Wall Cabinet – Oak, Cherry, Elm and Maple

I made this small, wall mounted cabinet to hold my layout tools for measuring and marking.  It puts them within easy reach and keeps them organized.  I used some off-cuts of red oak, black cherry, American elm, and sugar maple that were too good to throw away.  And I used some of the same tools that are now housed in the cabinet to make it.  [All photos copyright symbol Max Vollmer, Click on any photo to enlarge]

Wall cabinet. [Click on any photo to enlarge]
I’m going to illustrate the step-by-step process I use for hand cut dovetails, both the through dovetails on the case and the half-blind dovetails on the drawers.

Step one:  having determined the dimensions for the cabinet and cut the component pieces to size, I started the through dovetails for the case by marking the length for the tails based on the thickness of the board to which they will be joined, using an adjustable marking gauge made by Veritas Tools in Canada.

Marking the length of the tails.

Having decided on my dovetail spacing, I then marked the tails with a brass dovetail guide made by an Englishman, Richard Kell, many years ago.

Marking the tails.

The next two steps were to cut alongside the marked tails and then chop out the waste between them.

Using a chisel to chop out the waste between the dovetails.

To align the dovetails with matching pins, I clamped the board with the finished tails in my bench vise and lined up the board that will have pins and marked their location.  With the spacing marked in pencil, I used a marking knife to inscribe the outlines of the waste between pins.  I go to all this trouble to get the narrowest pins and finest fit.  There are always slight variations in hand cut dovetails, unlike those made with a router and jig.  It is not possible to get the very small pins you see in fine, antique furniture with a router and I want my furniture to reflect the skill required for hand work.

Alignment for marking  pin spacing.
Pencil marks for spacing and marking waste between pins with a marking knife.

Next, I fully outline the pins with a pencil to guide my cuts.  This is slow work but yields good results.

Outlining pins.

Since I planned to have a recessed back panel for the wall cabinet, after cutting the tails and pins for all four of the case frame pieces, I took this opportunity to cut the stopped rabbets around the back edges of the case pieces as well.  See Below.

Stopped rabbet for recessed back panel.

The six drawers, with American elm sides and Black cherry drawer fronts, have through dovetails on the back corners and “half-blind” dovetails on the front corners.  “Half-blind” means that the tails do not go all the way through the adjoining boards so that they do not show on the face.  My technique for the half-blind dovetails was basically the same as that for through dovetails.  See below.

Drawer side and back with rabbets cut for drawer bottom.
Elm side with tails fits into cherry front with pins to create the half-blind dovetails.

All sides, backs, and front pieces for the six drawers.  Ready for assembly.
Dry fit through dovetails at the rear and half-blind at the front of the drawer.

After cutting the 3/16″ oak plywood for the drawer bottoms, I cut and shaped a piece of Sugar maple with the table saw and a router to be cut into individual lengths for drawer pulls.  Then I cut stopped dadoes on the outside faces of the drawer sides before final assembly, and made and attached matching wood drawer guides on the inside faces of the case pieces .

Assembled drawers.  Drawer sides have stopped dadoes cut on the outside face to match up with drawer guides mounted on the inside faces of the case work.
Case sides and center section with guides for drawers.

What remained was assembly and finishing with clear/natural Watco Danish Oil.

Case sides and center section.
Case.
Assembled.
Finished.

To hang the wall cabinet, I used a piece of oak with an angle cut mounted to the back of the case that mates with another oak piece, with the complimentary angle cut, that is mounted to the wall.  In this way the cabinet can be hung and removed as needed.

The back of the case with a cross piece that has an angle cut on its bottom edge to mate up with a complimentary piece mounted on the wall that allows me to hang the cabinet.

 

 

Tall Oak Bookcase

I designed my tall bookcase with a small footprint to hold a quantity of books without occupying a lot of floor space.  The case is just under 83″ tall, but is only 31″ wide.  No one wants a bookcase toppling over on them, so I designed the lower cabinet section and base to project forward, thereby  bracing the upper portion.  The sides of the case are primarily made from two full length, 14″ wide, clear, 1″ thick, red oak boards . . . too nice to be cut down.  I started with a simple but scaled drawing to guide my work.  I worked out the details and made separate drawings as I went along.  [All photos copyright symbol Max Vollmer,  Click on any photo to enlarge]

Drawing for bookcase. [Click on any photo to enlarge]
Because the wide oak boards were very slightly cupped to begin with and would have a tendency to do so with changes in ambient humidity, I decided to restrain that tendency with a 14″ wide solid top that is attached to the sides with dovetails (see photos below).  To create the basic rectangle that makes up the case, I also cut dovetails into the bottom edges to accommodate two small cross pieces.  At this early stage, I cut dadoes for the shelves and for the oak plywood back to come.

Dovetails at top of case.
Solid oak, 1″ thick top.

Having cut tongues on the individual 14″ wide, 1″ thick shelf boards, including the extra deep shelf that doubles as the top for the lower cabinet, so that they would slide into the dadoes on the sides, I was faced with the initial assembly of the long case.  As you can see, I set the two sides on edge on two sawhorses, then affixed the solid top and two bottom cross pieces, using four very long pipe clamps to hold everything in place while the glue dried.  [Aside: an option would have been to join the shelves to the case sides with sliding dovetails, but I don’t have a shaper or router table so I opted for saving time.]

Shelves.
Shelf/lower cabinet top.
Sides spaced and braced.
Glued and clamped.

With the shelves glued in place, the basic case took shape.  The shelf spacing is graduated from bottom to top:  approx. 13, 12, 11, and 10 inches respectively.  The dovetails joining the solid top to the sides can be seen in the photo below.

Basic case.

I made and attached the trim pieces at the top of the case and installed the oak plywood back.  The back provides rigidity (i.e. 90 degree corners) for the whole case.  I also applied trim pieces to both front edges of the upper case to hide the shelf dadoes and to generally improve the overall appearance.

Custom made oak trim.

To finish off the raw bottom edges of the sides and to provide some of the stability envisioned in the original design, I cut long grooves, technically “stopped dadoes,”  into two pieces of  2″ thick oak to make what look like “shoes” to cover the “feet” of the cabinet.  I then applied a face frame for the lower cabinet section.

“Shoes.”

Face frame in place.
Detail showing the face frame aligned with the “shoes.”

For the cabinet doors on the lower section, I made panels out of a streaked and water stained piece of red or black oak that I rescued 40 years ago from the mud of John Root’s sawmill yard in Fishersville, VA, where it had been driven over multiple times by a forklift.  It had “character” and had been hanging out in my wood stash all these years just waiting for the right application.

Frames and panels with mortise and tenon joinery.

The doors, with brass pulls, were installed with brass leaf hinges.  An adjustable  shelf was added in the lower cabinet section.  All that remained then was to finish the bookcase with one coat of Minwax (natural) for a sealer and two coats of Watco Danish Oil (clear).

West Greenland Kayak Paddle

I made this traditional West Greenland paddle for my son Karl, a Nova Scotian and sea kayaker extraordinaire, out of a rough sawn sassafras 2″ x 4″.  This one is actually called a “storm” paddle because, at roughly 70″ (178 cm) long, it is shorter overall and has a shorter “loom” (the hand grip) than is true for a full size West Greenland paddle at approx. 8′ (244 cm).  While the Inuit made their paddles out of whatever wood drifted onshore, I chose sassafras, a minor North American hardwood, because it is relatively strong, light, and holds up well in fresh and salt water. [All photos copyright symbol Max Vollmer,  Click on any photo to enlarge]

West Greenland storm paddle.  [Click on any photo to enlarge]

The simple appearance of the paddle belies the challenge involved in making one.  My first steps were to mark out centerlines on both the thick and thin dimensions of the 2″ x 4″, as well as the location and shape of the loom.  These lines guided me in creating the tapers in both width and thickness of the paddle blades.

Paddle layout.

Next, I used my bandsaw to rough out the loom and then shaped the blades with a drawknife and spokeshave, finishing up with a belt sander.

Loom.
Tapering the blade with a drawknife.  Note the Emmert patternmaker’s vise that holds the wood securely and in the proper orientation
Refining the taper with a spokeshave.
Note the centerlines which guided me in keeping the blade cross-section symetrical.

Refining the taper and smoothing the blade with a beltsander.

Holding the paddle “blank” in the grip of my 1930’s vintage Emmert patternmaker’s vise made this shaping possible.   The Emmert has been known to generations of patternmakers as “The Iron Hand” for its ability to twist, rotate and lock its jaws in an infinite number of positions.

The loom is shaped so that the paddler’s thumbs can grip against “shoulders” cut at an acute angle on one side, while the fingers wrap around a splayed (obtuse angle) grip on the other side.  The cross sectional dimension of the loom is sized to the individual kayaker’s hands.  See the photo below.

The loom.

I finished the paddle with two coats of 100% Tung oil.  Tung oil has no VOC (volatile organic compounds),  is slow drying between coats, but offers good protection for the wood in water and can be renewed as needed.