By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more

Workshop cupboard

Work in progress

All Topics | Latest Posts

Search for:  in Thread Title in  
Mr Maguire26/01/2009 19:10:19
265 forum posts
1 photos


I’ve been needing some sort of cupboard to store my finishes for a while now. (currently in cardboard boxes all over the workshop floor). I have just started the workbench build and when I looked at the large amount of timber that needed to be planed up, I decided…… actually the girlfriend decided it was time to buy a planner thicknesses ( I never thought I would say that) . Anyway, I was told it would be over a week until delivery so I thought that now would be a good time to build that cupboard.

Like most I don’t like spending on workshop furniture, I try to use off cuts whenever possible which is usually why it never gets done, but I had an old pallet from a recent job which had surprisingly wide boards. The picture below is how they came off and was taken before they were planned up by a friend. I know I could have done them by hand but I’m lazy and wanted to get it done.


Salvaged boards

I am currently working on a timber store for the next week so I can only work on this piece on evenings.

I hope to document this piece in quite a bit of detail so it could get lengthy. I hope you all enjoy reading it and It should give a good insight in to how I work.



Olly Parry-Jones26/01/2009 19:18:17
2776 forum posts
636 photos
I look forward to seeing what you can come up with.
Incidentally, when I realised that the plans for your bench indicated that it would be 8ft long, I was going to ask you how you were planning to prepare all that timber, without a planer thicknesser in your workshop!
Mr Maguire27/01/2009 22:54:01
265 forum posts
1 photos

Evening one

Having already had all the timber planed up (Thank the lord) I cut and shoot all the timber for the main carcase to length. When shooting soft wood like this it pays to use a freshly sharpened iron.
Once I got those to exact size I gauged the depth lines for the dovetails with the timber stacked like a set of stairs, I find this very quick. The wheeled marking gauge works very well when scouring across the grain which after all is half the battle. I then laid out the housings which will take the shelves. 

Gauging depth lines for the dovetails.

Once everything was laid out I set up for ploughing out a grove to take the back. When ploughing  narrow groves especially on softwoods I fine it much quicker to do it by hand  than with an electric router (What ever one of those is)

Ploughing grove to take the back.
I grooved both sides and the top to a depth of ¼ inch or so. I took just one pass along the bottom which left me an accurate line to cut to. You could measure and mark this line but I find this much more accurate.
Scored bottom after one pass with the plough plane.
Cutting to the waste side of the score line with a rip saw.
Followed by a few passes with a plane to bring it down to the line.

If your not following this, I am making the bottom narrower so the back can slide over it into the groves in the sides. All will become clear soon. (am basically making a big drawer)

When I was happy with the groves and bottom I started work on the joinery and first of…..the housings.
I used a backsaw to make to cuts, just splitting the knife line. When cutting wide shallow cuts, the saw has a tendency to jump out the cut especially on hardwoods. To over come this keep your saw sharp and the set down to a minimum. I practically removed all the set from my saw and rely on wax to stop it binding.

As a result you should end up with very clean and narrow cuts.
If anyone is interested in the saw, it’s a LN 14inch Crosscut. it’s a nice saw but I find the handle way too long and your hand ends up a long way from the blade which makes it quite difficult to steer the cut…this could be just me though.
Next take a chisel and whack out the majority of the waste working from both sides to prevent it from splitting out.

Chopping out waste.

Stop chiselling just short off the depth line and rout it to final depth. If you don’t own a router you can do this with a chisel, just take your time and keep your cuts light.

Using a router to give accurate, flat bottomed housings.

These router planes are real time savers and I certainly couldn’t live with out mine. I think this one is the veritas, it performs superbly and the depth stop is a real help. This one is a luxury compared to the one I made years ago, a block of hardwood with an old file as an iron….well it worked.
Once all that is done, I have a final clean up and prepare to dovetail.

Finished housings with flat, clean bottoms.
 It was getting quite late and the red wine was calling, but with the timber not being the best of quality I knew I had to get it dovetailed and assembled that night. As the dovetails would not be seen when the piece was finished there was no need to get them perfect. (so please don’t judge me by these joints)
Mr Maguire27/01/2009 23:11:38
265 forum posts
1 photos
I’d already gauged the depth lines, so all I needed to do was place some square lines along the end grain of the tail board. (The sides) These are the only marks I make when dovetailing.


The only marks needed to cut dovetails

I was just about to start cutting, when I turned around and bugger me… the miss’s was stood there with a cup of tea.



Biscuits would have been nice, but we cant have it all.

 Anyway I start cutting the tails by splitting the line with a back saw. You need to hold the saw at the appropriate angle from the start. If you try to correct this mid cut you’ll end up rounding the tails which will causes gaps. The actual angle you need to cut isn’t that important, that’s why I don’t mark it, its easy enough to do it by eye. The only important thing is that the cut be perfectly square along the end grain.


Sawing the first cut, eyeballing the appropriate angle

Once the first cut is complete, sit the saw in the kef line created by the first cut and saw the angle the other way. Do this until all the cuts are made on that tail board.



Note the saw is sat in the kef line created by the first cut.

While the timber is still held in the vice, I cut the shoulders. Cutting side ways with a coarse saw takes some practice but once mastered saves time. You have properly noticed I’m using a rather course tenon saw, well there no reason other than it cuts quick …..about two strokes a cut.

Once the shoulders are cut, use a coping saw to cut out the waste and then just pare to the line with a chisel.


The completed tails.

Once all the tails were done I placed the pin board in the vice, lined the tail piece up and struck a line through the tails into the end grain of the pin board. When I had marked around each tail I was ready to start cutting the pins. You don’t need to mark square down the face of the pin board, do it by eye. I chopped out the waste as before (trying not to chop the wrong bit out) and the joint it ready for glue. For a piece like this you don’t really want to spend anymore than 35-40 minutes dovetailing. After all they wont be seen.

Glue up time. I have a bad habit of not breathing when I glue up so it usually pays to get it done as quickly as possible. So grab a hammer, glue and a scrap of wood. Splat, splat, whack, whack, done.

The last thing for tonight is to fit the shelves, I wont fix them yet because they will only get in the way when I’m cleaning up. I just want to slide them in place to prevent them from cupping.

First of all you need to cut and shoot them to length. When ever I shoot end grain I always give the plane iron a quick touch up. There is nothing worse than planning off dust.


Shooting board to length.

When you go to fit the shelf you might find they’re too thick, don’t try to widen the housings it will only end in tears. Instead remove some thickness from the shelf, a few shavings should do it.


Fine tuning the thickness of the shelf.

Once I was happy with the fit, I slid the shelves in flush to the face of the cabinet and placed a pencil line on the shelf were it meets the grove on the sides. I removed the shelves “again” and ripped down the mark I just made. It did this on both shelves then slid the shelves back in and decided to call it a night.


Note how the shelves and bottom finish flush with the inside of the grove.
The assembled piece with a crap clamp holding every thing square.


Mr Maguire27/01/2009 23:13:34
265 forum posts
1 photos

Well that’s the first night over and time for that glass of red.

Thanks for taking the time to read, more tomorrow.


Olly Parry-Jones27/01/2009 23:33:27
2776 forum posts
636 photos
Excellent progress so far, Richard! Your work-in-progress photo's are brilliant as well - if you're not too careful, you might end up with one of those there "electric powered-tool-things" from the next competition!
I'm amazed that you cut your dovetails without "proper" marking out and that you do so much work with so many hand tools.
You said you'll pick up your workbench build once your planer thicknesser has arrived but, to be perfectly honest, I can't see a lot wrong with your current bench...? Or are you after a second one, to replace the workmate?
I like the "staircase" tip on using the wheel marking gauge, though it's probably not something you could do  with a bulky tradtional gauge on 1" boards.
Toothy28/01/2009 20:04:25
458 forum posts
67 photos
Most impressed
Should more of us not do more with hand tools
Using pine - not my favourite - sharp, really sharp tools are essential
I am looking forward to the next instalment.
Mr Maguire28/01/2009 21:41:41
265 forum posts
1 photos

Evening two

Well I didn’t have much time tonight so I aimed to just get the face frame on. First of all a good clean up was needed as the cold weather seems to make the glue dry white. Holding a piece like this on the bench can be a bit of a pain which is why I didn’t fix the shelves in place last night, I just slid them out and the piece suddenly becomes a lot easier to work around.


Carcase held in place ready for clean up, note the primitive yet effective holding.

When I was sure the piece wasn’t going to shoot to the other side of the workshop the second my plane looked at it, I began the clean up procedure. I use my no7 to do this working from both ends to prevent it form splitting out. I planed the sides first (long) then adjusted the holding set up for the top and bottom. Next I placed the piece on top of the bench and ran my plane over the face, just to make sure all the joints lined up; if they didn’t the face frame wouldn’t sit flat and there would be gaps. When I was happy with that I began work on the face frame.

The face frame consists of three parts, a top and two sides. Normally I would put one along the bottom but it makes it a pain in the a*** when you’re putting stuff in the cupboard. I ripped the parts on the band saw and cleaned them up with a plane before marking out for the mortise and tenons. I then chopped the mortises about half way through (I suppose this is where a biscuit jointer comes in).


Chopping the mortises. The old bolster type chisels are brilliant.

When I reached the depth I cleaned the bottoms out and began work on the tenons.

When I cut any joint I try to get it to fit straight off the saw, the key to this is accurate marking.


Cutting tenon


The finished cut should just split the line.
Mr Maguire28/01/2009 21:43:34
265 forum posts
1 photos

Once I had cut all the cheeks on both tenons I cut the shoulders. I don’t bother clamping the piece down I just throw it against a bench hook, again try to split the line. I did drift of slightly on one of them but it only took a couple of passes with a shoulder plane to bring right.

After spending a couple of minutes cleaning up it was time for another glue up. I splatted some glue in the mortises, spread it about a bit and assembled the frame. I used a clamp to pull the joints tight then bored a hole and pegged them.

A little tip, if you put a little chamfer around the mortise it will stop excess glue squirting out the shoulder line when you pull the joint up tight.


Assembled face frame

After removing the clamp I prepared to glue the frame to the carcase. I made the frame slightly larger than the carcase so if anything was out it didn’t matter and I also tacked a baton along the bottom of the face frame to keep it square while I glued up. Fixing it on was a case of gluing the face of the carcass, laying the face frame on evenly and clamping up. I will reinforce this when the glue has dried.


The face frame in place

Anyway ice road truckers was on so I slid the shelves back in and called it a night.



Woodworker29/01/2009 10:57:19
1745 forum posts
1 photos
74 articles
This is turning out to be a fantastic series Richard. Can't wait for the next installment! Keep 'em coming.

Love the mortice chamfer / glue squeeze out tip!

Mr Maguire29/01/2009 22:50:58
265 forum posts
1 photos

Evening three

I managed to get in the workshop mid afternoon today. The plan was to get the door done and possibly the moulding. Before all that though I need to clean up the face frame. To start with I cut the excess timber off each end of the face frame, then using the same holding technique as before, planed it flush to the carcase. After cleaning up I think it’s time to see how the dovetails went…



Well I don’t think they went too bad.

Anyway, with that cleaned up “again” I put it out of harms way and started work on the door. I used some beach off cuts from my workbench as I didn’t trust the wood from the pallet for the door. I glued three lengths up to form what would be the panel (I should have glued them up last night but forgot), a couple of hours in the clamps should be long enough ….. I hope. After setting that aside I started work on the frame, this would be mortised and tenoned and I would also wedge and peg each joint which should prevent it from sagging in years to come.

I started by marking out the location of the mortises on the stiles (I think that’s what there called) the mortises would go all the way through so I marked on both sides.


Stiles marked out… ready to start chopping.

I started chopping from the inside face until I got about half way through, then flipped the piece and chopped the rest out from the face side. Once they were all cleaned up I splayed the mortises a little bit in order to take the wedges. Next I ploughed a grove along the inside edges of both the rails and the stiles which would take the panel.


Ploughing a grove along inside edge.

When I was happy with the grooves I planed a little thumb nail moulding along the face side. I did this with a shoulder and block plane taking my time here to get them all the same, as they would be meeting up in the corners. It was then time to cut the tenons on the rails, I cut these the same way as I did on the face frame. Because I put a little thumb nail moulding around the groove, it made what would be a simple joint into a much more complex one. I had to mitre the moulding and remove it altogether over the mortises. I took care to get this bang on as it would look crap if there were any gaps.


Mitring the moulding. Note the simple jig used to make the mitres.

Well two of the tenons fitted right off the saw but the other two didn’t… a couple of light strokes with a large shoulder plane and a bit of moaning soon sorted that out.

At this point I also took the time to cut a couple of kef lines in each tenon to take the wedges.

Mr Maguire29/01/2009 22:55:04
265 forum posts
1 photos
Its time to see if that panel has dried, to be honest it had no choice, it was coming out the clamps anyway.

I got the panel clamped to the bench and began to thickness it. It didn’t need too much off as I re-sawed it pretty close to start with.


Thicknessing panel.

I then cleaned it up with my no7 and measured up accurately and cut the panel to size, I cut it slightly smaller to allow for expansion. It was then ready to start raising or “fielding” the panel. I firmly clamp it to my bench and also clamped a baton to run my plane along. I use my No.10 1/4 for this job which works very well, I hold the plane at the appropriate angle and run it along the baton until I get to the right depth.


Working on the panel.



Close up of the panel. Note the baton which I run the plane along.


 One day I will treat myself to a panel raising plane but until then this will done fine.

I did a quick dry fit to check everything fitted ok and I also measured up for the wedges while it was all together.


Dry fit.

Before I glued it I cut some wedges and made some pegs, better to do this now than when it is glued.

I also took the time to paint the outside edge of the panel as I didn’t want it to shrink and leave an area unpainted. Once I got that glued up I pulled it all together with some clamps and knocked the wedges home, then I bored out some holes for the pegs and knocked them in.

Well I’m ahead of schedule. (that’s never happened before)

I grabbed another piece of beach to form the moulding. This wasn’t actually an off cut but never mind. If you’re going to mould by hand its pretty important to use a straight grained piece of timber. I drew on the rough shape that I wanted on the end grain and then went to work with my primitive set of hollow and rounds.(I must invest in a good set…hmmm Philly planes come to mind). For anyone who has never made a moulding by hand I think you would be surprised how little time it takes. I also never sand the plane strokes out, personally I quite like them.


Working on the moulding. Note how I use a wide piece of timber, this makes it easier to clamp down. I just rip the moulding off when I’m done.

As I was ahead of schedule I decided to get the finish on the piece. First though I had to plane the door to fit, they wasn’t much to come off so it didn’t take long. I painted the carcass and the door and got the moulding stained and oiled.

And that’s the end of this part.

With any look, I should get this bloody thing finished tomorrow. Ill get up early and put a couple of coats of shellac on the moulding and another coat of paint on the door and carcase.



Mr Maguire30/01/2009 18:30:57
265 forum posts
1 photos

Evening Four

Well I did get up early, I was in the workshop for 6:30 shellacking and painting, then it was off to work…for all of an hour. The digger didn’t turn up. Still I didn’t want to go in the workshop until the paint had dried, I would only cover it in dust.

Anyway, I got back in the workshop just after dinner and made a start on mitring the moulding. I lay the moulding on the carcase and marked a pencil line where it needed cutting, following that I placed it against a bench hook and cut the mitres. The fastest and accurate way I’ve found to cut mitres believe it or not is by eye, all you need is a mark on the internal part of the mitre. Use a fine cross cut saw and saw the angle “sharper” than you need, then test fit the mitre (which obviously wont fit) and fine tune it with a good sharp low angle block plane…or just use a chop saw.

When I felt I had the fit right I bored some ¼ inch holes in the moulding, I then spread a bead of glue along the back and clamped it in place, quickly I bored through the existing holes into the carcase and pegged it. Now I know this isn’t the best way to fix a moulding with all the cross grain, long grain dilemma, but I was in a hurry and I doubt they will be that much movement anyway as the cupboard is quite narrow. (still there’s no excuse)

I found that once every thing was fixed, one of the mitres had opened very slightly, to over come this I used a trick I learnt when skirting houses out. This is a true bodge… simply run the shaft of a screw driver along the mitre…done.(I probably should have kept that to my self)


The art of bodge.
I didn’t want to knock that around much until the glue had set, so now was a good time to start work on the French cleat, which is my preferred method of hanging cupboards. Again I used another piece of beach for this, I cut them slightly over length, put them in the vice and scrub planed the rough angle. I then followed over that with my no7.


Forming the 45 degree angle on the French cleat.

I cut one of the cleats to the internal width of the cupboard and the other to the external width. The shorter one would be fixed to the wall and the longer one to the cupboard. I had an old off cut of ¼ inch ply which I would use for the back, I cut it to size with a hard point saw (my favourite being the spear and Jackson predator) I slid it in place and was just about to fix it when I remembered…”shelves”…bugger. I slid it back out and fix the shelves in place using glue. I put the ply back in “again” and fixed it to the bottom with one screw.


A shabby piece of ply as the back.
Mr Maguire30/01/2009 18:36:08
265 forum posts
1 photos

Door hanging time. I had already planed the door to fit last night before painting so I laid the cupboard on its back and placed the door in the opening. Having the shelves is a big help here. When they was an even gap around the door, I laid the hinges in place. My preferred method for piloting for the screws is to use a gimlet, I find it very easy to place accurate holes, I also waxed the screws a bit as they were brass. While it was on its back I fitted the knob, it was one of those easy screw on ones.
When I stood the cupboard back up again, to my surprise the door didn’t need any further trimming.
All that was left now was the catch and to fix the cleat to the back.
I think I’ll start on the clasp first. I decided to use a roller catch as I have “hundreds” in the van. These can be quite tricky to fit perfect but I have a good trick which works every time using mitre fix.

First you need to fix the clasp where you want it, I chose to fit it under one of the shelves.
Then you need to spray the activator on the door, roughly where the pin part of the catch will be.
Place the pin part of the catch in the roller (which I fixed to the shelf ) and squirt a little bit of glue on the back of the pin.
Close the door and wait a few seconds.
When you open the door the pin part of the catch should be stuck to the door exactly were it needs to be, all you need to do now is screw it in place
Simple trick to fit a roller catch.

Home run now. I had to notch the back of the French cleat so that it would sit flush to the back and screw it in place. I also screwed a baton along the bottom so the cupboard would hang level.


French cleat attached to back.

The baton along the bottom to ensure the cupboard would hang level.

I fixed The shorter cleat to the wall with six, four inch spax. As it was a block wall I double plugged each hole with brown plugs. When I was satisfied the cleat was fixed firmly, I lifted the cupboard onto the cleat.

Mr Maguire30/01/2009 18:39:39
265 forum posts
1 photos
 Well…we’re finished.


Finished cupboard hung in place.


Close up of the moulding.


Filled with finish and bits.

Well I’m sure you will agree its no award winner, but in a few evenings of easy and pleasant work I have turned what would have been fire wood into something usable. Not only that, I’ve had the experience of doing something I never thought I would, and that is writing about what I love. Just over a year ago I could barely spell my name, never mind documenting a furniture build. Thank you all on the forum for giving me the inspiration to learn.

Thanks for reading…more soon


All Topics | Latest Posts

Please login to post a reply.

Magazine Locator

Want the latest issue of The Woodworker & Good Woodworking? Use our magazine locator links to find your nearest stockist!

Find The Woodworker & Good Woodworking 

Support Our Partners
Felder UK April 2016
Wood Workers Workshop
Transwave 2017
Robert Sorby
Marriott & Co
Craft Supplies
D B Keighley
Turners Tool Box
D&M Tools
Subscription Offers

Subscribe to<br />    The Woodworker Magazine and receive a FREE gift

Contact Us

We're always happy to hear from you, so feel free to get in touch!

Click here to find who to contact