Before I get into the details of the finish, as promised I've included a better picture of my plans. It started with stealing the TV box back from my daughter, cutting it up and drawing a full size plan in pencil along with a high level overview of the major steps. I write down the steps for a couple of reasons. One is to make my next trip out the shop as efficient as possible. I hate spending the first 30 minutes of shop time trying to catch myself up. The second reason is that some steps are better done before assembly and a pain if forgotten. Once assembly is complete it's fairly straightforward.
From the beginning I knew what I wanted the end product to look like including the colour. In the end though the colour turned out darker that I was expecting but still the colour I wanted. (If that makes sense.) The traditional finish for white oak is to put it in an inclosed space and 'fume' it using ammonia. It takes several days and darkens woods like Oak. I'm sure one day I will try fuming however since I used a mix of plywood and solid wood I knew the colour wouldn't end up consistent so I decided to try aniline dies for the first time instead.
Aniline dies come in a powder or liquid form and you mix them with water or alcohol. Lee Valley just happens to sell a fumed oak colour. This is where the colour issue I mentioned early came. When I tried it on a sample it was darker than I was expecting. I still liked it and after a bit of research realized that fumed oak was darker that I thought. When I went to do the final finish, I threw a bit of extra water in to lighten it slightly and two coats later it came out looking amazing.
I'm not exactly set up to be a furniture finisher and I now understand why pro-woodworkers sub contract it out. It takes a ton of knowledge and a dusty shop is not conducive to an error free finish. A 10 degree Celsius shop is also not great so I'm limited on the types of finish I can apply. I have a nice sprayer and at one point had a temporary spray booth but was a pain to put up and take down so I've gone in a different direction. In the winter I clean out the guest room and do the little pieces in the laundry room and the big pieces in the guest room. It's a hand rubbed poly from Min-wax and it's very forgiving.
The finished product was exactly what I envisioned. The only thing I might add is a false back to the lower shelf so I can hide the power bar but other than that it fits nicely in our living room, isn't over powering and compliments the TV nicely.
I really should make myself an assembly table. A table about two feet tall that I can position the piece on while it's being constructed. The problem of course is that I don't really have room for an assembly table. I've considered putting together a couple of saw horses that I could throw a piece of plywood on but my worry is that it would either be left out all the time, contributing the space issue, or get put away and never used. As a result this piece of furniture ended up on my main work bench for about a month. It wasn't too bad except when I needed to use the front vice.
I think what I enjoyed most about this particular piece of furniture is that I really tried to use hand tools where ever possible and the nice thing is that as I get better at using them, it's not at the expense of time. It was much quicker to put a slight chamfer on the bottom of the legs with a hand plane than it would be to chuck up the chamfer bit in the router. In addition, because of the curved leg, the router wouldn't have worked anyways. I should also mention the reason I'm highlighting this particular chamfer. My Dad made us a bed several years ago without putting an edge on the bottom of the legs and one time when we moved it we split a big chunk off the side. Even though you don't really see this detail it's important to the longevity of the furniture as you can drag it around and be less worried about damaging it.
I think I mentioned in a previous post that this was a traditional looking piece of furniture with less traditional construction. I used dowels to assemble the side and the main case and back are all plywood. For the most part I'm confident in the construction however there is one exception. The sides are really just screwed and glued to the main box. I'm sure it will hold for a very long time but if I were to do it again I think I would go through the trouble of a mortise and tenon for the front rail and do a back rail mortise and tenon as well, leaving the plywood box to effectively float in between.
I took no short cuts on the doors however. I've got enough doors in our kitchen that are just stick frame construction with no mortise and tenon that have come a part. These drawers have a haunched tenon that goes 3/4 of the way through the stile and the panels are solid wood. I did book match them but the one on the left ended up a bit plain and the one on the right had a knot going through at an angle so it looks a bit off. I still like it but given an infinite budget and supply of wood I would have spent time trying to get a book match that was the same on both sides and a bit more dramatic.