The curious cabinet.

I thought today that i would show you one of the things that i have been working on over the winter, so this is a ‘projects’ post.  Just as a quick update while i think about it , i have been trying to get the workshop together for larger projects.  One of those projects is sitting on the bench right now and that’s the pansy stove for WABI”’.   I’m hoping that my boat will be alongside soon and then i will be able to show you the job of fitting it.  That job relied on WABI”’ being alongside where Chris-the boss’s big new workboat is, he should have moved that onto the slip and then i would have had the spot alongside the pontoon…..only Chris is not only the world’s busiest bloke he is also the most forgetful and he has missed 2 complete tidal cycles so far….he wants to ‘neap’ the boat on the yard slip.

The projects that i am getting ready for include, potentially, new spars for the Liberty if i can afford the budget and work out a way of mounting a mizzen mast aft.  The other project that is right at the top of the list is to build or convert a canoe/kayak hybrid boat as a sailing canoe along John Macgregor/Rob Roy lines.  My first thoughts for that were to find an old plywood or canvas on frame touring canoe and build the proof of concept boat from that.  Well, one canvas on frame canoe came up but it was more than 250 miles away and then last week a plywood ‘Granta’ canoe came up.  Unfortunately i was completely transport-less as my car was in bits all over our man’s garage floor and waiting for a new injector pump.

On second thoughts it might be a shame to hack a classic canoe around so i am looking at what kits are available…..something like a CNC cut stitch/tape plywood hull would be a good start.  I have just about got space to do the project especially if i build a temporary extention at the workshop door.   Whatever, that’s on hold due to the budget having been blown on finding a new (secondhand) diesel injector pump and having it fitted.

So, this project is one that i have been wanting to do for a long time, the basic idea being a display cabinet or ‘cabinet of curiosities to go on the wall behind my computer where i spend so much time working.  At the moment it’s a blank wall and not even a particularly interesting blank wall.

What i intend is a 3 part cabinet, a bit like a classically painted triptych.   The basic layout is a large , nearly square central cabinet flanked by a pair of narrower but deeper ones.  One of my ideas is that when i am working on one of my longer posts, like the Herreshoff posts for example i can use the centre as a kind of visual story board with say, pictures of his boats, a chart of Cape Cod forming the backdrop and so on.  The centre would then become a kind of rolling display of anything i am working on.   The sides i have in mind as more like a cabinet of curiosities but based on things that i have also done or collected over the years, something like this one below.

Historically a cabinet like this was called a ‘cabinet of curiosities’, early ones tended to be put together on behalf of the extremely wealthy and so tended to contain very valuable objects.  Later ones like the one below often had a nature theme as so many things from the natural world are just so amazingly interesting to look at : things like bits of coral, sea shells of course (i have always wanted a nautilus shell) interesting bones, bits of dried funghi and so on.

One of the other themes i am working on for this is something akin to Jung’s ‘red book’ in which he drew images from his dreams, other themes are more simply displays from my life as a sailor, climber, canoeist and all-round outdoorsman.  I know that i want to use sections of maritime charts in one wing as a backdrop to the sea themed display.


The project so far.

The 3 cabinet carcasses have been on and off the bench for the last couple of months as i build one, put it aside and then get on with something more critical. I pushed the job forward in February because the built but unfinished carcasses were taking up valuable space on the workshop floor.   Then, when my next door neighbour was having some very noisy work done : a combination of woodwork and building i asked his ‘help’ if he needed a days work.  The answer was yes so we had a young guy working for us for the day to make and fit the french-cleat mounting system and bolt the pattresses to the wall. I just don’t have the kit for that as it involves drilling and bolting into a granite wall.

At the end of the building work day the pattresses were solidly attached to the wall and the french-cleats dry mounted on the backs of each carcass, each one now is coming off the wall for me to finish the ‘wet’ (glue and screw) hopefully final fitting.

Working out the mountings.


Two on the wall , one off being glued/screwed.


At this stage the cabinets aren’t very interesting to look at because all i have done with them is given them each a couple of coats of grey primer.  They are each going to be a different colour (maybe) and they will most likely have a picture frame around the front edge or i might yet make opening doors for the wings and have pictures on the inside of the side piece wings as well.

Project progress, March.

The centre cabinet is up, for now, and has been finished with a wooden picture frame and several layers of paint.


The 2 side cabinets are back on the bench getting their 3rd coat of paint.  The right hand one at least is going to get a door, i found some thin but wide pine panels down at the reclamation yard for that job.  From what the man said the piece i found was part of an old church pew, the wood is dry and very close-grained.  Getting 2 edges straight and square enough to edge-glue together was a bit of a challenge and in the end epoxy resin saved the day.



I was a bit tempted to do a quick slide show of other ‘cabinets of curiosity’ : i love the look of the slightly spooky/gothic one in the title picture and it’s given me couple of ideas for the ultimate finish…..i think also that my cabinet needs a secondhand skull !

In the total project i am also altering the desk again as ‘on the bench’ have also been the new piers for the raised section of the back of the desk.  They came from a nice piece of elm i sourced through the internet and i am watching out for a couple of thinner/wider boards to make the new top out of as well.  The desk itself is a 1950’s dining table from Ercol who’s furniture i have always liked.

Just for fun today i threw together a few objects that are going in various sections of the display : my ships navigational chronometer, some hand carved bowls and spoons and my kukhri …the strange steel object in the front is a miners compass and clinometer which would have been used in the mines which surround the house here.

When i have time i am going down to the city and visit marine bazaar, where i buy most of my boat bits, i know that they have a huge stack of old charts and i would like to find some black and white era Admiralty charts as originally made from surveys by captains Cook and Bligh in the 19th century.



    1. The first 2 objects went up at the weekend. ‘Fragment of Admiralty chart ‘Svalbard’ Complete with Scoresby-oya . Mariners brass telescope…year unknown. I’m still searching for ‘object 1’…..a small china blue teapot which will surmount everthing.


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