Worm holes in Butternut

Thanks for the FWW reference. I saw Steve's bench in his presentation last Saturday and am thinking this will be a worthwhile addition.

All four doors fit nicely on the first try after cutting the cope joint.  I next moved to making the raised panels.  Early on when laying out the boards, I put aside one board that I thought would work well for all four raised panels. The attached picture shows this board cut into two manageable pieces with the panel layout marked (3rd piece is left-over).

I used the same method for raising the panels that I have used many times before.  There are probably better ways, but this works fine for me.  I have a sliding pressure bar that attaches to the miter gauge.  This keeps the board up right so it cannot tip.  I then clamp a board to the other side of the panel which rides on the top of my fence (this keeps shorter panels from dropping down into the blade clearance slot.) After initially cutting the fillets I cut all four sides with this set-up using a thin kerf rip blade.  I then will use my big shoulder plane to clean up the surfaces.  I finish by cleaning up the fillet with a small shoulder plane.

After glue-up I made ø1/4” wood pegs for the tenons. I use an old pencil sharpener to point the pegs before hammering them through an old dowel plate. After gluing and trimming the pegs I trimmed the stiles on my table saw and then planed them flush.  I then carved the edge molding detail on the ends of the stiles to match the routed molding I did on the pieces before assembly. And lastly, I cut the rabbet all around the door on my table saw and cleaned it up with my shoulder plane.

Next up: Finishing


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Well, I've been waiting since November 2020 for a reply to my last posting. Remember my rule was I would only post if someone replied.

The stepback hutch has been in use in our kitchen since November 2020. It's been a long time since my last posting, and we were getting near the end. I'll have to do some reading up of my previous posts to see where I left off. But those two words from mondragor is all it takes to keep this going.

Expect another posting in the next couple of days (and I won't need a reply to this post!)
It’s been 643 days since my last update. I hope I get a response sooner this time around!

I left off on completion of the doors. That brings me to finishing.

Finishing was pretty straight forward and took the better part of a week. I hand sanded (probably to 220 grit) then brushed on Lemon-Orange shellac from Olde Mill. I normally use a 1” artist brush, but for this I used my 2” Heritage Badger Brush. This held a lot of shellac, and I could cover one side of the cabinet with two dips into my shellac jar. I’m guessing I used about a 2 lb. cut. (I just add alcohol to the shellac until it all dissolves, then add some more until I like the “feel” of it.) I applied coats in the morning and evening until I felt it was enough.

The insides of the upper cabinet have only a couple coats to seal the wood. The lower cabinet inside has no finish, nor does the outside back, top and bottom.

I let the hutch sit for a week, and then I rubbed out the finish with 0000 steel wool and paste wax. The attached drawer picture shows an unfinished drawer next to a still wet 1st coat drawer.

In my next post I be discussing the door hinges. These really make the piece “pop”!


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Gene’s hutch had the type of rat tail hinge which gets mortised into the side of the door, so all you see is the tail on the face frame. I wanted to see the blacksmith made hinge on the door face. I thought this would really add to the piece, and also it would be easier to install. I had seen several versions of this style hinge but was really attracted to the hinges Gene used on a hanging corner cabinet in his house. I’ll refer to these as “rams’ horn”, but I’m not sure if that is the correct terminology. I traced Gene’s hinge and grew a slightly reduced size version on a 3D printer which I then taped to my door stile.

I contacted a blacksmith I came across from a Google Search, but never received a reply to my emails or phone messages. I contacted a second blacksmith, who actually made a prototype of the hinge after quoting a very reasonable price, but he never returned my emails or calls after he sent me the picture of the prototype. I think he realized there was a lot more work in them that what he quoted.

I asked Bess at Olde Mill if she could put me into contact with the blacksmith in York, PA, who made most of the hardware for Gene’s classes, but she told me he was no longer available. However, she suggested I contact Peter Ross of Colonial Williamsburg. She gave me Peter’s phone number.

Now a little background. After high school, and before the Army, my dad worked as a blacksmith of sorts. This included making iron gates for some very expensive houses. He got a job at Kodak after the Army, but there was always an anvil in his basement workshop. He was always making railings, gates, room dividers, light fixtures, candle holders, etc. for our house or for friends and relatives. He didn’t have a forge, so most of the work was thinner (1/8”) hot rolled steel which could be hammered out and scrolled. Half-inch square stock could be twisted with a 3-foot wrench. So basically, I grew up around iron work. When I was in 6 grade or so I helped out with flaring the ends of the bar stock for the start of a tight scroll. He made around 100 candle holders of a certain design which he sold, and I did some work on all of them.

When I got my first house, I started to watch Roy Underhill on Saturday mornings. In my two favorite episodes Roy visited Peter Ross at Colonial Williamsburg. In one they showed the making of a wagon wheel. After heating the steel wheel, they placed it over the wood frame and poured buckets of water over it to keep the wood from burning. As the iron cooled it shrunk to a tight fit on the wood. In the other episode Peter made a draw knife which involved forge welding the steel cutting edge onto the knife. The best part was when he heated the tangs and pressed a wood handle on it through a pre-drilled hole. The flame that shot out of the end of the handle was awesome! Of course, it was immediately plunged into water to keep the handle from burning up.

Needless to say, my interest in wood and iron go back to my childhood! When Bess told me to call Peter, I was a little intimidated - he was always a hero of mine - but I made the call!

That’s enough for now. Next up: hinge design and installation.

- Mortised rat tail hinge on Gene's hutch
- Hinge on Gene's hanging corner cabinet
- 3D printed "hinge" on my hutch
- Dad's candle holder (actually I think I made this one when I was in high school or college)


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I contacted Peter Ross, and we had a very nice discussion about the project. I sent him pictures of the ram’s horn design I was interested in along with a full-sized drawing with a couple reference dimensions (such as the offset required for the lipped drawer to the face frame, and width of the door stiles.) In a couple days he got back to me with a quote and some alternative designs. I think he realized the alternatives were going to be required because the price of the “ram’s horn” design was pretty high. He explained the complexity of forming the ram’s horn and the amount of bench work to complete it. This all made even more sense this past summer when I took a four-day blacksmithing class!

We went with a heart shaped hinge leaf. I thought this was interesting and different from the more common flared flag design. The price came in about one quarter of the ram’s horn.

Peter made a sample and sent it to me. After some discussions we decided to make the rat’s tail a little shorter than what I had originally planned. He made a replacement rat tail and three other sets of hinges.

Installation went calmly and slowly. I worked along like I do when installing a lock. For some reason I enjoy this type of detailed fitting work. I started with a piece of scrap to fit the cotter pin to a tapered mortise in the stile. I assumed this was a critical fit as the cotter pin location is critical to achieve the desired offset. After a couple attempts, I was ready to start installation.

I knifed the outline of the mortise and drilled a small hole in the middle. I used my 1/8” chisel to remove material while tapering the short sides. I frequently dry-fitted the cotter pin as I went. (I used a transfer punch and wedges to remove it without damaging it or the face frame). After getting the final position I bent the legs to secure it.

The rat-tail pintle and leaf were positioned, and screws were used to hold in place while I proceeded to install the rose-head nails. I removed one screw at a time and drilled a tapered hole for the nails. To make sure the door was properly positioned I applied shims in the door opening with two-sided tape. After all the nails were in place, I clinched them.

I could not be happier with the final product!

The attached pictures are taken from a presentation I prepared for my local woodworking group.

Next up: Knobs and latches.


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You know my rules. Someone must reply before I post... It's been over 7 weeks since my last post and no replys yet. I think I only have one or two posts left to complete this!
How was the butternut behaving when you scraped in the profile? And to continue the "wedge" question...will you use a harder wedge when making the doors M&T, pegged or just the mortice's fit and glue?
Sorry for the prior post....The computer did not bring up the recent posts and now I see that you pegged the doors. The color looks great. Hope this re-starts the posting clock.
The following is in reference to my wedge problems for the through tenons on the sides of the base. I would probably still use butternut, however I would saw out the wedges. By chiseling them out (as was suggested by a friend) they curled and cracked, so they really didn't tap in very well. I've since used a sawn wedge on another project and it worked great.

FYI I did some after-assembly "fill-in" repairs for any wedge with gaps because a piece broke off, or the glue had set-up and I couldn't start a wedge.

I'll try and close-out this posting in the next couple of weeks. I think all I've got left is the knobs and latches, and then pictures of the completed hutch.
Tom, I am enjoying your build. I like butternut, it is easy to work with hand tools. It is hard to find quality butternut nowadays. Looking forward to the completed hutch. I took one class with Gene at Olde Mill, making a small chest/ bible box. I remember visiting the blacksmith in York about 22 years ago. I think he said he was a school teacher and left to pursue his blacksmithing. He was perhaps in his mid forties at the time. I bought an extra set of strap hinges and a lock and key from him and used that when I built a blanket chest for my daughter.
Early on I needed to decide on hardware. Gene used brass axe-drop handles for the doors and drawers. Bess used the axe-drop handles for the doors, but went with brass plain plate drawers handles. I liked the plain plate handles, but was afraid the brass on the natural butternut would be lost. A couple months after starting this project I took a break from it to complete a small painted pine cabinet for the kitchen (see early post in this series) which I designed based on a pie safe Gene had made. I really liked the turned knob and door latch on Gene’s pie safe, so I started playing around with turned knobs.

Since I modeled the knobs for the pine cabinet, I was able to print some samples without tenons which I attached to the stepback with two-sided tape to get a visual. I liked the look, but felt the knobs protruded too far. I modified the design for a lower profile.

I turned all six knobs in an afternoon, and was pleased with the results. Four of these required long tenons with precisely located tapered mortises for the locking wedge. To cut the mortises I made a simple jig and cut them on my hollow chisel mortiser. I then tapered one side of the mortise by hand. The trick was to get a tight wedge fit into the mortise and have the latch work properly. If the wedge presses against the door too much, the knob will be difficult to turn. If there is no interference the door could rattle and/or the latch could move out of position and unlock the door. Because of this each knob and wedge were hand-fitted to a specific door.

After moving the stepback into our kitchen I decided to secure the upper and lower cabinets with straps on the back. I added a little stepped ogee detail to the ends for fun, and attached them with old unplated wood screws.

This completes the story of the building of my stepback hutch! Don't worry there will be a final posting with pictures of the completed project...

  • Gene’s pie safe latch
  • Turning 1
  • Turning 2
  • Mortise jig
  • Mortising
  • Wedges
  • Fitting
  • Strap


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Looking forward to the finished furniture piece Tom. The strap on the back is a good safety touch. I dd a cherry hutch from Fine Woodworking. I put metal ones on mine. I made a long thin mortise on the top of my lower cabinet and the top piece has a long tenon that fits into it at the back for stability. I did follow up on the blacksmith in York - he is in Glen Rock. His name is Thomas Moore. I called him and had a pleasant conversation with him. He is 77 and is retired and no longer blacksmithing. He was an industrial arts teacher in the 70's before starting his own blacksmith business. He is selling his equipment. He was quite an artisan.
I planned on building my stepback hutch after seeing Gene’s in-process in 2004, and even left a space for it in our kitchen when we gutted it in 2010. I had Gene’s class notes from Olde Mill to work with, but spent the better part of a day in 2017 measuring his, and roughly modeling it as I went. In 2019 I got serious about modeling it so I could complete a drawing for Olde Mill which I had signed up to do in 2004. In July of 2019 I received a buy-out offer after 38 years which I gladly accepted. On my first day of retirement – October 31, 2019 - I was in my shop at 6:00 am to start. One year later I moved the completed stepback into our kitchen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings. I will end with some final pictures, and a link to a YouTube video of a presentation I made for my local woodworker’s club.

Best regards,



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