Before I get started, here’s a couple coupon codes to help you out. Use the code JAYBATES to save 10% on your router/cnc bit purchase from Bits & Bits. Here’s a list of the bits I used on this project:
– 3/16″ round over – Part #W-2000
– 1/4″ compression – Part #425-CM250
– 3/8″ rabbet – Part #1900
Save $150 on the Pantorouter with code JAY.
In this article I’ll walk you through my ash jewelry cabinet build. But first I want to mention that this cabinet is actually version 2. The first version was built by my wife and me back in September of 2016. It was made with pine and pocket holes. We ended up leaving it in our last home when we moved as neither of us wanted to risk tearing up the paint as we removed it from the wall. We decided to make version two of this build a little nicer with figured ash lumber and through mortise and tenon as the main joinery method. We also wanted to add a couple dovetailed drawers and a mirror. Other than that the dimensions are very close to the original.
As with all of my projects, first up was lumber selection. You’ll notice someone else with me in this build. No, he’s not a clone this time. Meet Thomas, the part time apprentice. He’s got no woodworking background but he’s a quick learner and is very interested in woodworking. So far he’s picked up everything very quickly.
This was his first time helping with a build in the shop so before we cut anything we spent a few hours going over the tools, what to do and not to do and why, the biggest dangers at each station, and overall shop safety. This was good for me as well as it forces me to think about stuff that comes automatic now. It was a great refresher. We started actually working with the tools at the miter saw station breaking some of the 8/4 stock down to more easily managed lengths.
Unfortunately we couldn’t break down all of the pieces. We did have to leave one board long as we started resawing all of the stock to 4/4.
During the rough milling stage we spent a good amount of time on the cutting layout and how to determine the best cutting order.
A little back and forth between the bandsaw and jointer….
Followed by the first planing. Having someone catch boards at the planer is great! Everything gets planed once.
We broke the milling stage up over the weekend so that the boards could move and release any internal stresses that might have been awoken during the first milling. It’s best to break the milling process up into multiple days so that any movement that does happen can be milled out as the pieces approach their final size. Final dimensions are established at the table saw and miter saw.
All of the joinery will be cut on the Pantorouter. We will be using stop blocks to reference all of our repeat cuts but for demonstration sake we laid out all of the mortises onto the case sides.
On handy feature of the Pantorouter is it’s tilting table. The allows you to cut mortises onto the face of a board while it’s clamped securely to the table. Just don’t forget to use a backer board if they are through mortises.
After a couple demonstration cuts I let Thomas get a feel for the machine to cut the rest of the mortises.
The tenons are almost always second on this machine. That’s because you dial in their thickness to the mortise. The mortise has a fixed width due to the size router bit used.
All three horizontal case pieces get a pair of integral tenons cut on each end. The short vertical divider between the drawers also gets a pair of tenons on each end.
Notice earlier I sad that the tenons are almost always cut second on this machine. That’s because sometimes I forget about a particular mortise and have to switch back after the fact. That’s what happened here. I forgot about the interior mortises on the two lower horizontal pieces. Oh well, quick and easy to switch back.
With all of the dual mortise and tenon joints cut the template holder is switched over to a single centered mortise and tenon. For the middle back piece.
Once a successful dry assembly is achieved the case is separated and then glued together with hide glue. I went with hide glue for two reasons. It acts as a lubricant and has a longer open assembly time than most glues. Both of those characteristics are great when dealing with a case glue up that has 18 mortise and tenon joints.
Next up is the door. The pieces we initially cut for the doors ended up bowing too much to use. So we had to cut more pieces and take a different strategy for the milling process. Instead of resawing the 8/4 stock to 4/4 we made a couple pieces 5/4 at the bandsaw. This provided a little extra stock to joint and plane and hopefully result in a more stable section of lumber. In the end it worked out.
The Pantorouter was already setup for a 1-3/4” wide mortise and tenon joint so we went ahead with it for the door joinery.
More hide glue for the assembly.
Now the drawers. I saved the most consistent and figured section of leftover material for the drawers making sure to maintain a continuous grain between the drawer fronts.
Dovetails is the joinery of choice for the drawers. It’s sooooo fast and easy to batch out a ton of drawers with this machine…assuming you setup the templates and table fence perfectly. Luckilly that is also really easy to do. First, use spacer blocks on the template holder to make sure the spacing is symmetrical. Then set the fence the best you can so that the material is centered on the center template. Make the center dovetail cut on a test piece of the same width as the project material and measure the size of each side. From here a dial indicator can be used to make a precise adjustment on the fence and another test cut can be made. On the second test cut I had a left measurement of .487” and a right measurement of .484”. Three thousandths of an inch off of center is OK with me. It’s easy to get caught up on chasing perfection here by tweaking the fence over and over but the reality is that you’re likely going to always get at least three thousandths of an inch error in either the fence deflecting a tiny amount from the material or the clamps shifting the board a tiny amount.
With the fence dialed in all of the tail boards can be cut.
Then the same test board is used to dial in the height of the template holder. If the test cut produces too loose of a joint the template holder needs to be raised up. In my case I had to make three adjustments to get a perfect fit. This is the test pin board and one of the tail boards. Perfection. The cool thing about this setup is that once it’s dialed in you can batch out a thousand pieces if necessary. And it’s really quick!
The completed stack of drawer components.
And a dry assembly of the drawers.
For a pull I chose to simply drill a hole. There won’t be enough room in the case for a pull that sticks out of the drawer so a simple hole will do the trick.
The hole is rounded over at the router table. For this I’m using an Astra coated 3/16” roundover bit from Bits&Bits. I’m also doing some advertising work with them so if you use the code JAYBATES15 at checkout on their website you will save 15% on your order. Quality bits and a good price.
Before gluing the drawers a 1/4” spiral bit is used to cut a stopped dado on the tail boards and a regular dado on the pin boards. This will be for the bottom panel.
Finally assembly can begin on the drawers. Hide glue was used once again.
My now the door glue up is dry and the mirror rabbet can be cut. For that it’s back to the router table with a rabbeting bit. To eliminate tearout I made a really shallow climb cut first. Followed by the regular full depth cut. With a large piece like this door it’s easy to get a good hold on the door and have full control for a shallow climb cut.
The door hinges I chose were junk. I really didn’t like how sloppy they were. Luckily, putting four of them on the door eliminated any slop. I went with surface mount hinges simply for ease of installation.
As soon as the door is mounted with the hinges the hinges and door are removed. Just a quick test fit is all that is needed to verify the placement and that everything works. Now the radiused corners of the rabbet can be chiseled square to accept the mirror.
I wanted to add a little touch of interest to the front of the door. To do so I chose to add two black dowels (double black linen phenolic). These dowels were glued in place deep enough to pin the mortise and then cut with a flush trim saw.
Now the drawers were dry so I switched back to them. Alternating passes at the belt sander made quick work of cleaning up all the joints and fitting the drawer to the opening.
The best way to hang a cabinet is with a French cleat. Cut two boards with a matching beveled face. Mount one to the wall as a hook and mount the other to the cabinet as a hook. When the cabinet is slid over the wall cleat it will grab the wall cleat and hang. This method is a million times easier than trying to hold a cabinet against the wall and secure it with screws.
And here you can see me mounting the cabinet French cleat backwards. I was putting too much effort into explaining what and how a French cleat works to Thomas that I never checked to see if I had it the correct way. I just mounted it without thinking. We ended up cutting this off later and remounted it. It was a perfect lesson in problem solving.
The mirror will be held into the rabbet with solid cleats that span the width of the door. Just 1” x 3/4” strips with rounded ends.
Because these will be visible the drill press was used for drilling the screw countersink. Any variation in screw placement will be obvious and the drill press with a fence provides great consistency.
Finally finish prep can begin. All of the through tenons are cut flush with a smoothing plane.
The entire rest of the project, minus the already fit drawers, get sanded up to 180 grit.
For a finish I went with my go-to spray setup. Sealcoat shellac. About 5 coats of it. It was a beautiful day to spray.
After letting the shellac cure for several hours we started finishing the finish. A pure shellac finish is too glossy for me. The solution us to use a synthetic pad to lightly scuff the surface and dull the finish completely. Blow off any surface dust and add a coat of paste wax. Buff out the wax to your desired sheen. We were able to get a beautiful and consistant semigloss finish.
Because this cabinet will live on a short wall in my closet with very little light and no angles to see the side I figured it would be best to mount it to the shop wall for pictures and the video outro. After a few cup hooks and a door handle the project is complete! My wife and I really like how it turned out. Other than the back side of the mirror. I’m definitely going to cover it in black velvet after this whole coronavirus situation plays out. So what do you think of the build?