A Rolling Closet Cabinet


I finally got a chance to finish the drafting for the cabinet piece I’m working on, a rolling shelf unit of sorts made to fit in a tight spot below the 10/10 pitch of the roof in a closet. Up till now I’ve been working to plane the panel work out based on a rougher sketch that lined out some of the critical dimensions.  Sorry, I’m still not great at keeping my drawings in perspective. The rolling cabinet will be taller and skinnier than my drawing would suggest. From the front view above you can tell that it is a pretty simple affair, all 3/4″ paneling joined with dado and wedged through tenons, with through dovetails to join the sides to the bottom. I was limited in most every way by the requirements of the space, which is to say, the height/width/depth/internal arrangement of shelving was not something that could be changed for the sake of aesthetics. However, design constraints often lead to greater creativity, and at least things are made fairly straight forward.


The side view shows the unusual 10/10 slope at the top, which matches the rough opening that follows the roof line at the ceiling. Since this is supposed to allow for clothing storage, its main feature is a clothes hanging rod, and the space needing 36″ below the rod to accommodate most hanging shirts. At the bottom below the dovetails that join the main carcass panels is the skirt boards which hide the caster wheels from sight. I’ve wanted to try more sliding dovetail keys for joining cabinet elements like this, with locking wedge, very cool!

The tenons that join the horizontal shelves to the sides need a bit further thought. I drew them as squares, but I think they’ll look better as golden rectangles, with the long edge parallel to the height of the cabinet. Only the main horizontal shelves are through tenoned, the rest will sit in stopped dado’s so that they can be fitted after the main carcass is assembled.

For shearing strength the bottom section of shelving, as well as the section above the top shelf, will have a rabbited edge along the back to accept 1/4″ tongue and groove pine backing to be nailed on at assembly.


I need to leave the middle section of cabinet with the clothes hanging rod open, but below that I’m planning to cut three stopped grooves that will house a triptych of sliding doors. There is kind of an awkward depth to the compartments that will result, big enough for one pair of shoes  but not two.


Grooving the middle shelf for the sliding doors does present a slight issue with the through tenon on the outermost edge. I have to line it up such that the meat of the tenon coincides with the space between the stopped dado or the act of wedging the tenon would probably split off the bottom half of the tenon cheek. Such is the fun of design!


The sliding doors will be made from the same white ash as the rest of the panel work, with a bookmatched piece of panel sitting in a groove on the rail/stile assembly. These doors are really just a small model of shoji without kumiko, all hipboard.


All that’s left when you finished dimensioning a drawing is to draw up a proper cut list. Once all of the pieces are clearly listed things get much more straight forward in terms of figuring out what to work on.


Which is to say, you hang your drawings up and get to work!

Here I’m resawing the white ash to make the bookmatched panels for the sliding doors. I tried adding a small back bevel on the teeth of my rip saw, one swipe of the file, to get through this hardwood, it seemed to help with edge holding quite a bit and kept me from bemoaning the aggressive softwood tooth pattern I’ve filed on this saw. It seems like every time I sharpen it I make the teeth more aggressive.


Here are the re-sawn boards that will be glued up for the 1/4″ sliding door panels, kinda weird grain pattern, but I like it. Wish it was quarter sawn material!


Here’s a piece of reclaimed douglas fir, old decking, that was resawn for the cabinet back. Look at the quality of this material! The softwood has deteriorated farther in by a long shot compared to the heartwood. Considering its been exposed to the Colorado sun and snow for fifty years I think its held up pretty well! Once again, its rift grain, so I’ll have to leave a bit more room for the cabinet back to swell along its width. My local lumber dealer sells CVG doug fir, but not with this tight grain and heartwood.

Thanks for stopping by, the work dimensioning material continues. I just bought Chris Hall’s “The Art of Carpentry Drawing” Volume II, which deals with Ko-Ko-Gen and hopper joinery, I’m really loving it! So forgive me if I draw this post to a close and go melt my brain with some fun geometry problems and learn to play with my sashigane like a proper carpenter should.



Accurate Tools

Yah, so you know that pretty starrett straight edge you paid a mint for? Its a darn wall ornament the first time you drop it if you don’t know how accurate surfaces are developed.


I love my sashigane but I’ve dropped it a bunch, and its not anything to write home about in terms of quality. With the use of a 24″ Veritas precision straight edge I can measure the deviation with a feeler gauge. How’d it do? Oh, not too bad I guess, .003″ was the maximum deviation. But that’s still enough to notice, especially when using it as a reference planing boards flat or using it to check the sole of your kanna. Besides, we need tools we can trust implicitly, tools that are bona fide accurate.


So in steps the granite surface plate. I don’t have a machinist grade plate, but for what I paid its an incredible degree of accuracy in terms of flat. Why doesn’t everyone have one of these? I applied a thin layer of Dykem hi-spot blue and rubbed the long outside edge of the sashigane .


The ink doesn’t lie, as long as you know how to rub the part without distorting it. If this were your average try square I wouldn’t hesitate to take some metal off. As it is, this is a sashigane, which need to measure precisely 15mm. It came to me from the factory a few thousandths of and inch shy of that in spots, total deviation in width was plus or minus .004″, kind’a poor when you think about it. Thankfully I was able to considerably improve the accuracy by only removing metal where there was already too much. I used a small diamond file on the hardened stainless, I don’t care for hand scraping thin edges.

My normal practice has been using a large machinist reference try square to check my sashigane. But wouldn’t you know it, I took the occasion to look at it on my surface plate a bit, measure it with my good micrometer, it sucks. The best way to check a carpenters square is a marking test, the proof is in the test of the line it lays down.


With sashigane to my satisfaction in hand I got back to task planing out some panels, and just wouldn’t be satisfied by this cheap bosch planer. I know this is a cheap tool, but sometimes…come on, no adjustment at all on the planer knife? And it comes badly askew from the factory in terms of the blades alignment to sole. Haha, as if the sole was in anything you could term alignment.


In machinist parlance, I believe what I’m about to do is called “putting lipstick on a pig”.

I think I voided the warranty.


A shim stack made from shoji paper leveled out the blade relative to the front sole. I had to lap out the front sole to flat with sandpaper on my granite plate so that the blade could be relative to something.

Might I introduce some instability by lowering the quality of fit for the bearing housing? Sure, but this is plastic, and the top of the bearing housing has a rubber bit that holds the bearing down against the bottom plastic housing, so its not like the engineers were struggling for tight tolerances with this anyway.

Other good shim materials .001″ or so: cigarette paper, the foil that poptarts are wrapped in. Get creative here!

In addition I aligned the back of the sole with the front by filing plastic away where the screws held the plate to the bottom housing. Its not perfect, but a damn sight better. This is the first project where I felt I needed the use of a hand planer. It can get me to within a little over  1/32″  of thickness, and has kept my elbow from getting shot pushing my Spiers jointer all day. Now I only push it half the day! The trade off is dust, choking dust that blankets every surface, stirred up by every passing foot fall. And noise, you enter a very closed off little world wearing hearing protection and dust mask.


I made great use of the plane across the grain. My Spiers  jointer was hand scraped against the large granite surface plate I showed earlier, a wonderfully accurate tool if the blade is sharp. I haven’t a bench dog and tail vise to clamp between, so this is a bit of a balancing act.

Now that the panel work is ready I need to sit down and finish detailing my drawing for the piece. Isn’t it about time I learned to use sketchup?


Making Kebiki Together


The daiku study group met again. We’re a varied group of craftspeople that understand the power and functionality of hand tools, always a cool group of people.

For today we started with a rip sawing exercise, cutting shims. It gives a lot of opportunity to correctly start cuts, and a feel for the saw in the cut as it rides the kerf. I didn’t do a good enough job explaining the exercise, it turns out the most challenging aspect for this was not the sawing, but correct marking, which is not at all surprising in light of the common difficulties for cutting more complicated timber joinery. The saw exercise for the next meetup will be lap joinery with backsaw/dozuki!

Interestingly, the one piece of kit that has been consistently absent from the tools that people bring is an appropriate sized rip saw for these common tasks of ripping lumber up to 4″ or so thick.


With the height of my bench surface we all ended up down on our knees while sawing, very natural.


Peter has this great little sashigane you can see on the bench in the foreground, perfect for smaller work, I just love it!


I was watching out of the corner of my eye as Peter cleaned up the radius of the keyed wedge for his marking gauge. He has a skill for making molding planes, good quality work using good quality Japanese chisels.


Its interesting to me that everyone very naturally maintains a consistent relationship of their head to the chisel. I go a bit farther and usually sit on the beam while mortising. The same relationship is maintained while paring down end grain by connecting your chin to the top of the chisel handle. Chisel/Body/Mind


Peter also has a very interesting set of Ray Iles Chisels, really solid construction and top quality steel. Its not every day you get to take a chisel like this in hand to try, they’re quite expensive.


We took as the model for our marking gauges one of the most commonly used in my shop for dimensioning and general layout work. A fence about 4″x3″, beam about eight inches , a keyed wooden locking wedge. As you can see we all got up to something a bit different. For instance, I wanted a double beam gauge for mortising, especially for scoring the sides of stopped dado. None of us were able to finish in the allotted time, which was partially by design. I’m hoping that this will encourage further work at home.


I used an exceptional little piece of oak for my fence, really dense stuff that required lots of sharpening for my kanna to plane properly. The beams are red oak, much more forgiving by comparison.


Odate shows a double beam gauge with separate wedges and mortises for each beam. I know that I’ve seen these where the beam shares the mortise, but I was unsure if it would create an adjustment problem, where tapping on one beam would change the other. And it is true that it does take a bit more care setting a measurement between beams, but I’ve so far found it not to be too tedious to use.

I hope that this meetup has expanded horizons, I know that I’ve learned from watching the work of others! I’m casting about for good ideas for the next time we get together, probably something along the lines of further developing fundamental skills, like making a matched set wooden straight edge locked with dovetail keys! That sounds like a good way to focus on bringing lumber to four sides square and a bit of re-sawing stock with bench vise or low saw horse. Not to mention a keyed sliding dovetail. I’m liking the exploration of joinery when it also creates a useful tool!