington’s First United Church.

Photo by Kendall Reeves, Spectrum Studio of Photography & Design spectrumstudioinc.com

Photo by Kendall Reeves, Spectrum Studio of Photography & Design spectrumstudioinc.com

The booth consists of a platform built by congregation member John Turner, a retired union electrician, who engineered the wiring plan.

I slept well for the first time in days after that 9' monster was finally set in place.

I slept well for the first time in days after that 9′ monster was finally set in place. I couldn’t have done it during this exceptionally rainy summer without the help of a strong and careful crew from A Better Way Moving & Storage.

I had the simpler task of designing and building the cabinetry that would go inside the booth–the three-drawer base seen here through the glass and a two-door base at the opposite end–along with the exterior assembly.

The panels  enclosing the booth are built from 1-1/4″ (net) solid cherry with custom-veneered, sequence-matched cherry panels laid up on a 1/2″ m.d.f. substrate by Heitink Veneers. In other words, heavy. Complicating matters was the decision to have the solid framework stained to match the glass and wood wall between the entryway and the sanctuary, while leaving the panels “natural.” Fun. (I’ll share that technique in my next post.)

Veneer flitches at Heitink. I chose the cherry with "bubbly" figure because the effervescent connotation seemed fitting for this church.

Veneer flitches at Heitink. I chose  cherry with “bubbly” figure .

John Dehner and I after the traumatic glue up of the 9' x 5' panel with seven sections

John Dehner and I after gluing up the 9′ x 5′ panel with seven sections: a stressful experience, to put it mildly. Immediately after this (I know…it should have been before), I invested in a half gallon of Titebond Extend.

I designed the lattice pattern on the north section of the booth to echo a latticework wall far across the church, which is visible in person but impossible to capture adequately on camera because of the distance.

I designed the lattice pattern on the north section of the booth to echo a latticework wall far across the church, which is visible in person but impossible to capture adequately on camera because of the distance. The pieces are simply glued and pinned in place. To locate them accurately, I used spacers cut from waste plywood.

The left section of the north wall is actually a lockable door.

The left section of the north wall is actually a lockable door.

The completed audio booth from inside the sanctuary. Some of the pews may be removed in the future. For now, the booth had to occupy precisely this footprint.

The completed audio booth from inside the sanctuary. Some of the pews may be removed in the future. For now, the booth had to occupy precisely this footprint. Photo by Kendall Reeves, Spectrum Studio of Photography & Design spectrumstudioinc.com

*specializing in aesthetics and ethics, not religious history or comparative religions, etc.

6 responses to “Interdisciplinary Crossover

  1. Beautiful work as usual, Nancy!

  2. Nancy, I am dumbfounded by your intellectual, mechanical and creative mind, also by the kindness and respect you give to those people and companies with whom you work. That is to say nothing of yout work itself; the beauty that results from your painstaking thought, care and labor!!!
    I love you ❤️

  3. It was such a privilege to attend your WIA sessions and learn more about you and your work. I’ve been an admirer since discovering you in Fine Home Building – the bath vanity article and video series. Your WIA presentations confirmed to me that you are indeed the mad scientist of design and making. Your woodwork is a pragmatic precision with a dose of aesthetic genius. I will look for future opportunities to continue to learn from you.

    I wish there had been much more time for Q&A – an entire 2 hours would not have been enough – but hopefully social media will fill the gap until we meet again.

    • Denise, thank you so much. I was very glad to meet you, albeit briefly, and wish that we had had some time to talk. Can’t say I deserve to be called a mad scientist of design and making (or anything else, for that matter), though I take that as a wonderful compliment. I am just good at breaking complex things down into simple ones, as I am currently doing with the Lebus style sideboard that will go into the book I’m working on for Popular Woodworking. I built the prototype in 2007, but now that I’m recreating it, I am reminded of the tricks I used to make compound components from simple parts. This build will also be published in Popular Woodworking Magazine, probably around the time the book comes out (I think it’s scheduled for May 2018). I’ll be posting a few snippets here and on Instagram as I work on it, in case you’re interested. Here’s looking forward to the next time our paths cross!

  4. You are too kind, Maggie. This is really a very simple bit of construction. It was just LARGE and heavy.

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