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ChiselHead WoodWorking
Jim Draper -- Furniture Maker
Small Cabinets in Four Woods (and a Stone Top)
Posted January 31 2024

Small, free-standing cabinets are something I enjoy building. There are still plenty of challenges with the joinery but in a small package that's easy to manage in the shop. Even though structurally and dimensionally the cabinets are identical, making the same cabinet with different species of wood can also make for striking differences in the finished piece. Three of these cabinets, one only of cherry, another of Western Bigleaf Maple with Bolivian Rosewood accents, and another of eastern Arkansas Black Walnut, are all of the same size. A client requested smaller walnut cabinet, but with a top of 25 million year old petrified wood he was looking to incorporate into his living space.

These are the dimensions for the cherry cabinet while the maple and walnut pieces had an additional inch added to the width, height, and depth.

frame panels
These cabinets are all solid hardwoods built essentially in a "frame and panel technique". Aprons and legs have a 1/4" dado in the sides and bottom (apron) to accept the rabbeted panels and allow for seasonal wood movement.

panels panels
Blades are double-tenoned into the legs while the cabinet bottom is attached to the front blade with biscuits and then fitted into a dado cut in the three lower aprons. This allows for seasonal wood movement.

frame panels
Bridal joints are cut for the 4 door sides, allowing the tenons to be a little oversize that can be planned off when fitting. The door panel is also allowed to move freely in 1/4" dados in the sides.

frame panels
These doors will attach to the blades with offset (knife) hinges that will require mortising and fitting before cabinet glue-up can be done.

panels panels
The drawers are built from maple sides that are half-blind dovetailed into the faces. Drawer bottoms are also maple and will slide in a 1/4" dado cut into the sides and face.

panels panels
The stone top presented some challenges for attaching it to the cabinet. I cut a piece of plywood to fit exactly into the top opening between the aprons and stretcher and then epoxied the plywood to the stone bottom. Then an 1/8" groove was cut into the inside of the aprons which would allow table top clips to be attached to the plywood and hold the top in place.

frame panels
The door panel on the walnut cabinet (my favorite of the 4 cabinets) was cut from a book-matched piece of solid hardwood. For the door frame, I tried to incorporate pieces of walnut that showed the transition from sapwood to heartwood, giving a blueish band around the door frame.

frame frame
Knobs are mostly from Gabon ebony turned on my lathe. Any of these cabinets can make a warm addition to a living area without occupying too much space.

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