Quantcast
  • We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

Softwood bathroom cabinet w-i-p

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,030
Reaction score
481
Location
Bristol
We need a little wall cabinet in the bathroom. In current circumstances, it's got to be made from wood that I have got saved up in case it comes in useful - I'm not expecting to be able to go out and buy anything. So it will be made of painted softwood. Nevertheless, it's a chance to mess about with old tools and make something with a bit of head scratching and a few proper joints.
I'll put up some photos as I go, but as usual, please don't expect speedy progress. I intend to enjoy quite a lot of workshop time on this one.

I started by doing a sketch on the back of an envelope and then a full size drawing on some lining paper. This was useful as it let me check that the dimensions were possible with the material I had and that it would actually hold bottles of shampoo etc.

Having made the drawing I then annotated it to show which bits needed to be bigger and smaller. I then put it aside, so I'm not tempted to take wrong measurements off it. I have made some notes but it's such a simple piece that I won't dwell on that side of things. You'll be able to watch the design arise naturally.

Most of the wood that I need comes from a piece of 9 x 1 PAR redwood. It was bought to replace a fascia board and then not needed so it has stood patiently waiting for about nine years. It's not quite straight but will be ok if I cut it up and plane it down a bit more... so there's been quite a lot of this



making a lot of these



I decided to finish the wood at 3/4" - which doesn't take much planing - but a couple of shelves need to be a bit thinner, which is actually quite quick to do in the usual way, planing diagonally with a well-cambered iron



then along the grain to finish.

To reduce to width, an ordinary marking gauge is a bit awkward on a wide board, so I chose to use this rather elegant panel gauge:



and here it is in the first of many awkwardly posed action shots while the other hand takes the picture



(If you don't have a panel gauge, I recommend getting one. They were generally user-made from an offcut of something nice. This one's my favourite.)

So, after a lot more marking, planing and sawing I ended up with this little stack of two sides, two shelves and a top and bottom.



It's stacked on the table saw I used to divide these from what will be the stiles and rails for a pair of doors. It's had its moment of glory being a saw and now it's back to being a table for the rest of the time. (I bought this saw in the 90s when I wanted to get projects done quickly; I now find I enjoy the process of making so much more when I take my time that I hardly use it.)
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,030
Reaction score
481
Location
Bristol
Ok, with the pieces cut, it was time to square the ends and mark out.
I recently upgraded my old shooting board to this new one - still made out of oddments but it works ok.



The cabinet construction is pretty simple. Two vertical sides and four horizontal pieces. So a critical dimension is the inside measurement, between the basline of the dovetails or the shoulder line of the stopped housings. What I do is to clamp all the bits together and mark across all the edges at once. It's important that they match, more than what the measurement is in inches or millimetres.







Then, to get the right positions on the sides, I laid it out on the bench, checked the spaces between the shelves, and marked shelf locations on both sides together.



I decided to use lapped dovetails at the top; nothing unusual there.



No need to go over every step, but I'll just demonstrate one point. If you use a nice fine dovetail saw, the kerf is very narrow. For some people this leads to a fancy, expensive saw made of titanium which will work with very fine fretsaw blades. I just use ordinary coping saw blades, in a nice old Marples bowsaw for which I made an alternative, shorter middle stretcher:



I don't follow the dovetail saw cut, instead I make a J-shaped cut down the waste



then cut across towards the other corner



Quick and easy and on to the pins



and some conventional chopping







And then repeat.

More soon!
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,030
Reaction score
481
Location
Bristol
A quick design question.

I've got the dovetails to tie the sides together at the top. But at the bottom of the sides, I want a bit of a curved edge, ie a quarter circle when looking at a side sideways. That will look ok next to a small shelf at the bottom, set back a bit, below the cupboard part. But I can't have dovetails at the bottom. What would you use instead, to keep the sides tight together?
 

thick_mike

Wood Shortener
Joined
21 Aug 2011
Messages
799
Reaction score
25
Location
Wing, Bucks
A quick design question.

I've got the dovetails to tie the sides together at the top. But at the bottom of the sides, I want a bit of a curved edge, ie a quarter circle when looking at a side sideways. That will look ok next to a small shelf at the bottom, set back a bit, below the cupboard part. But I can't have dovetails at the bottom. What would you use instead, to keep the sides tight together?
Stopped sliding dovetail?

Through wedged m&t?
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,030
Reaction score
481
Location
Bristol
:rolleyes:Screws can be a good solution, but not on this project. I have used them on bookcases, where the sides go all the way to the floor. If you raise the bottom shelf off the floor a bit (which looks better anyway) you make room for a batten underneath. This can be screwed sideways into the sides and upwards into the shelf. It is then hidden by a toe-piece under the bottom shelf, set back an inch or so.

Through wedged M&T would work, but it's a joint that does well as visibly decorative, and this piece is going to be painted even if there aren't any gaps needing filler (which is unlikely). So stopped tapered sliding dovetailed housings it is.

Now, I have done these before, on an ash bookcase, but that was nine years ago, I took very few photos, and I can't recall exactly how I did them. So before going any further I did a practice joint on the offcuts.

To do this, I followed the instructions in Charles Hayward's book on Woodwork Joints. I've got quite a few books on woodwork and I reckon this is one of the very best. It covers all the joints you are likely to need and explains how to lay out and cut them. Surprisingly few books actually do this, or if they do it's just for dovetails and mortice & tenons, then the author gets tired or bored and you just get a bare diagram.

This is what I wanted. The housing is stopped, so the joint does not show. The upper edge of the housing is square, to fit the top of the shelf. The lower side has the dovetail angle. The tow parts are tapered in their length, so the joint is loose until it fits, then tightens up.



After making the practice joint and the proper joints, I thought to look on YouTube to see if I was doing it right. Most of the videos I found took the easy way out and made a through joint, or cut both sides at the dovetail angle.

The only one I found who showed this exact form of the joint was Mitch Peacock. (I highly recommend his channel - there are hundreds of short videos covering the basic joints and techniques, a great cheap bench and lots of imaginative projects. Channel link here and this joint video here.

So, there's no need for more than a summary from me.

As the housing is stopped, you need to cut a little gap for the saw to work in.



A guide block helps saw to the correct angle. Here, unusually for me, I tried using a little Japanese saw.



but for the others I reverted to the more familiar sort



Most of the work is done with chisels. If you have any long paring chisels, this will justify having them.



You can of course use a router to remove the bulk if you want, lowering the cutter after each pass.



Trouble is, apparently these cost a bit more now than when I bought mine. :rolleyes:



My suggestion is that you enjoy chiselling for most of the cut, and use an "old woman's tooth" style of router for the final levelling off.



To get round the need to keep adjusting the iron, I rested the router on a couple of old plastic cards and some stiff paper, taking a layer away each time until I was at full depth. (A pack of playing cards is often recommended for doing this.)

That gets the tapered and square housings cut; next time I'll add some pictures of the shelf ends getting cut to fit, but it's time to go for a refreshing cup of tea.
 

NickM

Established Member
Joined
6 Mar 2019
Messages
343
Reaction score
107
Location
Hampshire
Thanks Andy. Enjoying this.

I had a go at practising a tapered sliding dovetail when I did my art desk project. I learned a lot - mainly that I needed to find another joint to use on the desk...
 

custard

Established Member
Joined
20 Aug 2008
Messages
7,107
Reaction score
476
Location
Hampshire
Really nice job.

And good to see a router plane in action. They're such a practical and useful tool, even in a predominantly power tool workshop they still have plenty of applications.
 

Sheffield Tony

Ghost of the disenchanted
Joined
2 Aug 2012
Messages
2,081
Reaction score
91
Location
Bedfordshire
So you cut the dovetailed side of the housing straight from the saw ? When I did some of these I for some reason didn't get on with sawing the side at an angle, so cut a housing with vertical sides, then took a few swipes with a Record 2506 side rebate plane at an angle to create the dovetail. Being able to take the nose off allows it to work in a stopped housing, unlike a woody.

Looking forward to seeing it come together.
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,030
Reaction score
481
Location
Bristol
That's a good alternative, Tony.

I did do something similar on a set of steps once. They are in our roof space, so don't have to look smart. I used a dado plane to cut straight sided housings, then undercut each one with a couple of swipes of a wooden side rebate plane, held at about the right angle.
I can't remember how I cut the steps to match, but it all knocked together quite well.

It was certainly a much quicker job than this little cupboard!
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,030
Reaction score
481
Location
Bristol
Making the other half of the tapered sliding dovetails was even more fun and for me it was an excuse to try out an uncommon plane. I'm aware that there are several different approaches to making this joint - I didn't try them all.

The first step is to mark out the end of the shelf to the depth chosen. I had settled on 3/16". I think that is what I did last time I made this joint, which was in ash.

I do know, from experience, that it's plenty for an ordinary square housed joint. But in retrospect, 1/4" would have given me a bit more bearing surface - there's a tendency for the softwood fibres to squash a bit, so a little more length would have helped. Never mind, this is only a light duty piece.

You then need to take out a square edged rebate, ready to deepen and angle. To mark a line only about an eighth of an inch in, I like this sort of home made marking gauge. It's just a screw with the head filed sharp, in a bit of scrap. Easy to adjust and plenty of bearing surface. (Apparently there's a sort of commercially made gauge that does a similar job, made of shiny brass with extra knobs on - but they cost a lot more :) )



Next, you saw down on the shoulder line, towards the line you just marked



and then you split off the wood in between



That leaves a little rebate, square both ways, which needs to be tapered across its width and along its length. One way to do that is with a plane like this:







It's an English "shouldering plane". There doesn't seem to be much information about them - a search will bring you back to this very forum, from a few years ago:


and to a handful of similar discussions. They are in the Mathieson catalogue, which proves that they were a standard offering. Here's another commercially made one from the late C18 or early C19 as sold at David Stanley's


(which is also the mirror opposite of mine and the others I have found)

and here's one that sold recently on eBay, despite the seller not being sure what to call it:


Patrick Leach listed one in Jan 2017 (for $120) and described it in these words:

Steel plated shouldering plane; often called a dovetail
plane, it can perform that duty to cut the tails of a
sliding dovetail, its proper use is to clean the 'apex'
of a tenon where the cheek and shoulder meet; with nicker
iron, it's owner made, as most are; 7" long, as found,
no damage, it looks to have been waxed awhile ago.​

Whatever it was made for - and if it's for dovetails, why call it a shouldering plane? - it worked for this job. The angle at the sole is quite sharp on mine - about 69°, where I was working at 84° (1:6). Planing down to the taper line that I had marked out on the end took only a few seconds. It was nice and easy to try the joint, take off another shaving, repeat and stop.

In fact it was almost too quick. So although I planed the joint on the practice piece, for the shelf itself I clamped my guide block in the vice, wedged the shelf against a mallet standing in the tool well, and chiselled down to the marks.



Here's the result from the back, nearly home



and from the front, with the side dangling in mid air



and some time later, here's a trial assembly to distract you from the untidiness that surrounds my bench

 

ScaredyCat

Established Member
Joined
17 Mar 2017
Messages
1,068
Reaction score
71
Location
Suffolk
Images are broken in this last post...

had to refresh, they came back then.
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,030
Reaction score
481
Location
Bristol
Having got the frame started with the difficult shelf, I then did some more paring out of housings for the middle and bottom shelves.



and soon reached this stage, where the partly fitted carcase stands on the bench.



Before glueing it together though, I wanted the bottom ends to be curved.

I did this on my little Burgess three wheel bandsaw - no action photos I'm afraid, I don't have enough hands. Here are the sides with the offcuts beside them to show what I mean.



I clamped the sides together in the vice, ready to smooth over the sawn ends. I really like using handscrews for this sort of job. There's no need to fiddle about with protective pads and they lie flat on the bench.

I planed around the curves with a smoother and a block plane





which got me close,



then some Abranet got the final shape.



I then gave the insides a bit of a sanding, removing the pencilled face marks, until I couldn't put off the glue-up any further.

I knew I had made things a bit harder by cutting off the square ends, but I reckoned my chances of getting those curves nice were higher if I did them as a pair.

So this is the arrangement I ended up with. Parts neatly laid out, with shelf orientation visible on the ends.



A pair of sash cramps to pull the top dovetails down, a crosspiece of scrap across the ends and one long wooden cramp to bring the front edge of the top down where it belongs. Not showing in this picture were a couple of wooden bars with cast iron heads on across the top to keep the dovetails tight - that's why the sash cramps were up off the bench on bearers, so I could get underneath.

Total time for the glue-up was about 30 minutes, using Titebond Liquid Hide Glue, which is wonderful stuff for this sort of job. It doesn't suddenly take hold like PVA can, and if things do go really wrong, is reversible, as I have proved on a previous build.

I really like the old sawtooth cramp. The tip of the wooden screw has a steel point in it which grips nicely into a bit of scrap, saving the need for an extra hand.



And it pulled up square.



You may have noticed that I had not put the intermediate shelves in. This was a bit of a gamble - it just seemed too complicated to do all the bits at once. Let's leave the glue drying and think about that.
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,030
Reaction score
481
Location
Bristol
Well, I'm pleased to say that it's perfectly ok to leave little shelves like these not glued in



but just paint a little glue on the ends and tap them home.



No clamping, no stress. I was even calm enough to take a photo part way.

And afterwards



With that done, I had no alternative but to start making the doors.

I had a wide enough strip that I had ripped from my original board and a bit of something pretty similar, though with old screw holes from previous use.



Some of it was a bit thin,



so I ended up planing it all down to 11/16" thick



and 2" wide. This enabled me to get nice straight bits out of wood which was not straight overall.

In the right mood, I rather enjoy repetitive planing like this and get into a decent rhythm, planing, marking, planing, checking. (In the wrong mood, I walk away and find something else to do.)

So some time later I had a kit of parts like these for the stiles



and some for the rails as well



Once again the table saw serves as a reasonably flat table. The handscrews are just to make sure nothing twists while my back is turned.

I also made another one of these.

 
Top