Assembling Cabinetry


Assembling major parts of a cabinet that you’ve spent months working on doesn’t need to be stressful if you get everything you might need ready before hand. Clamps already the right length, the right hammers and scrap block, a wet rag in easy reach, and a way to check for square and adjust after the joint is together.

I’ve got to keep my writing today brief, its literally freezing in my trailer this morning and typing lets my hands get too cold. I want to get into the shop and warm up sawing or planing some shit.

Even having everything at the ready I glued up only one side at a time of the dovetailed bottom.


Moving down to some low saw horses the shelf panels were set into their mortise/groove.


And the dovetails glued and tenons driven home. If you’re thinking, thats an odd looking cabinet, you’re right. Its a built in, made to fit an odd shaped opening into a bedroom closet that happens to be beneath the 12/12 pitch of the roof, thus the angle on the top of the cabinet. Lots to come together here, a very focused few moments of getting it all together.

All of these pieces have been finish planed and worked with a card scraper, so there’s the extra challenge of not wanting to ding or scratch too much. In the lower shelf area you can see there are further grooves for the rest of the shelving, and three parallel grooves on the front of the cabinet for the sliding doors.


With the glue drying I cut my wedges for securing the mechi (stub tenons) from the same white oak I used to peg the sliding dovetail rod tenons. Last time I used a wedged tenon I glued the wedges, this time no glue at all, just pure joinery. What am I spending all this time on cutting complicated joinery if I can’t trust it to hold without glue? Well, I’ll find out…

Make sure to make your wedges plenty longer than you’ll need. I needed mine to be, theoretically, 3/4″. I cut them out at 1-1/8″ length, and they drove deeper than I thought they would.


I started all of the wedges at the same time. It seems to be important to  drive them down relatively equally .


Just how hard are you supposed to pound these in there anyway? I pounded them in with the clamps on out of fear that the hammer blows might cause the cabinet side to back off the shelf.


I don’t have a flush cutting saw so I used a couple thicknesses of paper to hold the saw blade slightly above the surface and keep the teeth from scratching up the panel.


A few passes of the block plane flushed them up with the panel.


With the dovetails planed flush I slid on the skirt’s sliding dovetail keys.


And slid it over into position with taps of my genno.


Now its ready for the rest of the shelving, the tongue and groove pine backing, sliding doors, and casters on the bottom to get things rolling. You know the one thing I completely forgot in the design? Some type of handle or pull so that the unit can be moved in and out of its opening….I spent last night looking at lots of hardware, too many choices. I like flush ring pulls like you might find on a boat, I could also see a forged iron ring pull. Any ideas of what would look good? Leave me a comment below, thanks!

2 thoughts on “Assembling Cabinetry”

  1. Great looking cabinet. One question, did you glue either your dovetails or your small tenons holding the frame together?


    1. The dovetails are glued, the stub tenon’s are not. Glue is a good thing, I didn’t use it because I wanted to see how well the joints held with just wedging. So far so good, but time will tell.

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