Introduction: How to Make an Apothecary Cabinet

About: Hey, This is Alpaca Studio.

I built this apothecary cabinet last week in my workshop. And here is the video of the building process.

It's a 400mm*400mm cabinet which has 9 small drawers and 2 large drawers. I used 4/4 beech to build the outside part of the cabinet. To make the cabinet lighter, I used 15mm birch plywood to build the inner section. I used some beech strip to cover the edge of the plywood so that it won't be seen from the outside.


4/4 beech

15mm birch plywood

tung wood panel *(see update1)

11* drawer pull

The detailed dimension can be found here:

update 1:

Someone told me in the comments that tung wood panel does not exist. So I checked Google and here is the answer. The wood panel I used is actually called Paulownia. Both Paulownia and Tung is called “桐” in Chinese. I subconsciously thought these two species are the same. This wood is extremely light and easy to work with.

Step 1: Dimension the Lumber

Most of my projects start with this step. All my rough saw beech needed to be strictly treated by my jointer, my miter saw, my planer and my table saw. After all these steps, I finally got some useful dimensioned boards.

Sometimes I might rearrange the order of this process. but this time, I started with the miter saw. I first cut the very end of each board to remove the split part of the wood. The blue paint is also removed at the same time. Then I used my jointer to get two flat surfaces which are perpendicular to each other. I put the lumber on the table saw to square two edges. finally, I used the planner to bring all the boards to the same thickness. The thickness here is 20mm.

Step 2: Cut the Dovetail ( Pins)

I used the table saw to cut the pin first. I set the angle to 7 degrees which is the same as 1:8. This is the fastest way I found to cut the pin. Then I used a coping saw to cut the most of the materials.

Step 3: Cut the Dovetail (tails)

Step 4: Cut the Grooves

The plywood is 15mm thick. You can use either a router or a table saw to cut the groove which fits the plywood. If you have a dado saw blade. this job can be done in several minutes. But I don't have one. So I just move the fence gently and cut the groove step by step.

Step 5: Cover the Plywood Edge With Beech

To hide the edges of the plywood, I cut some beech strips slightly thicker than 15mm. I glued the strip to the plywood and used some tape to clamp them.

After the glue dried, I used my router to trim all the excess material. This allows you to have a flush surface. Tips: you can clamp all three panels together. This makes the works much easier.

Step 6: Resaw the Wood

I want to use 5mm beech for the back panel. However, I don't have a bandsaw large enough for this kind of job. So I decided to use the table saw. Normally, I don't recommend you to do this kind of work. First, you will lose more material. Secondly, you need to be extremely careful when you dealing with the table saw. The height of the wood is limited as well. Since I only need 10 cm board. So my table saw still can handle the job.

Step 7: Assembly the Main Body

Step 8: Cover the Plywood Edge With Beech 2.0

It' always good to have more material than what it really needs. Because it's easier to trim flush with a hand plane than to glue on more wood.

Step 9: Make the Drawer (1)

The cabinet has 11 drawers. If you want to dovetail all the drawers, It can take you a few days. So here I choose to use a quick way which I found in the woodworking book. It's not as strong as dovetail drawer. But it's strong enough for drawers like this size.

All you need to do is use the table saw to cut grooves on the edge. The structure is shown here. You can understand how to make it when you see it.

Step 10: Make the Drawer (2)

To get a nice fit, I plane the sides of the drawers. And I also add some drawer pulls which I found online. These pulls are made of brass. The screws are kind of brittle. Rember to predrill the hole and drill in a steel screw first. This prevents the brass screws from broken.

Update 2

I found these pulls on Taobao which is the personal version of Alibaba. It might not be available outside China mainland. BUT, I found the same kind of products on Amazon.

Here is the link:

Also, try "apothecary cabinet pulls" and you can find more somewhere else.

Step 11: Finish With Boiled Linseed Oil

I used boiled linseed oil to finish the whole piece. I really like how the color and grain turned out. I might apply some PU later together with some of my other projects.

So, here is the cabinet.

If you like this one please check some of my other projects on my youtube channel.
Appreciate it if you give me a thumb up on the video. If you have any question about the process, let me know in the comments.

Have a good day!

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