Glass and beechwood display case
This was the second part of a two-part contract for a bakery in Amsterdam West. I built the display case in late February/early March 2021. Scroll to the end for process and installation photos.
I’d framed a pane of glass into a rebate before, but never designed and constructed an entire glass-walled and glass-topped cabinet (with shelves). I was very excited about this opportunity.
I didn’t start with much in the way of design: two Pinterest photos of two different display cases and a stick drawing in SketchUp indicating approximate dimensions.
The general idea was a solid beechwood pastry case with glass shelves, sides, and top that would run the whole length of an approximately 1.8 m section of countertop. The depth of the case should allow about 15-20 cm of space on the seller’s side of the countertop, and there would be at least 20 cm of height between shelves. After meeting with the client to clarify his specifications, I consulted a glass company in Den Bosch on appropriate glass thickness and ordered 8 mm tempered glass cut to size, which has a delivery time of about three weeks.
The biggest challenge for me was design: how to keep the case looking slim and minimalistic, while also… making sure that the glass wasn’t going to fall out of the carcase. The tricky part was that each corner stile would not only have to join together, but also accommodate two panes of glass at right angles to one another: the side pane and the front pane. I originally modeled these in SketchUp as 30 mm x 30 mm, but wasn't confident I'd have enough space for both glass and joinery.
In the end, I designed the carcase to complement the proportions of the countertop. The widest stiles are thus 60 mm, matching the apparent thickness of the countertop from the front. The rails and middle stiles, which only house one pane of glass, are 30 mm square in section, matching the countertop laminations. I weighed the pros and cons of bedding the glass in a groove or in a rebate-plus-beading and decided for the latter
I also built the case in two sections, whose middle stiles fasten together by means of a Lamello Clamex system. This only requires that the client have a bicycle tool with a hex wrench. It’s Amsterdam. Chances are good.
Other specs for this project which emerged during the build:
· Glass top should be sunken flush into its frame, which should be mitered.
· Glass shelves should sit on supports in such a way that crumbs do not collect in cracks.
· There should be no shelf supports in the front of the case to avoid a grid-like appearance. Shelf supports can be used on the sides and back of the case.
· Screws should be countersunk and plugged, no visible hardware.
· The display cases should not be permanently affixed to the countertop “in case we want to have a pizza party or something.”
· Beading should incorporate decorative triangle pieces in corners and be flush with carcase.
I am pleased to say that I was able to accomplish all the above except for the flush beading. In the end, I could not get our thicknesser to thickness my beechwood beading strips to under 5 mm without chewing them up, and it was wasting a lot of wood. I needed the strips to be closer to 3,5 mm thick, and had run out of hours to donate to this project. I installed the beading and planed and sanded them by hand as flush as I dared, given that the glass was already installed and I didn’t want to scratch it, and delivered the cases.
If I had to do this project again, I would try to design a more seamless connection between the top mitered frame and the rest of the carcase. I wasn’t able to figure out how to carry the angle of the front stiles and glass through the front rail of the tops without making the mitered corners look terrible.
Good design takes time! And practice! A lesson that keeps on hammering.
For installation, I offered to attach the cabinets to the countertop with dowels or screws, but in the end the client and I agreed that it would be a shame to drill holes in his custom countertop (which he had just resurfaced). Furthermore, at about 40-45 kilos each, the cabinets probably didn’t need to be fastened down. The client suggested rubber strips, so I drove around town looking for some before giving up (Covid is having weird effects on what's in stock) and recommending some self-adhesive rubber strips he can buy online.
Design hours: 15-20
Fabrication: 15 days
Installation: 0,5 days
Materials: 8mm tempered glass "Extra Helder," steamed beechwood
Finish: 2 coats of Osmo TopOil zijde mat (same finish as countertop)
Joinery used: Domino dowels (loose mortise and tenon), handcut half-blind lap.
Glazing: 12mm deep rebate for 8mm thick tempered glass, bedded 15 mm into stiles and rails (half the width of the narrowest stile or rail), with decorative beading.