Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Contemporary Jewelry Making Cabinet -- Part II

Once the shape of the legs is complete, the next step is to build the frames that will hold the drawers on the sides and front. 

A quick program note.  For the most part, this project is outlined in much better detail in Tom Fidgen's book, Made By Hand, so I'm not going to go into an exhaustive blow-by-blow on all of the joinery and construction.  If you like this style of furniture you would be well-served by owning a copy (and for the record I bought the book with my own allowance!)

As I mentioned, the mortices were already cut for the upper and lower rails that hold the four legs together before shaping.  The lower rails and the upper side rails are just bog-standard mortice and tenon the top front and rear rails incorporate a dovetail on the top.  This is pretty standard table construction, and Tom outlines his variations in the book.

This cabinet will incorporate six drawers and the drawer infrastructure (as well as the drawer sides) will be exposed.  I riffed a bit off the original joinery to create a sort of miter/haunched joint to attach the drawer front and side rails.

As the frame is square, the shoulder-to-shoulder measurements for all rails is 14" with an 1" for tenons, giving a total stock length of 16".  I find that well-selected common stock is great for these parts of a project as you can cut around splits, checks and knots to get these smaller pieces.  As you can see, the joinery is pretty lightweight -- it is not designed to provide structural support, just to hold small drawers.

While the front of the rails attach with the miter joinery, the back attaches with a simple mortice, which brings us to the tricky bit of this part of the project.  As the legs change dimension on the outsides from top to bottom(because of the shaping), the reveal of the side rail will change accordingly.  And as it is fixed by the miter joint in the front, you need to know how much to trim off the outside of the rail in order to be consistent in the reveal and keep a ninety degree angle between the front and side rails.  My method to find the right place for the back tenon, as well as determine whether to change the width of the rail is as follows:

1.  Place the front rail in the mortice of the front leg and then the side rail and make sure they are at a ninety degree angle.  Note the distance that the side rail sticks out from the side of the leg with a gauge.

2. Line up the back of the side rail with the back leg and use the gauge to set the distance that the outside of the rail will stick out from the back rail.  Holding that distance in place, mark where to cut the tenon on the back.

Once you have done this, each side rails will awkwardly meet the legs with a different amount of reveal.  Decide how you want them to meet (I chose about a 1/16" gap) and plane to proper size.  A quick trip in the time machine allows me to point this detail out at a point in the future!

Anyway, now that the 18 rails have been cut, fitted, and fiddled with, I can dry fit the frame.  So far, so good.

Next, drawer making takes center stage.


  1. hey chris,

    the cabinet is looking great- I especially like the shape of the legs from the lower stretcher to the floor-
    very nice !

  2. Chris: really nice so far. Did you finish your morris style chair?

  3. Hey-

    Thanks guys. Yeah, the Prairie Chair is finished -- but I haven't done the upholstery and my wife and I decided we want two for the family room. So... I need to take measurements off the completed chair (there were revisions from the original plan), complete the second chair, and do the upholstery for both. Oh, did I mention that I have limited experience with upholstery?


  4. really nice, thanks for your sharing