Introduction: No-frills Armoire
This is a fairly "minimalist" and reasonably functional armoire with a cabinet for hangers and a single drawer for all things that fold up.
The armoire is made up of the cabinet and base. There is no need to connect them since the cabinet is heavy enough that it will not move from the base under normal circumstances. Not screwing the cabinet to the base makes it easier to move the armoire, but you can certainly screw them together if you like.
The cabinet is made of 2 sheets of B-Grade Baltic Birch plywood (3/4" thickness, 13-ply, about $70 per sheet), plus an 80" x 40" sheet of 1/4" ply for the cabinet back and drawer bottom— any old plywood will do here. The base is made of a single beam of 3" x 3" pine (but a hard wood is preferable) about 100" long altogether. The drawer runs on primitive wooden runners; the doors swing out on readily available "full-crank" cabinet hinges. The hanger bar is a wooden dowel.
Step 1: Cut Your Plywood
From the 1st sheet you will cut:
— The two side walls of the cabinet, measuring 60" x 24"
— The top and bottom of the cabinet, measuring 36" x 24"
NB: Plywood sheets are not always square, so your dimensions may be reduced slightly by that factor. Try to buy square sheets (come to the lumber yard with a trusted square). In any event, you will lose 1/8" on each cut (width of the saw blade), so your dimensions will be a touch below those nice round numbers.
From the second sheet:
— The two doors: 45 3/4" x 17 1/4" (You will end up cutting them down a bit, but for now those dimensions will do)
— The middle shelf of the cabinet, separating the main section from the drawer, 36" x 24"
— The front panel of the drawer, 34 1/2" x 12"
— And the panels making up the drawer box: 2 boards of 34" x 10 1/2" and 2 boards of 18" x 10 1/2"
Step 2: Assemble the Cabinet — Pt. 1
— Take the four boards cut from sheet 1 — i.e., two side walls and the top and bottom of the cabinet — and cut a 45 degree bevel on either end of each board (bevels facing the same way, of course—inwards). (pic)
— Using a router or a dado blade + sled cut a through dado 3/4" wide and 3/8" deep in both side walls 12" up from the inner edge of the bevel (pic) NB: The dado should be on the same side as the bevel, i.e. the interior side of the cabinet.
If you have cut your bevels well then your cabinet top and bottom are still 36" on the long side. Take the remaining un-beveled "middle" board 36" x 24" and cut it down to 35 1/4" x 23 3/4". Now it will slide into the dado grooves.
Step 3: Assemble the Cabinet — Pt. 2
Glue up the cabinet.
— You don't have to use biscuits in the bevel joints, but they'll be a whole lot more accurate if you do. (pic — not a realistic-looking biscuit, I agree.)
— This is a somewhat cumbersome gluing operation that will probably require two people working together.
a) stand the side walls on edge
b) slip the middle board into the dados (put some glue in the dados first)
c) put glue on the beveled edges and attach the top and bottom.
Use strap-clamps (running parallel to the side walls, of course) to hold the cabinet together and make sure all your interior angles are perfectly straight. If you have access to very long clamps (over 70" long) place one or two diagonally, spanning two opposite corners of the cabinet to fine-tune the angles.
Step 4: Back of the Cabinet
You will notice that on one side of the cabinet the middle shelf does not reach all the way to the edge — it is 1/4" short. This side is the back of your cabinet.
Using a router, rout a rabbet 1/4" deep x 3/8" wide all around the back edge of the cabinet. (pic) If you don't have access to a decent router you can do this with a dado blade for every board separately before gluing.
Cut a sheet of 1/4" plywood 59 1/4" x 35 1/4" and drop it into the rabbet. (Your exterior cabinet dimensions are 60" x 36"; the rabbet leaves the walls 3/8 thick on all sides, so 60" - 2x3/8" and 36 - 2x3/8" gives you a back wall of 59 1/4" x 35 1/4")
Attach the back wall with brads along the edges of the cabinet and to the middle shelf.
Step 5: Prepare for the Drawer
We'll make a drawer of manageable depth of 18" — but our cabinet depth is 24".
— Place stoppers in the back of the cabinet, along the floor, at 18 3/4" to keep the drawer from sliding too far. (pic)
— Cut two large holes in the back wall (same pic) — this will allow air to escape when you push in the drawer; otherwise air pressure will push back and closing (or opening) the drawer would turn into an exercise.
— Cut ten strips of hard wood (birch or oak, etc.) 1/4" x 1/4" x 18" — these are the runners and guides for the drawer. Round the edges on one side, as in the picture — this can be done on a router table or simply by running the strips over a sander.
— Attach two strips to the cabinet wall on either side, about a 1/4" apart (or just a touch more — basically you need to be able to run another strip of the same width between them relatively freely. Waxing the strips later will help as well.) The strips should sit about an inch in from the outer edge and 6" from the cabinet floor. (See pics.)
Step 6: Assemble the Drawer — Pt. 1
— Take the four panels that make up the drawer box (2 panels of 18" x 10 1/2" and 2 boards of 34" x 10 1/2").
— Cut rabbets of 3/4" wide and 3/8" deep on either end of the shorter panels and pre-drill 4-5 screw holes along the rabbet groove. (Pics)
— Measure the depth of your rabbet to make sure it's 3/8" and cut down the longer panels by twice the rabbet depth — i.e., 3/4" — to 33 1/4."
At this point it would also be advisable to measure the width of the drawer opening to make sure it is a) perfectly square and b) is 34 1/2" wide at every point, top and bottom. If it is for some reason narrower, cut down your drawer's longer panels accordingly. The drawer should be 1/2" narrower than the opening and the longer panel should be 3/4" shorter than the drawer. (As you can see in the pic, the distance between the runners—this is also the width of the drawer—turned out to be 1/64" off; that kind of error is negligible.)
— Screw the drawer box together, constantly monitoring the interior angles — you want the drawer perfectly rectangular. (pic)
Step 7: Assemble the Drawer — Pt. 2
— Rout a rabbet 1/4" deep and 3/8" wide along the interior edge of the drawer box — just as you did with the back of the cabinet. (pic)
Again — if you don't have access to a router you could do this with a dado blade on each board separately before gluing. However you end up doing it, be sure to set the depth of the rabbet very precisely — you want the drawer bottom to be perfectly flush.
— Cut a panel of 1/4" ply measuring 33 1/4" x 17 1/4" and drop it into the rabbet groove. Nail down generously with nails or brads.
— Take 4 of the remaining 6 hardwood runners and attach them in parallel along the bottom of the drawer box. (pic)
— Take the remaining 2 runners and attach them to the sides of the drawer box 6" up from the bottom (pic)
Before attaching the side runners make sure they line up with the gap between the guides inside the drawer opening.
Step 8: Assemble the Drawer — Pt. 3
Take the panel measuring 34 1/2" x 12" — the front of the drawer — and make sure it fits snugly into the drawer opening. You will probably want to shave 1/16" - 1/8" on all sides of the panel to keep it from rubbing against the edges of the opening.
— Create an arc pattern measuring 4 1/2" across and 1 1/4" deep and mark off two handle "dips" on the panel, about 6" from either edge. Cut out the dips with a jigsaw. (pic.)
Note: ideally you would have access to a spindle sander; cut out the dips about 1/8" inside the line and sand down to the line with the spindle sander. If that isn't an option, I would still cut well inside the line, to be safe, then get down to the line by any creative means you can think of (hand saw, hand sander, bandsaw with a very fine blade...)
— Attach the drawer front to the drawer box with plenty of screws of 1" to 1 1/4" length. The side and bottom edges of the front panel should be flush with the runners, while the top should rise 1 1/4" above the top of the cabinet box. (Pic)
Note: you will certainly want to round the edges of the front panel — especially around the handle dips. This is best done before you attach the panel to the drawer box. Use a router with a roundover bit.
Step 9: Attach the Doors
Ideally, you will have left the door panels to lie flat and relax for a good few days. This will keep them from warping with time.
— Measure the opening of your main cabinet section — it should be 45 3/4" x 34 1/2. There should be about 1/8" gap between the door and cabinet edge and a 1/8" gap between the doors. Cut down the door panels to size: 45 1/2" x 17 1/16" (17" even will do just as well).
— Cut the same handle pattern into the facing edges of the door panels about 12" from the top. (You've cut the door panels from one continuous piece — keep their orientation to make sure the grain pattern flows from one panel to the other.) As in the last step, round the edges before attaching.
— Along the opposite edge of the door panels you will bore the hinge cups — to the dimensions specified by the hinge you end up buying. The hinge you need is the "full-crank hinge" designed for insert cabinet doors. Mine is 4 1/2" long and I am using 3 hinges on each side.
Attach the doors — follow the instructions of the hinge installation booklet.
Step 10: Construct the Base
— Mill 4 legs, measuring 3" x 3" x 10", 2 planks of 3" x 1 1/2" x 32" and 2 planks of 3" x 1 1/2" x 20". (Pic)
If your armoire will stand directly against the wall, and you have molding running along the floor, reduce the length of the shorter planks by the depth of the molding — i.e., if your molding stand out 1" form the wall, the shorter plank will be 3" x 1 1/2" x 19". This way the base will bump up against the molding, but the cabinet will sit flush against the wall.
— Cut rabbets 1" wide by 3/4" deep on either end of each plank.
— Cut corresponding mortises in the legs, 1" x 3/4" x 3". This will have to be done with a chisel — or on a router table and then with a chisel to square the corners.
Step 11: Taper the Base Legs
The base legs look nicer if they are tapered on 2 sides. This is done with a simple jig. To cut the jig:
— Mark off the leg as shown in the picture: the taper begins 3" from the top and eventually shaves 1" off each side.
— Place the leg on a board large and thick enough to accommodate the jig such that the edge of the board lines up with the mark 3" from top of the leg on one end and with the mark 1" in from the edge of the leg on the other end (See pic.)
— Now trace the outline of the leg on the jig board and cut out the traced shape. You don't need that spike on the fourth side — three sides are enough. (Pic) Measure the width of your jig board and set your table saw fence at that very width. Slide the jig through the saw and it will shave off everything that sticks out beyond perimeter of the jig. Now rotate the leg to the right and repeat this step.
Note: You can do this step before or after you have chiseled the mortises in the legs, but whichever way you do it — the tapered sides are the same ones that take the mortises.
Step 12: Assemble the Base
— Glue-up the base. Make sure the supporting beams are level with the tops of the legs — you want your armoire sitting on an absolutely even surface.
— If you absolutely must screw your armoire down to the base — attach strips of hardwood along the interior edge of the base, as shown, and drill up into the armoire floor.
Step 13: Hanger Rod
For the hanger rod use a dowel 1 - 1 1/2" in diameter and 34 1/2" long, mounted on closet rod flanges or brackets.
A dowel is better than an aluminum rod because you can stain it. The rod is mounted 5" - 6" from the top of the cabinet.
Step 14: Finish
— Round all the edges with a router / roundover bit.
— Sand the exterior and the interior, and the inside of the drawer and the dowel bar — to 300, or even 600 if you want an extra smooth armoire.
To achieve the prominent grain patterns shown in the photo: stain between the last two or three sanding levels; i.e., stain, wipe off, let dry, sand at 300; stain, wipe off, let dry, sand at 600... and maybe once more. Then finish with finishing oil — this will bring out the grain.
Step 15: Extra Credit
— Although the hinges will keep your doors pretty well aligned with the outer edge of the cabinet, to make sure they don't accidentally get pushed in put stoppers at the top and bottom of the main cabinet opening. You can use the arched shapes you cut out for hand openings.
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