Scobie Collector’s Cabinet, Part 2
Words and photos: Neil Scobie
In part 1 of this project, I showed you the first steps in making the cabinet of collector's drawers shown above. Wood for the drawer carcase and panels was machined and joined. This article shows how to make the drawers and the plinth. Part 1 contains a full cutting list and diagrams of the drawer carcase construction. The photos in this article are numbered to carry on from the sequence in part 1.
Making the plinth
The legs and corner posts were shaped at the same time by the same process (photos 1, 2, 3). The inside top of the legs does not have a groove at the top so it’s easier to join the rails (photo 20). once cut to length the inner two top edges are flattened at 90° to each other.
To hold the leg at 45° and have a flat surface to run a router on you need another jig. Take a 100 x 70 x 600mm piece of timber and angle your sawbench blade 45° to make two cuts to form a V-shape. two pieces of MDF or plywood are screwed on top. place them equally from the centre of the V (photo 21).
The cross rail on top acts as a stop for the router and also a clamp to hold the leg tight when routing. As the plinth top rails are 70mm wide you will need to rout 70mm from the top of the leg flat. Set the stop to suit your router and the depth of the cutter 6.5mm deep from the outer edge of the leg. The same photo shows the two corresponding inner edges rounded flat.
For routing a flat to suit the bottom plinth side rails, mark out and use the same jig as for the top. This time you will need to add a second stop so you only rout the correct length of flat. The cutter needs to be adjusted so you are only routing 4mm deep from the inner edge of the leg (photo 22).
Routing the mortises
Mark out the mortises for the top rails, which will be on both flat sides. Keep them 12mm down from the top of the leg and 5mm up from the bottom of the flat. For the bottom side rails keep the mortise 5mm up from the bottom and 5mm down from the bottom of the flat surface (photo 23). Set the router depth stop to 12mm and plunge rout the mortises, fence on the left and pull the router towards yourself. Note the mortises are further away from the inner part of the legs.
Routing the tenons
Another jig holds the rail vertical so the tenon on the end can be routed (photo 24). With this jig you are always working off one face so if the rails vary in thickness, there won't be a problem. Set the fence on the back of the jig so it is parallel to the face of the rails and the correct distance to cut the tenon. Make a spacer that is twice as thick as the router cutter you are using. For a 8mm wide mortise the spacer will be 16mm thick. Make trial cuts on scrap to get the correct fit. the ends of the tenons are freehand cut. You will need to rout tenons on the four top plinth rails and the two bottom side rails. the tenon will be closer to the outside of the rail to suit the mortise.
Routing mortises for the spreaders
Mark positions for the spreaders. the bottom of the side rails are curved, so keep the mortise up from the bottom (photo 25). Make a simple T-jig to act as a router fence. plunge in the mortise to the set depth from the plan. After the mortises are routed, mark out and cut the curve on the underside of the rails. Now mark out and rout the tenons on each end of the spreaders. All the rails and spreaders are rounded on all edges.
For assembly, glue the sides first, checking the legs have not rolled out of square. once dry, glue the front and back top rails and the spreaders, checking the diagonals. Make sure you wipe off all the glue with a clean damp cloth. When sanding blend in all the intersecting rail joints.
Making the plinth top
Mark out the mitres on the corners on the drop saw and hand plane to fit if necessary. Use two dominos or dowels to strengthen the joint. once the corners are ready, glue the frame together using the same clamping method as for the top frame and panel (photo 19).
Making the drawers
Choose quartersawn timber for the drawers to minimise the seasonal movements. I used a 20mm thick jarrah for the fronts, which was split to give a drawer box front and a false front. Mark which pieces go together so you can line up the grain (photo 26).
Also machine the red cedar front inlays to thickness, but leave them a bit oversized in width and length. In photo 26 the white chalk arrow marks their order. Quartersawn Qld maple was used for the sides and the backs (photo 27).
Routing the dovetails
I used the Gifkins H10 dovetail jig, which cuts through dovetails, hence the false fronts. on one side of the jig you rout the dovetails (photo 28)...
...and on the other side you turn the jig around and use a straight cutter to rout the pins (photo 29). I like to mark a ‘B’ on the bottom outside edge of the drawer box front, back and sides. this is placed against the blue stop on the jig.
Mark a ‘No’ on the bottom back edge of the two sides so you don't cut a dovetail where the slot for the base will go. Cut the slot with the same rebate cutter used to rout the panel grooves (photo 30). Rout a groove in the inside front bottom of the sides and the front, but not the back as this has the bottom part cut off to allow the base to slide in. Saw this off at the height of the top of the slips.
Sand the drawer insides before gluing the dovetails. I like to spread PVA in all the dovetail sockets and a little on the dovetails before assembling the drawer.
Making the drawer slips
The drawer slips are placed on the flat side rather than vertically which is more traditional. Use a straight bit like the Gifkins rebate cutter (photo 31) in conjunction with a fence to rout the tongue to suit the slots in the drawer sides. The front end is also routed to protrude into the groove in the drawer front. I leave these slips about 5mm longer and then cut them off to fit the back of the cabinet to act as drawer stops.
Solid 6mm thick quartersawn red cedar which was rebated on the top front and side edges to slot into the grooves in the drawer slips and drawer fronts (photo 32).
The holes in the back of the bases are slotted to allow the base to move a little (photo 33).
Inlaying the false drawer fronts
When routing the recess for the 3mm thick inlay screw a couple of stop blocks on to a waste piece so you don't need to clamp and re-clamp. Timber screwed on at both ends of the jig will keep the router from tipping over (photo 34). Use a fence on the router to rout the top and bottom lines but pull up a couple of millimetres short of the ends. The ends can then be carefully chiselled square and the inlay hand planed to fit tightly. Once fitted, glue and clamp the inlays into the recesses and at the same time glue the false fronts onto the drawer boxes.
You should have marked which false front goes on which drawer, so line them up and glue and clamp them together. Use a block of scrap wood to protect the inlay. Now glue in the drawer slips and when dry, hand plane the drawers to fit in the cabinet. I use another jig to hold the drawers for hand planing. This jig has the top boards being able to move and tighten side ways to fit different drawers. Keep checking the fit of the drawers so they slide well.
Place the front side up on the drawer jig and sharpen your plane razor sharp to plane the inlay flush with the false front (photo 35). Hand sand the drawers smooth so they are ready for finishing. For the finishing touch, you can buy or make handles to suit your taste.
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.