Mobile Furniture


A fair amount of woodwork was done during the McLaren Vale renovation. The Papua New Guinea Rose Wood was jointed and planed by Durable Hardwoods. After that I attempted several items with Meranti, but it tends to twist and is a soft wood. Australian Oak (Tassie Oak or Victorian Ash) and some of the decking timbers were also tested. Three slabs (Poplar and two pine slabs) were also thrown into the mix.

It was not easy to get other types of wood in Adelaide, whereas Brisbane has plenty of sawmills. One weekend, on a visit to Maleny, we found David Linton Furniture and Timber Works. Like a kid in a candy store, what to buy? The van is a Renault Master, and good for a 3,7 metre plank, so we grabbed a couple of planks (thicknessed to 20mm) of Silky Oak. There were a few furniture pieces in the gallery with an unusual finish, so we would start with Silky Oak. There was also some really nice Camphor wood — next time.

There are a couple of photos as we progressed. The drawers or stainless steel sheeting shelves still need to be added, and once done, will be added to this page.

Silky Oak

First Silky Oak panels

A few pieces of Silky Oak were bought and put into the van. At that stage we did not know what we were going to make, but after relocating, we needed book shelves, some extra surface space in the kitchen, plenty of drawers, etc. Kitchen units are generally 900mm high, drawers anything from 450mm, 600mm or even 900mm wide. Depth of about 600mm and so on. We measured the planks, drew a mobile unit that would have six drawers in two columns by three rows. The kick board or wheels would take about 100mm, the top thickness would be 40mm or 20mm, so anything in between would be drawers. We used SolidWorks to draw this up. The planks were cut, joined and finally cut to give a depth of 600mm. We were short on clamps, as most of them never made it out of McLaren Vale, so clamping pressure would be a problem. Instead of PVA glue, we used epoxy. Three Bessy long clamps, side supports and some clamps to keep the panels from buckling, some waxproof paper to stop the epoxy from sticking to everything (and never coming off). In the background are two other side panels already glued together.

The individual planks are joined with Festool Dominoes (40 x 8mm) as we could not make “tongue and groove” joints on a router table due to noise restrictions.

Rabbet in back panel

The back panel was made up of the off-cuts from the other three panels. Here we cut rabbets with a Veritas plough plane along the edge, then with a Festool drop saw and detail plane in the middle of the panel.

Tape to keep epoxy off the wood

3M masking tape was placed along the rabbets so that the epoxy glue would not mark the wood during the “squeeze out” and be easy to remove with a cabinet maker's plane or chisel. The groove cut into the mating panel does not extend to the bottom so that it is not visible edge-on.

Base being glued in

The base is 18mm marine plywood, with grooves cut and planed to match the rabbets in the panels. We now have 4 Bessey clamps, so still limited to using epoxy rather than PVA glue. If this were to be a production item, jigs would need to be made so speed up the alignment process and fitment.

Wheels under mobile cabinet

We had bought a couple of wheels some time ago. These were roughly 100mm high, and according to the label, good for 100kg. They were attached with some bolts that we in our collection, and with stainless steel nylock nuts. Perhaps some locking wheels would have been better, but if this moves too much, then a small semi-circle wedge will be placed under the wheels as a brake. The underside of the unit was painted with a Dulux primer and sealer that can take their Luxathane epoxy paint. White was used to experiment later for a LED strip underneath for use as a mobile drinks cabinet outside or for pubs, etc. It also makes the unit less susceptible to moisture ingress or attack from ants in Queensland.

Top prepainted with epoxy

The top panel was cut with grooves after being painted with a Dulux sealer/primer and then a Luxathane epoxy coat. The view here is of the inside of the panel. The rabbets and grooves are cut so that the minimal amount will be visible from the top and to keep the side panels rigid.

Top being glued on

The base with wheels was already glued. The top was painted with a Dulux primer/sealer with a roller, and then sanded to 320 grit to get rid of the dimples. After that the top coat of Luxathane epoxy was put on with a roller. The paint was a touch old, and should have been put through a filter, but it was sanded between coats and put on a bit thicker than normal to cater for the sanding. The tops were glued in with epoxy as we were short on clamps.

Glued top

After the top was glued on, another series of epoxy paint and sanding. The marine ply was not the best and certainly not even.

The surface was sanded to 320 and all stipples or dimples taken out from the roller. If this were a production job, it would need to be sprayed. Epoxy is not something you want to breath in, so a decent booth with ventilation and no dust settling would be required.

Top coated with glass coat

Empty Feast Watson Glass Finish bottles and a propane torch to get rid of the bubbles.

The glass was still liquid and reflects the paintings on the walls.

Note that the tape was about three layers thick, and make sure it is stuck well to the edge, as any leak will spread. The top wood is slightly lighter, as we sanded the edges to get rid of any white epoxy paint that seeped into the plywood edge via the previous tape edging.

The sides along the top were sealed with 3M tape. Perviously we used Tenacious tape with aluminuim foil along the edges, but this time we decided to use the Feast Watson Glass Finish that we still had left over from the McLaren Vale renovation. It was about 1 litre when mixed, but the top was 1200 × 600mm with the resulting glass thickness between one to two millimetres. It might have been better to have it a bit thicker if used in a commercial setting like a pub, so that it could handle more sanding for restoration. This one was going to be treated well, so for now, still experimental.

Something not so obvious — how to make sure the surface is absolutely level, as viewing along the tape is too inaccurate. We did end up putting a wedge under one wheel to lift the lower right corner. Once sanded, the front is a bit thicker than the back, but for wear, preferrable.

As a note, when using the propane torch, make sure you stay away from the tape, as it will not handle the heat. In a previous job, when the glass finish manages to find an escape route, there is little to do to stop the ooze. The tape cannot stick once it is wet by the glass finish if it leaks. We used a portable LED lamp to find the bubbles as this was done on an overcast day.

Sides in place

Not in the correct sequence, but due to picture aspect ratio, it fits in here. The three sides glued into the back panel with the base plywood in place. The plywood is dimensionally more stable than the wood (according to various books). It was glued in with epoxy in a humid climate, so we will see how it survives. The three sides were initially going to be one set of three drawers, but we had a fair amount of off-cuts left that we joined and used as a back — hence the patchwork!

Glass top before sanding

The glassed top after removing the tape. We were perhaps an hour late in removing the tape. If almost set, the edge that forms is rounded. Here we had a fairly sharp edge with the normal problems with any liquid meniscus. We tried to just hand sand the edge to get it rounded, but we were going to have to sand it with an orbital sander.

Sanding the top

Going around the edges with 320 grit and a Festool orbital sander (3mm offset). The vacuum with this tool is just fantastic and there was no dust at all. We would go around the whole surface.

Top coat being sanded

You need to look carefully. Here is a line that is due to pouring the two batches a few minutes apart (due to mixing another batch). It was only visible when sanding, but might have been picked up later depending on light conditions or by touch. We tried to enhance it a bit with Photoshop, but there is a line along the horizontal below the sander.

By now we were on 500 or 800 grit.

Glass and plywood edge

After sanding, buffing and cleaning off the cutting compound. The neat edge which is a bit difficult for the phone camera's auto focus. The top is marine ply (rabbet with about 12mm exposed, with Silky Oak on the side. The Silky Oak was oiled (one third Tung oil, citrene, flax oil), then a coat of Feast Watson Carnouba wax. The wax will be buffed later.

Turtle Wax polishing compound will take out the hazy surface and make it look like glass. We may do that later. There is already a much better reflection after finishing the cutting compound, compared to the 1500 grit sanding.

The drawers or shelves to come next, so a place holder for now.

The top should be polished with Turtle wax polishing compound or something similar.


If computers or test equipment is fitted into here instead of standard drawers, then we don't want to drag more than one mains cable out the back, so a small electrical panel with a few circuit breakers would be wired in the inside. These would need to be individually monitored as per any smart plug, as the feeding cable would be limited to 10 Amps with the standard wall plugs. Fans (12 V with decent bearings) would be needed for airflow. These would be driven based on an ambient temperature and a rate of increase in cabinet temperature. A small anti-static strip on the front is necessary if any sensitive electronics are tested in an open frame, as the glass top picks up static (have seen cats hair on here). The anti-static strip requires a 1Meg series resistor to ground.