Scobie Collector’s Cabinet, Part 1
Words and photos: Neil Scobie
This small stand-alone cabinet is designed to contain collectibles or jewellery. The drawer unit can also be made without the plinth to sit on an existing cabinet. You can of course add more drawers or change the dimensions to suit your needs. You can also modify the legs and corner posts if you wish. The profile used is one of my own design, modelled off a cow or sheep’s foot — I like to call them hamburger legs.
I had the highly figured red cedar that the panels are made from stashed away for about ten years, just waiting for the right project
to use it on. The end and back panels were bookmatched from two slices taken from a cedar board, while the top panel and drawer inlays were also consecutive slices off the one board. I chose jarrah for the panel frames and plinth because it blends well with the red cedar, is strong in small sections and hard enough to resist bumps.
Machine the timber to size, 30mm thick and 40mm wide, leaving these lengths longer than required. Using a beading cutter (photo 1), rout a slot in the middle of the 30mm wide face. Next, rout the outer edges of the corner posts with a table edge bit (photo 2). Note the fence has the shape of router cutter removed so the posts are supported next to the cutter.
While routing the corner posts it is a good idea to rout the plinth legs as the processes are the same. These are a bit bigger than the corner posts in section: 45mm wide x 35mm thick. Rout the inside slot with the beading bit all the way up the front edge and inner edge (photo 3).
Once again, use the table edge cutter to rout all four outer edges of the legs (photo 4).
With the corner posts, you need to saw off the internal two edges at 45°. On my tablesaw I can angle the blade to 45° and adjust the fence to suit. You can see my practice piece in photo 4.
Saw one side, then flip the post over to rout the second corner with the same fence setting. Allow enough waste to joint off 1mm after sawing.
Next, rout a slot or groove in the corner posts to accept the tongue on the side frames. Use a rebate cutter that cuts 4mm wide and 5mm deep. The back corner posts have the grooves in both faces while the front posts are grooved 4 only on the side that takes the side frame (photo 5). The chalk marks ‘NO’ are to remind you not the rout that face.
Machine all the frame timber to size and drop saw to length. I used domino joints as this is the quickest way for me to join the pieces. If you want to use mortise and tenon joints, you will need to add the length of the tenons to the cross rails. Photo 6 shows the jig I made for this, just 15mm thick timber screwed to a piece of plywood. This stops the machine tilting sideways. Use 6mm x 40mm dominos and cut 20mm deep into both parts.
Next, cut the curves in the top and bottom side rails as shown in the main diagram. Cut them on a bandsaw, then spokeshave or sand to the line. Now cut the grooves in the internal edges where the panel will fit. Use the same rebate cutter to cut the grooves that you used for the corner posts 4mm wide 5mm deep (photo 7). Behind the cutter you can see the push-stick with the cut-out I made to hold these small pieces when routing.
Mark out and cut these to size, allowing 5mm insert top and bottom but only 4mm each side to allow for seasonal movement. Cut the curves on a bandsaw and disc sand back to the line. For routing the panels, use a panel raising bit and fence on a router table and cove the outer edges of the panels (photo 8).
If your panels are thicker than 10mm you might need to cove the inner edge as well. It is best to take light cuts to get a better surface finish. Once routed to size, sand the coves and trial fit them into the frames. Once you are happy with the fit, glue the frame and check the diagonals (photo 9) The panels should not be glued and it’s a good idea to oil them on the coves before gluing. Wax the corners as well before gluing to stop any glue that leaks out from sticking.
The back frame is made the same way as the side frames, dominos on the corners and also on the mid-vertical (photo 10). Alternatively, the corners can be dowelled or mortise and tenoned. Don’t forget to add the tenons to the length before cutting. I bookmatched the panels by sawing a thicker panel in two and opening it up like a book. After sanding, oil the coves and glue the frames, checking for square.
Joining the legs to the side and back frames
After the glue has dried on the side frames, sand them flat. If you have a thickness sander, this is the time to use it, otherwise use a random orbit sander. Check the frames are square and the correct size before routing the tongues. If you use a straight cutter set up in a router table with a fence attached (photo 11) you will be able to rout a rebate on both long sides so the tongue fits the groove that you routed in the corner posts. Use a spare piece of the same size timber to get the correct fit. While the router is set up, rout the back frame tongues to fit the posts.
Check the fit in the corner posts and if correct, glue the tongue in the groove and clamp using pieces of scrap to protect the posts. Make sure the corner posts have not rolled, by placing a straightedge on the flat surfaces of the corner posts (photo 12).
Making the drawer support vertical frames
These are machined to size then drop sawed to length. I usually make these frames about 3mm oversize the trim them back to size after gluing. This way, if you are a little out of square, you can compensate. Domino the corners and rails as in the side frames. Make a jig with 12mm thick rails similar to the one shown in photo 6. Check the position of the centre lines from the main drawing. Once all the joints are cut, assemble the vertical frames and clamp them together, checking for square by measuring the diagonals (photo 13).
Now mark out and rout the trenches to take the horizontal frames. I made another jig to help with this (photo 14). Using a router with a 10mm cutter set 3mm deep and a gap between the two jig rails, 2mm wider than the base of the router, rout the trenches. These will go right through the back of the frame but stop at the front 8mm so you don’t see them from the front. Check your setting on some scrap wood first.
Rebating the vertical frame outer corners
Refer to the diagram and note the front outer edge needs to be routed 5mm deep x 23mm wide, and the back outer edge 5 x 5mm deep. This is done by setting a straight cutter in the router table and with the use of a fence.
These frames should now fit into the glued-up side frames and corner posts (top view in main diagram and photo 15).
Making the 6 horizontal drawer frames (40 x 12mm)
Cut these to size and domino the corners as for the vertical frames, then glue and clamp them, checking for square. Again make these frames 3mm larger in size and then trim them back to size on the tablesaw. You will need to rout a rebate in the front two corners where you stopped the grooves in the vertical end frames. Clamp all six frames together in a vice and then G-clamp a piece of clean flat wood into each side to support a router (photo 16). Make sure the scrap blocks protrude out the front to stop the router tipping over. The scrap block will also stop chip-out on the sides.
The rebate should be 3mm deep and about 10mm from the front so the horizontal frames will set in flush with the front of the vertical rails. Now drill 3.5mm diameter holes through the vertical uprights and 2mm diameter holes in the corresponding part of the horizontal frames so you can screw them together with 4 gauge screws about 25mm long. Trial fit them together to check they all line up correctly (photo 17).
Before gluing, drill holes in the top frame so you can screw the top frame in place. Countersink the screws well below the surface so the drawers will not foul on the screws. When you are happy, pull the frames apart and then glue and screw them back together.
When dry, sand the front edges flat and then glue the assembled frame unit to both glued up corner post and side frames. I also screwed these together as well as clamping. Check the diagonals are equal and readjust the clamps if they need squaring up.
Making the top frame and panel
Carefully select matching wood for these as they will be looked at more than most parts of the cabinet. Machine the frame to size and mitre the corners to suit. Number each corner and trial clamp them together. If any do not fit, hand plane the mitres and recheck. Once you are happy with the fit mark the positions of two dominos, dowels or even biscuits and cut these to suit (photo 18).
Rout a groove on the inner edges of the frame with a 4mm thick x 5mm deep rebate cutter. The height of this groove will depend on the thickness of your panel. I prefer to have the top of the panel and top of the frame flush, so position the groove to suit this.
The panel should be 2mm less in width than the space between the grooves to allow for seasonal changes, but full length in length dimension. Sand the panel coves and top and bottom preferably oil the coves before gluing. Glue the frame together (photo 19) and check it is flat and the diagonals are equal. The sticks under the clamps raise the corners so you can wipe off the glue with a cloth dampened with clean water.
After the frame is dry, sand the top and bottom surfaces and round over the edges with your chosen cutters.
Part 2 will show how the drawers and plinth are made to complete the cabinet.
Neil Scobie was a hugely talented and much-loved woodworker who also wrote many articles and reviews for Australian Wood Review. His memory lives on in the furniture, boxes and art objects he created. Sadly, Neil passed away in 2016 – you can read a short remembrance here.