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    Build a wall cabinet: Part 1, making the case parts

    more on woodworking safety

    Tools and Materials

    I think that as soon as you start woodworking, you should strive to make beautiful furniture. In fact, you should forget about traditional joinery, fancy woods, and elaborate finishes. You can make stunning furniture from simple materials like plywood and with "crass" joinery like dowels and screws. This small wall cabinet is, I think, a good illustration of those points. I certainly don't think it's stunning, but it does display good design. Also, it was easy to make. The only tools I used were a saw, a router, a drill and a chisel.

    Before I show you how I made it, though, I want to explain its central design elements. First, I made it from plywood. That's because plywood comes in flat sheets. So, I only needed to cut the parts to size. (No need to mill lumber-a job that requires several more tools.) But I didn't try to hide the fact that it's plywood. I went modern and left the edges exposed. However, I did use three different thicknesses of plywood. Varying the thickness of my parts gives the cabinet balance and good proportion. The top and bottom are thicker than the sides, which are thicker than the dividers. The drawer fronts are thicker than the drawer sides and back.

    Second, rather than trying to hide the fact that I used dowels to cover the holes left by countersunk screws (which hold the parts together), I chose to emphasize them. The dark color and shape of the walnut dowels echoes the darkness and shape of the finger holes on the drawer fronts. This is another modern element.

    Finally, there's the yellow drawer fronts. I finished the plywood case with a very easy shellac finish (I'll show you how) that leaves it looking reserved. I painted the drawer fronts to make them pop. It further enhances the cabinet's modern feel.

    At any rate, I hope you're encouraged to pull out pencil and paper and design for yourself. And then get out in the shop and make your design!

    If you want to make this cabient, we'll have some plans available shortly.

    How to Make

    Cut parts to sizeclick to enlargeCutting parts to size on a tablesaw

    Cut parts to size: Plywood is easy to work with. I used a tablesaw to rip parts to width and then cross cut them to length, but you also could use a circular saw with a guide. To ensure that identical parts (like the top and bottom) are exactly the same size, I put a stop block on my crosscut sled. After cutting the first part, I slid the plywood against the stop and cut the second one.

    Cut parts to sizeclick to enlargeUse a bevel gauge to set the blade's angle

    Set the angle of the blade: Choose an angle that you find pleasing--for me, it's around 14 degrees. I used a sliding bevel gauge to set the blade, but you could do it by sight or by taking test cuts on some scrap until you've got the angle dialed in.

    Cut parts to sizeclick to enlargeCutting angled edges on the top and bottom

    Cut bevel on front and sides: Use the rip fence to guide the piece when cutting the angle on the front. Use a miter gauge to cut it on the sides. The back is not angled.

    Cut parts to sizeclick to enlargeRabbeting with a handheld router

    Rout a rabbet in the sides: Clamp the side to a work surface. Use a bearing-guided rabbeting bit in your router to do the job.

    Cut parts to sizeclick to enlargeHere's the bit and the rabbet it cuts

    Here's what it should look like.: The bearing on the bit controls how far the bit cuts into the plywood. And the further the bit sticks out from the bottom of your router, the deeper the rabbet.

    Cut parts to sizeclick to enlargeTracing the side's rabbet onto the bottom

    Transfer the rabbet from the sides to the top and bottom: Stand the side up on the bottom and mark where the rabbet hits it. This shows you where the rabbet on the bottom needs to stop. Repeat the process for the other side, and do the same for the top. If the rabbet went the entire length of the top and bottom, you'd see it after the case was put together.

    Cut parts to sizeclick to enlargeThe top and bottom have stopped rabbets

    Rout a stopped rabbet in the top and bottom: Use the same router and the same bit. Cut the rabbet to the same depth. Don't worry about the rounded ends, we'll take care of those next.

    Cut parts to sizeclick to enlargeSquaring up the back wall of the rabbet

    Square up the ends of the rabbet, part 1: Chop down with a chisel. Use a wide one and register it against the straight part of the rabbet wall that is next to the curved part you are chopping out.

    Cut parts to sizeclick to enlargeGetting rid of the waste

    Square up the ends of the rabbet, part 2: To remove the waste, hold the chisel horizontally and push in. Rest its flat back on the bottom of the rabbet.