Vanity Cabinet - Design-Build #1: The voices in my head/The pencil in my hand

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Blog entry by NBeener posted 03-20-2012 04:06 PM 8647 reads 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Vanity Cabinet - Design-Build series no next part

DJ wants “overflow” storage for her bathroom stuff and towels.

And as y’all know … what DJ (or whoever YOUR equivalent is) wants … DJ gets.

Time to buy some plans !!

No. Wait.

Not THIS time.

THIS time, I’m going to actually design AND build something.

[Lord, help us all….]

Flipped through a few of the volumes from my awesome collection of used woodworking books. Special shout out to

“Illustrated Cabinetmaking,” by Bill Hylton
“Drafting and Design for Woodworkers,” by our own Bob Lang
“Practical Design,” by Taunton Press/FWW
“The Complete Illustrated Guide to Furniture & Cabinet Construction,” by Andy Rae

Got me some pencils, coffee, graph paper, and my old architect’s scale, and got to work.

In short….

... I’ll be building a 33” wide by 33” high case, from 3/4” MDF-core (that’s all I could easily get) African Mahogany veneer ply, with

... Biscuited miter joinery

... A dado’d in vertical divider

... (2) Dado’d shelves on one side
... (1) Dado’d shelf on the other side

... The shelves will be hardwood edged (all the hardwood is 4/4 African Mahogany)

... Hardwood face frame, biscuited in

... Frame and panel doors, made w/M&T joinery, w/applied molding. Panel from 1/4” MDF-core African Mahogany ply

... 36” x 22” top, from African Mahogany. Possibly breadboard ends. Still debating.

... An inset (smaller than case) base

... 1/4” MDF-core AM ply back, flush-mounted in rabbets

... Base and top attached with ledgers, rabbeted in

I did the “formal process,” from sketches to component lists to Bill of Materials to cut diagrams. You truly DO get to know a project from top to bottom, this way. Pretty cool journey !

The truck just came. 32 board-feet of African Mahogany, rough-sawn at 4/4, and three sheets of ply … are now mine to mess with and mess up.

This one’s going to take me a while, but … it SHOULD keep me—largely—out of the bars


Thanks for listening ….

-- -- Neil

15 comments so far

View patron's profile (online now)


13721 posts in 4455 days

#1 posted 03-20-2012 04:17 PM

good for you neil

this should be a full fun build

having heard
the voices in your head
in person
i know you have a good teacher

a better camera might be in order
the grain in the mahogany
didn’t come thru the phone pics to good

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Gabe C.'s profile

Gabe C.

288 posts in 3455 days

#2 posted 03-20-2012 04:34 PM

I have found that the things I design myself (y’know, really EASY CONCEPT stuff) tend to be a more satisfying project as a result, whereas things done from a plan have the effect of “Hey, I PROBABLY could have figured that all out on my own (yeah, right)”. I think ultimately if I learned something new, it was worth it either way.

-- If I could just get this whole "Time/Money" problem figured out...

View Bothus's profile


443 posts in 4290 days

#3 posted 03-20-2012 04:38 PM

Hi Neil,

I have to run out so I apologize for not being able to read this entire post and respond intelligently but I did read the beginning where you said you were going to design something and I wanted to share a website I use when I need to get design ideas. You may have heard of it but if not check it out with DJ when you two have time to sit and browse. I could look at this site for hours (and not just because I posted a few photos up there, it’s just fun).


-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4448 days

#4 posted 03-20-2012 04:49 PM

Nothing more satisfying than designing and planning out your own project Neil, and for the perfect customer too! Good luck and I hope you blog the build.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 4427 days

#5 posted 03-20-2012 04:56 PM

Neil, looks like you are on a roll.

Got everything laid out. Project is in your head and on paper and the wood is waiting.

Keep us posted on progress!!

View fernandoindia's profile


1081 posts in 4058 days

#6 posted 03-20-2012 06:06 PM

Nothing better than keeping DJ happy. Seems to be the time for a new tool.

Hey Neil, your sketch up abilities surpass my own by far !! Very tidy indeed

-- Back home. Fernando

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5414 days

#7 posted 03-20-2012 06:38 PM

Very nice Neil!
It looks like a great project, go for it!
Will be looking forward to the finished product

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4417 days

#8 posted 03-20-2012 09:37 PM

well i have to say that brooks has done a mighty fine job here, and not one helping hand from dunn, he seems to be pre occupied with a new material, called vinyl…it looks like 144 pieces of 12 footers, plywood soffits and j channel and roofing nails… wait just a minute, none of those materials sounds like wood working…i protest…it looks like you get to have all the fun here…......good luck on this one amigo…but i wont be gone for long, maybe i can help somewhere along the way here….yippie..brooks is at it again…with as much lumber as i know you have, your set for some fun here..grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Woodwrecker's profile


4240 posts in 4690 days

#9 posted 03-20-2012 09:53 PM

“Graphic Design Specialties” by Neil !
I can see it now, another big time star is born !

That design is very cool.
Your design sketches are waaay better then mine.

My last two tool chests were concept-ed out on an old piece of school paper, with an old pencil I found on the shop
But, that is a very fun way of doing it.
You call the shots from head to toe.

I can’t wait to see how your cabinet turns out.
I bet it’ll be nice !

View Vincent Nocito's profile

Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 4478 days

#10 posted 03-20-2012 10:52 PM

Great start. Have you given any thought to how you plan to hang the cabinet (screws into studs, hangers, french cleat)? I add a 4/4 rail (2” wide) at the top back of my medicine cabinets when it will be mounted directly to the wall. Also make a deeper rabbet on the back in case you need to scribe the case to the wall. I usually leave about 0.25” for scribing a case to the wall.

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3789 days

#11 posted 03-21-2012 12:15 AM

The “Plan” looks good. I’m just worried about the execution!! (Just Kidding)

I’m looking forward to following you on your journey. I’m sure it will be veeery entertaining!!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1626 posts in 4679 days

#12 posted 03-21-2012 11:40 AM

Looks like a fun one to follow Neil, this one should allow you to pick up a new tool or two!

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4279 days

#13 posted 03-21-2012 02:19 PM

Ahhhhhhhh come on! You don’t want to be organized… yah? Next thing you know, you won’t make any mistakes. Think of all the opportunities for self abasement and community enterntainment that will be missed.

Shucks, this ain’t gonna be no fun!

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4288 days

#14 posted 03-21-2012 04:30 PM

Thanks for the comments, suggestions, and kind words—as always—y’all.

To respond:

Patron: Sorry you had to hear the voices. Earplugs, next time. I promise. Buddy thought I was talking to him, but … since my lips weren’t moving … he was mighty confused ;-)

Gabe: exactly my thoughts. It’s like cooking from scratch, instead of following a recipe—maybe a little more daunting, but a learning experience !

Jerry: the LumberJocks equivalent of showing a guy with a drinking problem … a new liquor store :-) That’s a GREAT site. Thanks for that !

Mike: I think I’ll set the camera up, on a tripod. If it’s THERE, I’ll remember to snap pics. Besides, a view through the lens helps me see the situation through new—and better—eyes ;-)

Cato Thanks much. May be a few days before I get started, but … I’ll be posting periodic updates.

Fernando: If it weren’t for graph paper and a ruler, I couldn’t draw a reasonable circle. I did take high school drafting, though, and remembered how to draw really straight lines ;-) Probably no budget for new tools, right now (sigh), but … may be a chance to get re-acquainted with a few old ones :-)

Grizzman ?? You know I say this with love and affection …. I’m happy to be building a cabinet, and not having to side a house. Good luck, Brother …. good luck !

Woodwrecker: Thank you very much. I think the smart money … is staying on the sidelines, on this one, though LOL !

Vincent: we decided that this would be a free-standing cabinet, and would live outside of the bathroom. Since it’s still our plan to move, we wanted to take it with us. Luckily, then, no hanging constraints. It will sit on its internal base, on the bedroom floor. The idea of a bit of extra rabbet … is a fantastic tip, though. I WILL remember that one !

Randy: it may have been a joke to you, but … I’m pretty freaked out about the execution, too, so … you were spot-on. My current plan is to blame ANY issues on “the idiots who designed and produced these plans.” I’m sure I can pull THAT off :-)

Tim: Oh, man. The “new tool” thing, again. Sigh. I wish I could just click my heels together, and my (still in the crate) SawStop would be downstairs, set up, hooked up to the 220V that I don’t have, and running. I DID buy a new mechanical pencil, though :-)

Jim: Ohhhhhhh. You have ab-so-LUTE-ly nothing to worry about, there. I can’t use the eraser, during the execution phase. I DID go about 50% over on the Mahogany AND plywood buys, though … you know … just in case. As long as nobody demands to see the pictures of the leftover materials, AFTER the project, I can say anything I want to :-)

Thanks again…..

-- -- Neil

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1626 posts in 4679 days

#15 posted 03-22-2012 04:12 PM

Well hopefully you will get that saw set up and running soon.

Curious; are you making the face frame a little proud on the sides? I have seen this on cabinets, I guess it helps hide the seam when viewing from the front.

@Bothus, Thanks for that link, wonderful ideas there.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

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