Yet Another Pekovich Tool Cabinet

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Project by WhattheChuck posted 11-27-2017 05:32 PM 8853 views 10 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is the tool cabinet, built kinda/sorta from the Fine Woodworking article/plan, by Mike Pekovich. I bought the plan because a.) it was on sale, and b.) I didn’t want to think, and just follow directions. But that turned out not to be the case. So to speak. Anything with this kind of folded complexity also becomes tedious after a while, and this project was no exception. There’s also a bunch of info necessary to pull this thing off that Mike doesn’t really discuss. I’m going to list a few points, because I know that others might actually build this thing—as opposed to most of my other projects.

1. You might buy the plans because you want to make a cut-list and methodically proceed. Well, that never works for me. The first part of this project is dovetailing a huge case, and I’ve always found when I do this, things are off by 1/16” or 1/8”, and if you want a bunch of parts to fit together, you’ve got to measure as you go along. This thing is no different. Scratch your fantasies of turning your brain off. If you’re on the upward swing of your furniture-building fascination, this thing is a great set piece to develop your intermediate skills. If you’re like me, and a stagnant journeyman cabinetmaker with no huge aspirations to learn anything new—you just want to build stuff you need, this thing will drive you batty. Three dovetailed carcases, doors, and on and on. I did finally make progress on getting the drawers super-tight in the openings. So there’s that.

2. I screwed up the dovetails the first round, and had to chop off 1” of the cabinet. No problem—I knew I was going to have to measure things anyway. Except the plane till is already kinda too small. And taking an inch off made certain clearances even more difficult. I found this out far further down the line. If you end up reducing the height, make adjustments in the height of the top cabinet. Or the plane till won’t fit. See below.

3. Mike has pins on top and bottom, tails on the sides. I did the opposite. Because I wasn’t paying attention. No one notices except me, the structure is not compromised (the thing really hangs on its back, which is glued laterally into the back of the main carcase) and I kinda think the uniformity of vertical detail (the pins match the through mortises) is nice. But no one will ever see those nice dovetails on top and bottom. Oh well!

4. That plane till. It LOOKS like regular planes will fit in with the various folding doors. I think Mike has a bunch of planes with small front knobs, which ALMOST fit. No regular plane will fit and not hit the folding door on the inside. You have to cut out the door. See Viewer Left side of the cabinet.

5. Dunno about you, but I like to store my planes on a till so I can grab them easily. That means the knob length doesn’t matter, because the plane goes in knob up, handle down! So you REALLY have to cut the door.

6. The depth of the main cabinet with the little plane garage at the bottom is oh-so-tight for your planes. You’re better off making this cabinet about 1” deeper, if you can. Then everything will fit far better.

7. I bought the hardware recommended from the House of Antique Hardware. The big hinges are plenty strong, and look nice. But they have a flaw. The pin doesn’t attach to the top finial—instead, both finials screw into a given hinge, and there’s the pin inside, hidden. That means it’s hard to get to if you want to take the big outside case doors off. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible, without buggering up the little cute finial. This isn’t a feature—it’s a bug.

8. The smaller door hinges are cheaper than the big, pressed door hinges. They also don’t really want to close flat, no matter what you do. What that means is that you have to give the stile you mount the hinge to a 5 degree bevel, or the doors will not shut completely. I wish I had known this BEFORE mounting all the doors. And then un-mounting, and re-cutting the hinge mortises.

9. Mike dodges some responsibility with the whole ‘everyone has different tools, YMMV’ line. Well, sort of. I think some level of enlightenment about standard tools would have been useful. More discussion on this, and less of the “make this cut here” which anyone making this tool cabinet would already know how to do.

10. This thing is heavy, and hanging it is a bear. Get a strong friend to help. Taking off the outside doors would help. However, see (7).

11. You’re better off waiting until the absolute end to put on the back plywood. Mike’s sequencing of the build isn’t so bad, but if I had to do it again, I would do some things differently. As with giving birth to anything, this thing has already given me amnesia, and I can’t remember what those sequencing things were, other than putting the rear backing on last.

12. Don’t glue in the plane garage in the bottom. You’ll want to strip all the weight off this cabinet that you can to hang it.

13. Chinese hardware is fun, and I used a Chinese Wedding Chest (or something) escutcheon I got off eBay. It was priced reasonably. The four characters imply some kind of wedding gift, but this was unclear, even to my Taiwanese wife. I had originally bought the hardware for a wine cabinet that I’m still building. The little pendants are wine jugs, supposedly, and the name of the hardware is ‘Bountiful Harvest’. But wife still laughed, and said it had nothing to do with wine or agriculture. At least it didn’t say “Your Mother-In-Law is Ugly” in Chinese characters. YMMV. Ming Dynasty furniture is kind of like Chinese Arts and Crafts, so anything you want to look like Ming stuff, just slap some Chinese hardware on an unadorned carcase (which is what I did) and you can pass it off as Ming furniture. The drawer and door pulls are the cheap Tansu ones from Lee Valley.

14. Finally, all those little hangers are alternately clever, and not so clever. Many hold the potential (like the marking gauge rack) of not really holding tools in a way that will prevent them from falling to the ground when you open and close doors. I recommend putting some carpet/rubber mat underneath this thing until you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Antique tools dropping on concrete make a unique, excruciating sound.

15. I hung mine with two 2.5” 5/16” lag screws. I put washers on the lag screws so that it wouldn’t damage the 1/2” plywood. This worked—thinking about the size of this cleat and how you’re going to hang it is critical when sizing the opening for the cleat in the back of the cabinet. It all worked out for me, but quite frankly, I also had my fingers crossed. Insight—this cleat is hidden behind the plane till, so don’t worry about making it big and easy to hang. No one will see the gap from the front.

16. Finally, Mike recommends using magnetic door catches. I thought I could use a regular wood screw with a washer as the other, passive side of the catch—one magnet, then, per catch. Turns out screws and washers have chromium, and low magnetic strength. So you don’t end up with the famous ‘hold a tool on the wall’ level of attraction. Once again, working out these small details would help. I didn’t want to put two magnets back-to-back because of the field reversal problem.

Hope this helps. Feel free to reach back. Also, screwing in the wooden tool attachments isn’t a bad idea. I’m already thinking about how I’ll replace the large plane till in the middle. Glue would prevent such future meanderings.

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

18 comments so far

View EarlS's profile


4725 posts in 3563 days

#1 posted 11-27-2017 05:51 PM

Gorgeous tool storage cabinet. All of the little details you included really make it more than just a shop storage cabinet.

Your comments sound like what I’ve experienced from typical FWW projects; just enough information to make you think all of necessary details are there, but they aren’t. I’m starting the Kevin Rodel A&C chairs and I’m spending more time trying to figure the details out from what is in the plans than actually working on the chair.

Fortunately, like you have done, others on LJ posted helpful tutorials and comments about their building experience for the rest of use to use.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View WhattheChuck's profile


467 posts in 4775 days

#2 posted 11-27-2017 05:58 PM

Earl—I was going to make a set of those chairs this spring. I’ll be looking forward to any blog posts you create on your experience. I was going to chunk out eight or so. I figured once I got set up, why not?

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View pintodeluxe's profile


6481 posts in 4028 days

#3 posted 11-27-2017 06:30 PM

Fine looking cabinet. I like the distinctive center medallion.

Outstanding work.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View WhattheChuck's profile


467 posts in 4775 days

#4 posted 11-27-2017 07:30 PM

I used these guys to buy the hardware.

Seems like there are quite a few more sellers of this stuff than there were a year ago. I just looked on eBay.

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3813 days

#5 posted 11-27-2017 08:58 PM

Yeah, that is really nice. Very well done!

View Jerry's profile


3488 posts in 2863 days

#6 posted 11-27-2017 10:29 PM

This is one of the most impressive builds I’ve ever seen. It is truly magnificent and should go down in the LJ’s Hall of Fame! I am so happy for you that you that you now own this beautiful piece that you made yourself and you can appreciae every day. Yet another indeed! Congratulations!

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View WhattheChuck's profile


467 posts in 4775 days

#7 posted 11-27-2017 10:37 PM

Jerry—you’ll be receiving your anonymous pay-off a little later. Thanks!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View CL810's profile


4167 posts in 4203 days

#8 posted 11-27-2017 10:56 PM

Outstanding work Chuck! I really like your selection of wood and the craftsmanship can’t be beat.

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View EarlS's profile


4725 posts in 3563 days

#9 posted 11-28-2017 01:00 AM

Chuck – here is the link to a blog on the Kevin Rodel chairs.

I’m also working on a SketchUp model based on the FWW plans if you are interested in it once I get it completed. I’ll probably write a blog as I go along too.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View WhattheChuck's profile


467 posts in 4775 days

#10 posted 11-28-2017 01:22 AM

Earl—thanks a bunch! I’m staring at a pile of walnut and thinking about this now! I have the plans—what would I do with the SketchUp model? I’m kinda ignorant.

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View EarlS's profile


4725 posts in 3563 days

#11 posted 11-28-2017 02:21 AM

It is a 3D model plus it also has all of the parts with dimensions and whatever other comments I add. Each part can be printed out separately by selecting the tab. It is actually fairly easy to use the model after it is built. Jim Young got me started with SketchUp by kindly letting me have a copy of the Talesin desk model. SketchUp is a free program from Thimble. Alternatively, I can also “print” pdf copies of the specific parts with all of the dimensions and such and send them to you. All of the information is on the 1 page drawing that comes with the FWW plans, but it is a real chore to figure it all out (and I work with construction drawings and isometric drawings on a daily basis at work).

I print off each piece on a separate page and tape it to the shop wall while I’m working on that piece. Much easier to keep track of that way than trying to use the cut list and all of the various views on the FWW plan. We can always take this discussion to a private line if you want as well.

BTW – I’m making the chairs out of walnut as well. I intend to attempt to change some of the back details for each of the 3 chairs I need to build to match the style of the desks I’ve made over the past several months (Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Mackintosh).

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View WhattheChuck's profile


467 posts in 4775 days

#12 posted 11-28-2017 05:21 AM

Sounds great, Earl. I have a friend that uses SketchUp, so I can look at this on his computer as well.

Let me know!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1990 days

#13 posted 11-28-2017 02:48 PM

Don’t be so hard on yourself, haha.

...If you re like me, and a stagnant journeyman cabinetmaker with no huge aspirations to learn anything new…

- WhattheChuck

View dannmarks's profile


1028 posts in 1796 days

#14 posted 11-29-2017 12:44 AM

Well exicuted work. Great presentation.

View EarlS's profile


4725 posts in 3563 days

#15 posted 11-30-2017 06:19 PM

Chuck – I’ll definitely let you know when I get it finished. Hopefully by this weekend since my new Leigh M&T jig is supposed to be here today….....

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

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