Summer Joinery Entry Shaker Cabinet #1: How I got started

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Blog entry by Karson posted 07-28-2007 04:03 AM 8334 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Summer Joinery Entry Shaker Cabinet series Part 2: Continuing with the construction »

After Martin announced the Summer Contest and the Themes Garden Project and Wood Joinery I started thinking about what I wanted to build. The contest rules state “Wood Joinery – Let’s get technical – but without glues, metal nails, screws or other mechanical fasteners! Yes, this is the “WOOD JOINERY” challenge for all you LumberJocks out there. Let’s see what you are made of – or rather what your woodworking project is made of. If you can build it with screws, you can build it without. Pure and Simple: Envision it, build it, enter it.”

So anything I build the wood has to be larger than the what I needed. You cannot glue any narrow boards to make wide boards, and you can’t glue aprons into legs. It’s all about locking the pieces together.

I didn’t want to make anything small, that just sat on a desk. I wanted to build something that is always trying to rip itself apart. I wanted to make a wall hanging cabinet. We took the bath cabinet out of our boy’s bathroom and I wanted to make something for them. Since I couldn’t even use screws to attach a wall hanger to the cabinet, I kept thinking. I came across a Shaker Wall Cabinet that uses Shaker Pegs to hang the cabinet to the wall. Just the solution.

The width of the cabinet was 19” wide with a back of 17” wide. So I started to look for some wood. A member of the Mason – Dixon Woodworkers came across some wide Walnut that he is going to use to make his casket. I talked him out of one board, so I trading some wide planer time for some lumber. I got two boards. One 19” and one 9”.

These boards had been originally 2 3/8” thick. He went to a Woodmizer sawmill to have them resawed. First the blade was dull, so it was replaced and then the resawing contuinued. The original boards had bowed and the resaw cuts were straight so the thickness varied in the boards.

I started to cut the pieces.

Top and Bottom:

I made the decision that the only way to made the cabinet was to use sliding dovetails to lock the sides into the top and bottom.
Cutting the dovetails on the router table.

The shelves also had sliding dovetails into the sides.

I don’t dare pound the sides home, because I’d might not be able to get them apart. So no dry fitting here

The stiles for the cabinet are dovetailed into the sides. I used 3/8” sliding dovetails because of the amount of wood that would not be present if I used a ½” dovetail bit.

By having sliding dovetails that lock the sides into the Top and Bottom and the Shelves fitting in a sliding dovetail in the sides, it now came down to as to how to lock the back into the cabinet. My decision was to use wedges, But, since you can’t glue the wedges into the wood, how do you lock the wedge and keep it from moving, but still allow me to assemble the case.

My decision was to make 1/4 “ thick wedges that go through the sides and into the back which is ½” thick, and these wedges would need to support the weight of the case and contents. So much for making something that was trying to rip itself apart. By just hanging there, these wedges would support the entire weight of everything.

So let me show you what I designed. I first took a piece of walnut and cut 2 “V” cuts about 3/8” in from the end. I cut the “V” on both sides and both ends. I then cut thick ¼” slices from the block.

I then cut from the body of the slice up to the lower edge of the “V” at the tip.

I cut the slides into 2 pieces so that I could clean out the inside wood. I then cut up to the “V” from the other end.

It then became time to split the pieces in half.

I cut a slot 1½” long ¼´wide – 1/8” from the edge using a mortise machine. This should be in the middle of the ½” back. I used a chisel to cut a small “V” about 1/16” in from the outside edge. I then inserted my wedges.

I made some center wedge stock, A thick ¼” so that I could sand to fit.

I fit the center wedge in between the two “V” wedges.

I cleaned up the ends of the wedges. This would be done before inserting in the final assembly. They would be cut to completely fill the mortise in the back minus about 1/8” to allow for wood movement.

Now to check the inside of the assembly.

A great fit except the “V” cut was cut too deep with the chisel. Have to be a little less macho on the final cutting. Another try, using some cherry for contrast with the wedges.

Now sand up the center wedges to be a tight fit in the slot.

Here is my Pencil cad drawing of what I wanted from the wedge joint.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

6 comments so far

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4686 days

#1 posted 07-28-2007 04:21 AM

Karson, I’m so glad to see at least one LumberJock making a large project for the Joinery category of the Summer Challenge. This is a very interesting wedge joint. I appreciate the time you took to produce an photo journal of it. I’ve bookmarked it as a favorite because I will be returning to it in the future.

This is going to be a fantastic entry.

I was going to wish you good luck for the competition, but you don’t need luck – your skills make you a winner!

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4472 days

#2 posted 07-28-2007 04:28 AM

Karson, I want be the first to congratulate you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. I can’t wait for the rest of the project so hurry up , already!!!

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View mot's profile


4926 posts in 4546 days

#3 posted 07-28-2007 04:35 AM

Karson, great photo series. Really a cool entry! Thanks for sharing!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4607 days

#4 posted 07-28-2007 04:41 AM

Great entry on a couple of points. I saw the cabinet in the magazine when it first came out and had really liked it and the time. Your execution of the joints is really cool and you took the time to share them. Looking forward to seeing the finished product.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4596 days

#5 posted 07-28-2007 05:45 AM

This is nothing short of amazing Karson.

-- Bob

View Karson's profile


35201 posts in 4910 days

#6 posted 07-28-2007 06:29 AM

Thanks Don. I didn’t want to leave the Joinery portion to all the BOX Guys and Gals.

Thomas, Mot, Wayne, Bob. This has really got me thinking about how furniture is put together. And being unconventional and ending up with a regular piece.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

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