Cap it with a TOP
The top is the same design as the shelves and bottom in appearance, but with a slightly different construction method. When you cut the notches on the shelves, you may have noticed that the dado blade can leave a rough surface. It’s not a problem when that surface is hidden. But on the top, it’s visible, so here we’ll take a little different approach.
STRIPS. As you can see in the drawing above, the “tenons” on the top are actually made from strips that are applied to a central core. This creates a clean look on all surfaces, and also allows you to install the stainless steel rod at each end of the top.
Start by cutting the strips and core to size. Spend a few minutes at the drill press and drill the rod holes on each end of the strips. Finally, cut the stainless steel to length.
Now, the top can be assembled. There’s no huge secret here. Put the stainless steel into place on the strips and apply a bead of glue to both edges of the core. Clamp everything together, keeping the top surfaces as flush as possible. When the clamps come off, you can clean up any squeezeout and level out the joints with a card scraper.
PLUG THE HOLES. As you can see in the main drawing, the top is simply screwed into place. To hide the screw holes, you’ll use some matching plugs. These are pretty easy to make at the drill press (Figure 1). Select some stock that has similar grain to the top when making the plugs. After popping the plugs free,
screw the top into place and glue the plugs into the holes, keeping the grain aligned.
Once the glue is dry, use a chisel to trim the plugs and sand them flush (Figure 2 on the previous page). A good trick I picked up from my high school shop teacher, Mr. Allman, is to use a dark colored pencil to continue a few grain lines from the main workpiece through the plug. When done correctly, it really blends the plug into the surface, making it nearly invisible.
ADD THE BOTTOM
Now, we can circle back to the bottom of the cart. The final thing to take care of on this piece is to mortise in the casters. This can be done a few different ways. If you’re using a friendly wood, you can chisel the outline and use a router plane to remove the waste. Otherwise, you can use a Forstner bit to remove the bulk of the waste and cleanup any left over bits with a chisel. Once the caster mortises are done, you can glue the bottom onto the cart.
APPLY FINISH. With construction wrapped up, the only thing left to do (other than screwing on the casters), is to apply finish. For our cart, we first applied a coat of garnet shellac. This can be applied by brushing, wiping, or spraying. I love traditional methods, so I sprayed the shellac on. Any over-spray that lands on the stainless steel rods can easily be wiped off with a little bit of denatured alcohol on a rag.
Once the shellac was dry, I applied a couple of coats of lacquer just for extra protection. Don’t worry about avoiding the stainless steel rods here — the lacquer won’t be noticeable on them. After screwing on the casters, your cart is ready to go to work in your bathroom.
Square the Mortise. After removing the bulk of the waste with a Forstner bit or router, square up the corners of the mortise with a chisel. Then, mount the casters after applying finish.