Introduction: Cabinet W/ Dovetails & Secret Drawer

About: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check out my site @

This mahogany cabinet features 10 thin dovetail drawers (plus one secret bottom drawer). I built this for my maker-space which needs a lot of storage, and I wanted to create a classic look.

Step 1: Cutting Materials

I began with cutting up some beautiful mahogany plywood for the main cabinet skeleton, and then I moved on to cutting up wood for the drawers.

I'm using maple for the sides and back, and mahogany for the fronts, and since there will be 10 drawers, there was a lot of cutting to do here.

Once I had the pieces cut the up, I went inside and marked them all, cause that's key here, what's front, back, bottom, up, right, left on each piece.

Step 2: Dovetailing

Once all the pieces were marked, the next step is doing the dovetailing. I'm using a jig and a router. The set-up is where you have to put all your effort and it takes some time, but once you get that right, and once you've marked out all your pieces correctly, the whole process of cutting the tails and the pins is fast and easy.

Step 3:

Next, I'm routing outer grooves on the two side pieces, so the drawers can slide on two pieces of wood. I'm using a stop block to make sure I don't route down the complete piece, and that's important so you don't have a gap in the front of the drawer.

Also, routing the inner grooves for the bottom to fit inside each drawer.

Step 4: Assembly

Now all the pieces are prepared and the drawers are ready to get glued together.

Of course, 10 drawers - 50 distinct pieces which can't be swapped out or interchanged for each other is quite a lot, so it took a little while to glue all of them together.

Step 5: Finishing

Now sanding time, and then finishing. And I'm using a water based polyurethane on all the drawers.

Step 6: Main Cabinet Structure

Then let set the drawers aside a minute, and work on the cabinet. I've cut up a bunch of plywood, and here I'm making pocket holes on smaller pieces that will connect everything together.

I'm kind of building a skeleton for the drawers to fit inside. It's essential to use some sort of corner clamp system to ensure that you have everything at 90 degrees when connecting the pieces together .

Step 7: Wooden Slides (Runners)

I'm not using metal drawer slides for the drawers, hence the grooves on the outer sides of drawer. Instead I'm having the drawers ride on wooden strips. I'm just cutting up a bunch of maple strips on the table saw, and I'm using the feather board to make this cut where I'm pushing through on the inside in between the fence and the blade, it's a great technique when you want to cut really thin pieces of wood repeatedly without re-measuring.

Then I drilled three holes, countersunk, in each piece.

Step 8: Connecting the Slides

I secured a strip on each side of the cabinet, and then pushed a drawer in.

Once I was happy about the position of the first drawer, I was able to mark from there all the other drawers, and I used a spacer block for consistency.

Step 9: Waxing the Slides

I used a block plane to taper the fronts of the wood runners, so the drawer could more easily grab them. And then I did a lot of testing to make sure the drawers were moving well. And here you can also see the stopping point of the grooves, which acts as a stop for the drawer fronts.

To make the drawers slide easier, I sanded all the wooden strips with my mineral oil wax polish, and this makes a huge difference, and keeps the dust down. It slides on a lot easier, and here I'm just testing them all.

Step 10: Hardware

I created a template for marking the holes of the knobs and the label holder, and this made it so much faster, than measuring and marking out 10 drawers individually.

I finished the fronts with some tung oil wax polish to make them nice and smooth, and then I put on the hardware. Since these drawers are so wide, I decided to use two knobs on each, cause I really like that look. And to keep track of what's inside each drawer I got some really nice thin label holders.

Now this mahogany plywood is pretty amazing, and matches the actual mahogany wood very well. But to cover the raw edges of the plywood I'm using some mahogany edge banding that I'm just ironing on.

Step 11: Secret Drawer

There's a gap at the bottom of the cabinet, after the last drawer goes in, and I really wanted to something practical with that space. Ideally I wanted a piece of wood that looked more like trim, but still functioned as a drawer - perhaps a secret drawer. So I worked with an idea of having a pivet point come out on the side, next to where your feet will be which you can push and which would open the drawer a touch, enough to open it up completely with your fingers. There's a spring that pulls the mechanism back again once you pushed the drawer out.

Step 12: The Door

Next up I'm working on the door for the narrow cabinet on the right of the drawers. To continue the look of the drawers, I'm using inset hinges and I've got this jig to help me line them up correctly. First I drill the holes on the door, then I line up the marks on the inside of the cabinet. I had to make a hole in the divider piece in order to fit the drill through as you can see here, but it worked out.

When I knew the door fit in place, I put on matching hardware. And I really like how these hinges just click in place, makes it really easy to take off the doors if you need to.

Step 13: Conclusion - Watch the Video

To see the entire build and how it turned out, make sure to watch the video!