Introduction: Dovetailed Walnut Wall Cabinet

About: Engineer by trade, amateur woodworker and author in the off-hours. Most commonly, I build flag boxes for retiring military members and occasionally gifts and furniture when the opportunities arise. Outside of …

Although jewelry boxes are a staple in most homes, small ones rarely include enough space to hang necklaces. The only option left is to spring for a free-standing box that has the hooks and racks to hold your hanging accessories.

This cabinet mounts on a wall and is small enough to not take over your room but also includes enough space to hang a multitude of necklaces and includes plenty of drawers for smaller objects.

The box is also a good exercise in joinery techniques. As space is at a premium, the material needs to be thin but still strong. I resawed just about everything from 1-2" thick material down to 1/2", 1/4" or less It will require multiple through dovetails, dadoes, laps, and other cuts by hand to put everything together.

You'll need a good setup around the workshop to pull this off, but at a minimum you'll need a tablesaw, a dovetail jig/router, a bandsaw, and a few hand tools. I also made significant use of a thickness sander and planer to clean up all the resawed parts, although a hand plane or sander can help out instead.

Most of the hardware was acquired from Lee Valley Tools.

Walnut knobs were found at Paxton Hardware.

Let's get started!

Step 1: The Outer Case

First things first, decide how big you want your cabinet to be. I based mine off the widest piece of walnut I had available to make into the sides. This made it ~21" tall and 9" deep, giving me 12" for the necklaces and 3.5" of depth in each of the drawers.

Mark the cut lines of the stepped "L" shape and cut them on a bandsaw or equivalent, making sure to keep everything very straight. You can also file or hand plane the resulting edges if you have any deep scratches.

And we get to the first fun step. Unless you're starting with 1/2" material, you'll have to resaw this beast down to the size you need. Split the edges on your table saw and if possible, cut the upper section on a bandsaw. To get through the rest, you'll have to stand the piece upright and use a hand panel saw to slice the rest. Take your time and let the saw do the work.

Once you've got the sides cut, do the same for the top and bottom. We'll be cutting through dovetails in the corners so account for the overlap when you make your measurements.

The bottom will be flush with the front of the case while the top will need to overlap by 1/2" to allow room for the pin hinges to sit.

Step 2: The Inner Case

On top of the four sides, there will be 2 shelves on the inside plus 3 dividers which all need to be installed in one shot. I added a single dovetail to the front of each one and allowed that to morph into a dado in the back of the case. Use your dovetail jig to cut the individual tails, transfer the measurement to the sides of the case, and cut the pins with a handsaw. Once this is complete, use a router with a straight bit to bore a dado through to the rear of the case.

For the drawer dividers, measure and cut another set of dadoes, this time on the underside of the upper divider, both sides of the middle, and the top of the base.

The back was made again of solid walnut. Resaw a few pieces down to <1/4" and glue them up so you have a flat panel that's wide enough for the space. Use a small straight router bit (a carbide spiral upcut bit works well) and an edge guide to cut the border.

Lastly, measure and drill the 1/8" holes to mount the pin hinges at the corners of the upper cabinet.

Once you can dry-fit everything and have it be square, add the glue and a few pin nails to hold everything together.

Step 3: The Drawers

Warm up your router. Time to polish the dovetail skills. Since we're working with such small spaces, build your drawers from 1/4" thick or smaller material. I got at least 3 out of each 1" board, even with the sanding in between. Get them close to the spaces you made in the case.

For the bottom, we'll again use solid walnut. Cut a dado along each side for the bottom to slide along, then raise the tablesaw blade and cut the back of the drawer away. This allows you to assemble the drawer and then slide the bottom in after the fact. When assembled, the drawers should be flush with the front and rear of the cabinet. We'll add the fronts next.

For the fronts, cut a single board into two 1/2" pieces and use them to make the fronts. This will allow you to have an uninterrupted grain pattern along all the fronts that is also mirrored top to bottom. Once the drawers are fitted and sanded, glue the fronts in place.

Drill a hole in the middle of each drawer front for the knobs and use a router to round over the edges.

Since the upper drawers were rather narrow, I opted to add a second set of carriers inside that could be lifted out. These were down in the 3/16" thick territory and required some very careful cutting. I used single tablesaw kerfs to hold the corners together and a thin dado to mount the center divider/handle.

Step 4: The Doors

Similar to the drawer fronts, mill a single board that you can mirror left-to right across the cabinet. Using a small bit, round over the outside edges on both sides. Install the pin hinges per the instructions, and test fit each one.

If you want to use a catch or lock, install that as well. I used a barrel lock along the top and drilled the door so that only the very front would be seen.

Source for Hinges

Step 5: The Rose

I can't claim credit for the intarsia rose. It's based on a plan by Robert Ardizzoni and published in Scrollsaw Woodworking & Crafts magazine as well as their compilation "Creating Wooden Boxes on the Scrollsaw". Although he used walnut to make the blossom as a lid to a smaller box, it works equally well as a focal piece.

Using Padauk will give you a red blossom but if you want a different color, make yours out of maple and dye it as needed. Dyes are available in a number of colors: Woodcraft's Blue Dye

Cut your pattern and shape it as needed with a scrollsaw and rotary tool.

Thin some dye with denatured alcohol and brush on several coats to give you the color you're looking for. Be careful, as the color can be impacted by splatters and thicker/thinner coats. Glue each piece together with CA glue and attach the blossom to a thin backing board. Carefully stain the back and give the piece a high-gloss finish.

Step 6: Finishing

One last operation to go! Clean up all of your mistakes and stain all the parts to the correct color. Once it's dry and you're happy, add the polyurethane. Mine took at least 5 coats between fighting the dust and elements.

After completing the case, add the hooks to the top of the cabinet for your necklaces.

Complete the assembly by attaching the hinges, rose blossom (if you went that route), and hangers/cleat on the back. Add some wax to the drawer slides and edges of the doors so everything moves cleanly.

Once your happy with the product, give it to your special someone :)

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