Introduction: Sideboard Cabinet

This is an Arts & Crafts style cabinet made of solid wood.

The overall size of this project is 48” wide, 38 ½” tall and 13” deep. It has 5 drawers and 2 doors.

The primary wood is cherry. The door panels are tiger maple.  Any hardwood can be used for this project.

Through mortise and tenon joints are used to hold the case together and add a decorative element. Drawers are constructed using both half-blind and through dovetail joints. The doors are frame and panel construction.

The following steps provide an overview of the construction. The detailed process is pictorially documented in the attached PDF file.

Step 1: Project Overview

Sideboard Overview:
This project requires basic woodworking skills and access to woodworking machines. Woodworking machines have sharp cutting edges and are NOT forgiving. You should be properly trained  in the use of these machines. Ensure that you wear safety glasses and  hearing protection, use push sticks, hold-downs , clamps  and a cutting sled to cut the project parts safely.

This is a solid wood cabinet. The only plywood used is for the back and drawer bottoms.

The overall size of this project is 48” wide, 38 ½” tall and 13” deep. It has 5 drawers and 2 doors.

The primary wood is cherry. The door panels are tiger maple.  Any hardwood can be used for this project.

Through mortise and tenon joints are used to hold the case together and add a decorative element. Drawers are constructed using both half-blind and through dovetail joints. The doors are frame and panel construction.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being very difficult, this project  is a “7”.

Materials Needed:
Approximately  48 board feet of  rough sawn 1” thick cherry hardwood. (dividers, drawer fronts, backsplash and stretchers).
Approximate 8 board feet of rough sawn 1 ¼” cherry hardwood (cabinet sides).
1 @ 4’ x 8’ x ¼” cherry plywood (drawer bottoms and cabinet back)
Approximately 13 board feet of ¾” maple (drawer sides)
Approximately 6 board feet of  1” rough sawn poplar (web frames)
Figured hardwood for door panels (2 @ 12” x 22”)
150 and 180 grit sandpaper and 0000 steel wool.
Glue (Titebond III)
Bees wax and mineral oil

Tools & Equipment Needed:
Table saw with a cross cut sled
Band saw
Hand held jig saw
8” jointer
Biscuit joiner
Planner or  flat bed drum sander
Router (hand held and router  table)
Block plane
Bar or pipe clamps

Step 2: Project Plan

This is the front and side elevations of the project. You may decide to change the dimensions to better suit your needs. While I was building the project I decided to alter the backsplash and make it a little taller than this plan shows.

Step 3: Stock Prep

I started with rough cut boards that were a little less than 1 ½” thick and varied in width from 6” to 12”.

The purpose of this step is to surface the boards in order to identify the best pieces of lumber  for the component parts. Surfacing the boards will display the grain patterns and color of the wood.

Almost all of the components of the case will require 2 pieces of wood because of the depth of the cabinet is 13”. Careful grain matching is critical for all the external component parts. 

Size pieces to 7 ¾” wide so they can be joined on an eight inch jointer.

Make one face flat using a jointer for each piece of wood. .

Use a planner to make the opposite face flat .  Do not concern yourself with dimensioning the lumber to the exact thickness at this time.

Use a jointer to make on edge 90 degrees to the face.

Step 4: Basic Case Construction

Basic Contstruction:

The cabinet uses through morise and tenon joinery to attach the horizontal dividers and the sides.

The sides of the cabinet are 1" thick. The top and bottom are 7/8" thick and the middle horizontal dividers and drawer dividers are 3/4" thick.

The backsplash and front and back stretchers are 7/8" thick.

The vertical and horizontal dividers are attached using spline joinery.

Making the tenons on the top, bottom and mid horizontal divider:

Layout the tenons on the boards as shown in photo #1.Since the tenons go through the sides you want a very accurate fit.  The best way to achieve this is to use the mortises in the sides as a guide.

The top and bottom are 7/8” thick. The mortises are 5/8” tall. That means that there is a 1/8” shoulder on each tenon.

These tenons are through-tenons and are proud of the sides by ¼”. 

The top, bottom and middle divider should be cut to length, 48 ½” (this measurement takes into account the 1” thickness of the sides and the ¼” extensions). These pieces need to be cut exactly the same. Use a cross cut sled to do so.

After you layout the tenons, make a 1/8” deep cut 1 ¼” from the end on all three boards. Use a cross cut sled with a stop block.

After the shoulder cut is made, raise the blade to 1”, set the board on edge and cut the shoulders without changing the position of the stop block.

Use a band saw or jig saw and cut the ends off.

Step 5: Templates for Backsplash and Stretchers

There are several parts of this project that are shaped. There are two ways to cut these parts. One is to make templates using ¼” MDF and shape the parts with a hand-held router.

The other way is to generate the parts using a CNC router.

In this case I used to find a local CNC fabricator to generate the templates. I provided them line drawings of each part and they generated the templates accordingly.

I was so impressed with the work they did, I took it a step further and had them cut the joinery and shape the sides. I also had them create an inlay for the backsplash.

I provided the CNC fabricator the actual milled wood cut to rough size for the sides. I also provided them the wood for the backsplash for the inlay.

The shapes for front stretcher and backsplash I cut using the templates they generated. I did this because I wanted to build the case first to ensure a tight fit of these pieces.

I provided the CNC fabricator a JPEG file of the artwork and they generated the inlay using ebony and maple that I supplied. They also generated the side pieces. They cut the through-mortises, the blind-mortises and dados on the inside face and the curved shapes for the top and bottom.

I had to square the corners of the mortises but using a Shopbot CNC fabricator saved lots of time and more importantly provided exact placement of the joinery.

For shaping the backsplash and stretchers, use double sided tape to attached the pieces to their respective templates. Make sure the pieces are positioned correctly. Secure the template and board to a scrap piece of wood placed under the template to ensure that you do not cut into your work surface.

Use 3/4” flush cutting trim router bit with a top bearing. The length of the router bit should be 1” or longer. Position router bit so bearing is contacting the template and the cutting edge of the router bit is engaging the full thickness of the board.

In order to avoid creating tear out along the edge, you will need to do a “climb cut”. The stretcher is concave and the backsplash is convex, the direction of the cuts are opposite.

On the backsplash, work from the center and move to the ends.

On the front stretcher, start from an end and stop at the center, then go to the other end and repeat the process.

Step 6: Making the Drawers

You cannot cut the drawer components to final size until the web frames are in place and the drawer pockets are defined.

I used a Leigh dovetail jig to make the drawers. The front of the drawers are made with half blind dovetails. The back of the drawers are made with through dovetails.

Follow the instructions on your dovetail jig. Dry fit the drawers.

The sides and back of the drawers are ½” thick, the front is ¾”.

Measure and cut the component parts to size. Since the drawers do not have mechanical slides the fit of the drawers has to be tight.

NOTE: Cut the width and the height of the drawer components 1/8” oversize. You can use a hand plane to shave a little off to ensure a tight fit.

The bottom drawer panel is a ¼” thick cherry plywood (plywood varies in thickness depending on manufacture. Use a scrap piece of the plywood you are going to use as a thickness gauge).

A groove in the bottom edges of the drawer sides and front needs to be cut. The back of the drawer will not require a groove because it will be trimmed above the groove. The best way to cut the groove is with the table saw.

NOTE: It is easy to make a mistake and cut the groove on the wrong side or edge. Before you make any cuts, assemble all the drawers and place a pencil mark to indicate the placement of the grooves on each piece. Reference these marks when making the cuts to ensure that you are cutting in the correct place.

The sides are ½” thick. You want to set the depth of the groove at 5/16” and a ¼” wide. It will require multiple cuts on the table saw to achieve the correct width of cut. Use a sample piece of wood as a test piece.

Set the height of the saw blade to 5/16”. The drawer bottom should be about ½” from the bottom edge so set the table saw fence at ½”.

NOTE: You want the groove on the drawer front to be positioned inside the tail slot. This way the tail of the side piece will hide the groove.

Reset the table saw fence by 1/8” and make another cut. Repeat this process for all the drawer fronts and sides.

Continue moving in the fence in very small increments. Test the fit of the bottom panel after each cut. You want the bottom panel to fit snug but still will slide in the groove with gentle hand pressure.

The bottom of each drawer slides into the groove after the drawer is assemble. In order for this to happen,  the drawer backs will need to be cut to the top of the groove.

Each drawer back will have to be cut precisely. Assemble the drawers and mark the intersection of the back and top of the groove.

Cut the backs of each drawer so the groove in unobstructed when the drawer is assembled. Do a dry fit to ensure it is so.

Once the drawer backs are sized you are ready to glue the drawers without the bottom panel.

I use yellow glue applied with a small brush. Apply glue to the joints. You want to avoid squeeze out so spread glue judicially. 

Before you start gluing, prepare the clamps. I use parallel bar clamps. The top tow drawers are only 4 ½” tall and will need fewer clamps. The other drawers are taller and will require clamps on both the top and bottom.

There are two things that you must concern yourself with gluing up the drawers.

The first is to ensure that the drawers are square. The second is that the dovetail joints are squeezed tight and there are no gaps.

I used 2 corner braces to ensure the drawers are square. These braces are clamped to the sides once the outside clamps are tight. The corner braces ensure that the drawer is square.

Clamps are placed beneath and on top to ensure that the joints are closed and tight.

You should also measure the diagonals to check square.

Let the glue dry for at least 8 hours.

The bottoms are not glued in.

Step 7: Making the Doors

NOTE: The doors should be made slightly oversized so they can be custom fit. Do not trim the doors until the vertical dividers are in place. The door margins should be the same as the drawer margins.

The doors are made with 2” wide stiles and top rails. The bottom rail is 3” wide. All the door frames are ¾” cherry.

The door frames are made with mortises in both the door stiles and rails with loose tenons. Follow the same layout procedures and use a horizontal router or a hand held router to cut the mortises. The mortises for the top of the doors are ¼” high, 1 ¼” wide and ¾” deep. The mortises for the bottom of the doors is 2” wide.

Make sure the tenons are seated to the bottom of the mortises. Let the tenons dry.

The length of the tenons may need to be trimmed. Ensure that the joints come together tight.

Assemble the door without the panel. At this time the panel is oversized and needs to be cut to final size.

Measure from the inside of the grooves to determine the panel size.

Cut the door panels 1/16” less than the actual measurement in both the width and length. This will ensure that the panel will not bind and inhibited tight fitting joints. Use a sanding block and ease the edges of the panels.

Assemble the top and bottom rails to one of the stiles. Slide the door panel into position and then attach the other stile.

Dry clamp the door and make sure that the joints are tight. Make adjustments as necessary.

NOTE: Use glue sparingly to avoid unnecessary squeeze out.

Apply glue inside the mortises and tenons of the bottom rail. Position the rail into the stile. Apply glue in the grooves for the panel.

Slide the panel into position. Apply glue in the mortise, on the tenon and in the groove for top rail. Position the top rail.

Glue the other rail in position and clamp across the rails.

Make sure that the rails are flush to the ends of the stiles. Measure diagonally to ensure that the frame is square.

Step 8: Finishing

I used a wipe-on poly because I wanted the natural wood grain to be displayed and a good protective surface but you can use any clear finish. The photo above displays a few finishes.

Wipe-on polyurethane is easy to apply.

Follow the instructions on the can. Sand or steel wool between coats. I recommend a minimum of three coats.

Step 9: Detailed Construction Process

This PDF details the complete construction of the sideboard. It provides a step by step process on all the intricate construction methodology.