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Thread: Let's Build Something Together

  1. #1

    Lightbulb Let's Build Something Together

    I need a cabinet for my shop to store solvents and finishes up high away from toddler fingers since my daughter frequently "works" in the shop with me. Since I have a hand tool only shop, these are really the only dangerous items that need to be kept from her grasp (well sharp tools as well but those are already out of her reach). As I decided what I wanted to build, I thought that this would be a good project to document and post. I know I like to read build threads and from what I've read there is similar interest by others here. It's also a good project for beginners to the craft, or seasoned veterans looking to work on more hand tool skills. Heck, you can even use power tools if you like !

    Firstly, the cabinet can be built with very little lumber. I'm using mostly leftover pieces of Eastern white pine from other projects but you could get all the required boards for this project from the local home center for about $25. Second, I'm going to be doing this using a lot of traditional woodworking joints; case dovetails, rabbets, dados, blind mortise and tenon, through wedged mortise and tenon, edge joining, and raised panel. Finally it can be made with relatively few tools and is not complicated to build using only hand tools. If you don't have any means of making molding, you can buy premade moldings from the home center since they come in unfinished pine.

    The cabinet this is based on is one built by Mike Dunbar in an old issue of Fine Woodworking (Sept/Oct 2001). The main difference is that I'm making this to hang on the wall and his was a free standing design. I also changed the dimensions slightly since it will be hanging on the wall and to better use the lumber I already have. I'll start the documentation of the build in the next post and update as I get a chance to work on the piece. Hope you enjoy!

  2. #2

    Cabinet Build Part 1

    This is the lumber I'm using for the cabinet construction. There are two 1x6x8' pine boards and some scrap pine pieces from other projects. This likely won't be enough but I'm trying to build this cabinet on the cheap since it's just for the shop. I buy #2 pine from the home center but if you decide to follow this route, pick through the piles to find the straightest and clearest of the boards. I choose only those with a few pin knots and reject all the others. I typically find 2 or 3 boards each time I visit the home center and buy them even if I don't have a project in mind. Believe it or not, the home center's pine prices (for #2 graded stock) are usually better than your hardwood supplier's pine prices, but you have to be picky to find the best pieces. The upside is, you can spend as much time picking through the stacks as you want.

    Here I'm measuring or the height of the cabinet sides. This measurement and the width of the case are really the only measurements I'll take for the whole project. Really, I didn't even need to take these measurements and would rather have gauged the height off of the items that were going to be placed into the cabinet, however, as I said earlier, I'm trying to stretch the lumber and didn't want to make the sides an inch or two too high, leaving me insufficient board length left to get the top and bottom pieces from the same board. I'm making the case a golden rectangle so the initial side height is important in order to leave enough board length left for the top and bottom. I also cut the boards for the left side, top, right side and bottom in order from the same board so that the grain is continuous and wraps around the case.

    After marking, rough cut the case pieces to length. I'm using the full 5½" width of the 1x6 for the case depth so I won't be ripping these pieces.

    After rough cutting the case pieces to length, keep them in the order they were cut from the board to keep the grain continuous. Witness marks across the cut lines help to keep the correct order and orientation should the pieces get mixed up (which they do).

    Note the witness marks across the cut lines as well as the datum marks on the reference face of each board. There are also similar datum marks on the top edge of each of the cut boards. These datum marks note the reference face and edge of each board. These reference faces and edges are the only place that future marking and gauging will be done from. This ensures maximum accuracy.

  3. #3
    Great idea! And a very nice workshop. Much, much, much cleaner than mine

  4. #4

    Cabinet Build Part 2

    After cutting the pieces to length, I shoot the ends to square them up. Here I'm using an old type 11 Stanley #6 but any plane can be made to shoot. I've used everything from a block plane to a #7. As long as the blade can be made square to the platform, it will work.

    After shooting the ends, they are nice and square.

    Use the shooting board to adjust the length of the longer board of each pair. The two sides should be the exact same length and the top and bottom should be the exact same length. This ensures a square case. The exact length is not important (and I don't measure it) as long as the pairs are the same. Check by feel by stacking the two boards and running a finger over each end like I'm doing here (only one side is shown but I'm using the other hand on the other end of the pair of boards). Feel is the most accurate way to judge how equal the lengths are.

    After adjusting the length, you have two pair of dimensioned case pieces.

    I took this picture just to show the reference marks on the edge. In this case the reference faces are the outside faces of each board and the reference edges are the front edges, as viewed when the cabinet is assembled and hanging on the wall.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Yerardi View Post
    Great idea! And a very nice workshop. Much, much, much cleaner than mine
    Probably not, all the mess is behind me swept in the corner .

  6. #6

    Cabinet Build Part 3

    After your case pieces are dimensioned, it's time to lay out the case dovetails that will join the top and bottom boards to the sides. I begin by setting my marking gauge just a hair wider than the boards' thickness.

    Then scribe the baseline of the tails on all four sides of the tail boards and the baseline of the pins just on the two faces of the pin boards using the gauge you just set. For this cabinet, the tails will be cut on the sides and the pins on the top and bottom. This will prevent the weight placed in the cabinet from pulling the joints apart.

    Set your bevel gauge to the angle of the tails. I have common tail angles drawn on my bench hook for easy setting of my bevel. For softwoods like this pine, I use a 1:6 tail angle.

    Using your bevel with the angle you just set, mark your tails on each tail board. I did it randomly by eye here since these tails will later get covered by a molding. If I wanted to be exact I would step the tails off with a divider.

    After marking, cut the tails, sawing on the waste side, right to the line. If you're not comfortable sawing that close to your line you can saw the joint fat and then pare later but I recommend sawing right to the line. The tails aren't that important to get perfect anyway since the pins will be scribed directly from the tails. The only important thing to remember with the tails is that the saw cuts need to be square across the ends to prevent an ill fitting joint.

    After sawing all the tails, I remove the waste by chopping, or in this case, paring since Eastern white pine is such a soft wood. I make a stab cut about 3/16" from the base line and take out wedge shaped pieces until I am about half way through the board's thickness. Note how I've left a "bridge" of wood at the ends of the waste. This wood supports the waste and keeps it from breaking when the board is flipped to the opposite side to complete removing the waste. After one side is done, flip the board and repeat until your cut's meet in the middle.

    After chopping the majority of the waste, use a very sharp chisel to pare back to the baseline, taking very thin cuts and working your way back to the line. Your final paring cut should be made with the chisel set right in the scribe line.

    After paring the inner tails, cut the shoulders on the outer tails and, if necessary, pare to the baseline.

  7. #7

    Cabinet Build Part 4

    We mark the pins directly from the tail board. I use an unconventional setup for marking the pins that I picked up from Paul Womack (a.k.a. Bugbear) several years ago. The corner clamps are real inexpensive (mine were free, gloat!) and hold everything in perfect alignment while you mark the pins. It takes a little longer to set up, but I'm in no hurry. No one is paying me for my time, this is just a hobby.

    Here are the pins, marked from the tail board. I used an awl to mark the pins and darkened the lines with a mechanical pencil. It's important to mark your tails and pins with an awl or knife as the scribe line helps to guide your saw as you begin the cut. If you currently only use a pencil to mark your dovetails, you are missing out. Try scribing and watch the saw "jump" into the scribe line as you begin your cut. This is one of the ancient "Arts & Mysteries" of sawing accurate dovetails (sorry Adam, I couldn't resist).

    After marking, saw, chop and pare the pin waste jast as you did with the tail waste.

    Finally, dry assemble your finished dovetail joint and admire your work. What? It's not perfect? That's ok, neither are mine but they will still hold fine. That's the beauty of the dovetail joint. They don't need to be perfect. And they can be shimmed with plane shavings if they are a little loose (shhhh, don't tell, no one will know the difference ). I like my dovetail joints to fit together with firm hand pressure only. I don't want them so tight that I need to use a mallet to assemble the joint as you run the risk of splitting a board if they are too tight. The only exception is when joining a hard wood to a soft wood like a walnut drawer front to a pine drawer side. Here, the harder wood will compress the softer wood some so you have more leeway. For case dovetails of the same species like these though, I like to err on the safe side. I don't want to ruin a case piece after cutting 20 tails on a single end.

  8. #8

    Cabinet Build Part 5

    Now that the case dovetails all fit well, it's time to plane a rabbet in the back of each piece for the back boards, which will be added later. I start by selecting a piece of lumber about the thickness of what my back boards will be and using this as a gauge to set the fence on the moving filletster. NO MEASURING! This is more accurate. Set the depth gauge in a similar fassion.

    Once the fence and depth stop are set, plane the rabbet on each piece. The skewed iron makes this plane really sweet. Much better than a straight rabbet plane like the Stanley #78. This one cut's across the grain much better too (as we'll see later).

    After the rabbet is planed on each piece, dry fit the case. Ahhh,nice and square.

    With the case dry assembled, use your most accurate measuring tool to measure for the dados to accept the shelves. Ok, I lost mine so I'm using something a little taller than the tallest item that will be placed on each shelf. To measure the thickness of the shelf, use, what else, the shelf.

    Unfortunately, I don't yet own a ¾" dado plane (hopefully I'll remedy that soon). Therefore, I scribe the edges of each dado with a knife and pare the waste with a chisel. Open the side pieces up like a book (disassemble the case first) and scribe both simultaneously to ensure that the dados on each side line up exactly. Again, NO MEASURING! Here, my square is not long enough to span both sides so I'll scribe the near board and part of the far board just to transfer the location. Then I'll reference the square off of the reference edge of the far board and scribe that board. Remember to always register the square on a datum edge. After scribing the dado width, scribe the depth on the edge with a marking gauge. The depth is the same depth as the rabbet you planed earlier.

    After scribing the dados, I pare the waste away gradually with a chisel. I find this more accurate than sawing the sides. I use the chisel bevel down and work slowly. Every so often, I stop and re-scribe the shoulders to deepen the scribe and keep the fibers cutting clean since this is across the grain. Pare close to the finished dado depth which you should have scribed earlier. Leave about 1/16" at the bottom of the dado.

    When you get close to the finished dado depth with the chisel, switch to a router plane to finish the job and make the bottom of the dado level. Again, take thin cuts to avoid tearing out the soft pine since you are working across the grain. The dado is complete when it is as deep as the rabbet you cut earlier. Did I mention I don't measure this.

    Here's the finished dado with the board that the shelf will be cut from (it isn't cut to length and width yet but is the finished thickness). Cutting them with a chisel and router plane certainly works and makes a nice clean dado, however, it will make you long for a dado plane (I do!). This job would have taken much less time had I had a ¾" dado plane. For panels much wider than these, it almost becomes a necessity...almost .

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Fort Gordon, GA

    Thanks, and please continue...

    Robert -

    I recently wrote an email to a well respected craftsman\author pleading with him to write a book about the apprenticeship system. Partly to capture the history and stories, and partly to help me understand how all the pieces (methods) fit together. We have book chapters, videos, and magazine articles that rehash (and rehash, and rehash) every method for accomplishing every woodworking task.

    What is sorely missing is a guiding hand of a master; starting with the basics and moving toward the complex. I'll never have the means to attend North Bennett, spend months at Marc Adams, the College of the Redwoods, or take David Charlesworth's "long course."

    Your effort is very much needed, and very appreciated...

    Kind regards,
    jbd in Denver

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Kanasas City, MO
    Nice job Robert.
    I see alot of these in the tailed forum.... and not being a true Neander my any means.... I like the job you've done to present this.
    I look forward to the balance here.



  11. #11
    Robert - thanks for taking the time to share this project with us.
    I look forward to the rest.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Pacific, Mo.
    Very nice Robert. I too look forward to the rest of the project.
    Making new friends on SMC each and every day

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    I can't tell from the picture...did you take the time to make stopped rabbetts on the sides?

    For dados, I've made a deep knife lind and pared a slight v groove into the waste, then used this to guide the saw kerf. Sawing to depth seemed a little less tedious to me. For some things I seem to have infinite patience, but not for others.

    The only problem with a 3/4 dado plane is that the shelf board has to be exactly 3/4 inch (or greater) thick. If the dado is slightly thinner, you can cut a rabbett (or is it fillister?) to make a housed dado of sorts.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Stutz View Post
    I can't tell from the picture...did you take the time to make stopped rabbetts on the sides?
    Nope, good observation. There is a gap at the top and bottom where the through rabbets meet. This is not of concern as these gaps will be covered with moldings later and through rabbets are much easier to make than stopped rabbets. This was a common practice on older pieces. With the addition of a face frame and shiplapped back boards, strength will not be a concern. I could also have made the top & bottom boards narrower by the width of the back boards and not planed a rabbet into the top & bottom, but this would result in the end grain of the back boards showing at the top and bottom of the case, which I did not want.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Stutz View Post
    The only problem with a 3/4 dado plane is that the shelf board has to be exactly 3/4 inch (or greater) thick. If the dado is slightly thinner, you can cut a rabbett (or is it fillister?) to make a housed dado of sorts.
    This is true and the reason why the dado is always made before the shelf when working with rough stock. That way, the shelf can be sized to the dado and not the other way around and also why you see plenty of dado planes in 7/8" but very, very few in 3/4". As you've certainly noticed here, I'm not working with rough stock so in this case, your suggestion of making a smaller dado (like a 5/8" maybe) and planing a filletster on each edge of the shelf to fit the smaller dado would make more sense. Or you could knife and saw/pare like I did here to make the dado fit the stock you are using. It just takes a lot longer than using a dado plane but certainly makes just as strong/elegant a joint.

  15. #15

    Cabinet Build Part 6

    Thanks for the kind words everyone! I am enjoying the process of documenting and writing about the project so I'm glad you are as well.

    I didn't get to do much work on the cabinet last night. I had an appointment for a haircut with my 3 year old and she and my 6 month old take priority every time ! I did do a little bit after bed time though.

    Once the case has been glued up, we can determine the length of the rails and stiles for the face frame. Here I've cut a piece to rough length for the two stiles. I'll rip two stiles out of this one piece, keeping the pieces oriented as they came from the board in order to preserve the grain orientation. Note the extra length of the stiles. This extra length will provide a horn or overhang on each end of the stile. The horn prevents the end grain of the stile from blowing out when the mortises for the rails are chopped. After the face frame is assembled, the horns can be cut off.

    I use a pair of dividers to divide the stile board equally for ripping. I don't care about exact width as long as the two final stiles look to be about right (there's that no measuring again). It's not important to me if they are 2" wide or 1¾" wide as long as they don't look too fat or too spindly.

    After you have the divider set to step off two equal halves, leave a mark in the center from the divider point. Then set your marking gauge pin in this mark and lock it down. Now you can scribe two exactly equal width stiles without doing any math. I then used this same setting on the marking gauge to scribe the width of the rails, which were cut from another wider board.

    Rip the board on the mark you made into two equal stiles. For the rails, I had to scribe one rail, rip it free from the wide board, plane the sawn edge of the wide board straight and square again, scribe the second rail and rip it free from the wide board.

    Finally, clean up the sawn edges of the rails and stiles until they are all of approximately equal width. Do this by feel like we did for the matching parts of the case, except for the face frame, it is not vital that they all be exactly equal width or length at this point. No one will notice a small difference in width. Once the rails and stiles are cleaned up, we're ready to layout the mortises to join them.

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