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Magazine Cabinet (page 1 of 2)

Here's my progress and some current photos of my magazine cabinet. The most recent of these images were taken on the 31st of March, 2001.

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Cross cutting oak My magazine cabinet is based on the plans from the 25th anniversary issue of Fine Woodworking (Issue 146, pages 108-113). After a visit to the local hardwood dealer (Superior Hardwoods), I decided to build my magazine cabinet out of red oak.

Ripping The first step is to cut out the pieces for the carcase. I used a Disston D-23 cross cut saw with 8 teeth per inch for the cross cuts, and a H. R. Peace rip saw with 5 1/2 teeth per inch for the rip cuts. Because I'm new to hand sawing, I made my measurements 1/8 over so I could plane them down to the final dimension. Here's my first real use of the sawbench I made.

Squaring end grain Smoothing all the sawcuts and squaring the edges (shown on the right) is done with a variety of hand planes, finishing with my jointer plane -- a Steve Knight masterpiece. To keep the wood from splitting out at the end of the planing stroke, I chisel in at the final depth so the wood will pop out at the depth I'll need when I'm finished.

Flattening Because the board I bought was very wide (14 inches), it was a bit curved across it's width. To flatten each board, I ran a #5 1/2 diagonally across one of the sides, followed by a jointer plane once I'd gotten the high spots flattened. The first side is finished by running the jointer with the grain all the way across the board, followed by my smoothing planes. After the first side is flat, I marked a line all the way around the edge of the board using a marking gauge set to the narrowest part of the board. Then I just plane to the lines, making sure that the jointer takes an even shaving the full length of the board.

Checking with winding sticks At this point the wood has been cut to size, squared, flattened and smoothed -- ready for joining together into the main body of the cabinet. Along the way while planing the flat surfaces, the board needs to be checked to make sure it isn't twisted. A pair of winding sticks that are the same width along their entire length are placed at the edges of the board. By sighting down the board such that the rear stick is just above the closer stick, you can tell if the board is twisted. I mark the high corners with a pencil and plane away the pencil marks until the board is no longer twisted. This should be done on the first side you flatten so the second side can be referenced from the first.

Sawing the pins The top of the cabinet is dovetailed into the sides with through dovetails. For this project I used a ratio of 1:6, and cut them so the narrow edge of the tails is 3/4". This matches one of my chisels, and because it is close to the thickness of the wood, the pins and tails look appropriate. After marking the pins, I saw them down to the thickness lines with a dovetail saw (a Lie-Nielsen Independence saw) and chisel out the waste. Clearly mark the waste side of each pin before sawing and chiseling -- believe me, you don't want to make *that* mistake! I also undercut the gaps (meaning I'm chiseling slightly into the edge of the board rather than directly down to the layout line on the other side). I do this because it gives me a crisp line that the matching board can butt against, it's easier to cut them this way than try to get them perfect, and because the end grain won't yield a good glue joint anyway.

Chiseling out the waste Once the pins have been cut, mark the positions of the tails using the board you just cut. The complex assembly shown in the photograph above is just a clamping system so I can clamp the top to the sides securely and get accurate lines for cutting the tails. It's made from 3/4 inch plywood cut at 90 degrees with two longer and wider strips attached to the edges of the 90 degree piece. It takes eight clamps (four on each clamping guide), and a lot of patience to get it set right, but I get better results than by trying to hold the two boards in the right position.

Marking the tails from the pins From here, the tails are cut inside the lines just marked, most of the waste removed with a coping saw, and the remainder chopped out to the line with a chisel. I normally use a wide chisel to clean up the saw marks on the sides of the tails and pins until the pieces go together. I don't usually hammer them all the way together until it's actually time to assemble them with glue.

Forming tenons with a rebate plane Next, we need to form the mortise and tenon joints that hold the bottom of the case to the sides. I used four tenons on the bottom of each side, and cut the mortises so that the tenons can accept two 8 degree wedges. This makes the joint very similar to a dovetail joint because the bottom of each tenon is wider than the top, holding the bottom firmly to the sides.

Removing the waste The first step is to form the tenons on the bottom of each shelf. I used a rabbet plane (Stanley #78) to form a long rabbet on each side. The final thickness of the tenon was about 3/8 of and inch. Make sure that this dimension matches one of your chisels. After forming the long tenon, cut the sides of each tenon with a dovetail saw, and remove the waste using a coping saw and chisel.

Drilling mortises Using the tenons, mark the top of the bottom piece. I used a breast drill (on my hip) to drill out most of the waste for the mortises, and then cleaned up the edges with a set of chisels. A brace would have been a better tool, but my #5 auger bit doesn't pull itself into the oak well enough. Also, it would have been better to initially cut the bottom piece too long, and trim it to the correct size after the mortises have been chopped. All the pounding at the very edge of the board can easily blow out the edge of the mortises and ruin the entire board.

Forming dovetail mortises After the square mortises have been cut, flip the bottom board so you're working with the bottom side, and enlarge the sides of the mortise to the 8 degrees used for the tenon wedges. I used my miter box to cut a guide block at the correct angle to direct the chisel.

Slots in the tenons for wedges This point is as good as any to drill two small holes in each tenon, and cut a kerf from the top of the tenon down to the holes. These kerfs, and the relief hole at the base of the tenon, are where the wedges will be inserted to lock the bottom to the sides.