What I did on my summer vacation

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Dan Bowman

Dan Bowman
Senior User
A friend at work asked me to build two large cabinets to take the place of closets, of which their house is a tad lacking. I decided to document the build and share the work via pictures. The two cabinets are identical, with sapele frames, sapele plywood boxes, veneered birdseye maple panels. Construction was glued rabbets and dado's, with a few pocket screws thrown in for fun. These took about three months to build, but they haven't been installed yet. Here goes:

I started with the feet, these joined with domino's but later with splines, as in next picture


I installed levelers in the front feet


I capped the feet with a frame, joined with domino's


I built the face frames from ribbon sapele and started on the carcasses. The sapele plywood was slightly wavy and created some frustration with the boxes. Face frames were joined to the box with tongue and groove.


then on to the doors. Again, sapele rail and stile with a shaker profile. I use an adjustable set of router bits to accomodate the thicker veneered panels. The panels were vacuum veneered with mdf core and some very nice figured birdseye maple veneer from eBay


a finished panel:


the "customer" said she liked dovetails so I decided to dovetail the drawers (three per cabinet). I used African mahogany for the drawer boxes, with 1/2 birch ply for the bottom. The dovetails came out nice and tight with my Akeda jig (after lots of fiddling) but....


the shaker drawer fronts needed a Kolbe corner bracket attachment from Fastcap. Those, coupled with the full extension 100 lb drawer slides essentially obscured the beautiful dovetails. Oh well


Once the parts were finished I could start assembly. I attached the feet to the drawer box with screws, and the lower drawer unit to the upper cabinet with two-piece furniture connectors, 4 per cabinet (not shown)


the sapele is finished with two coats of shellac and two of polyurethane. The maple panels are just polyurethane, as I wanted to keep them as light as possible. The cabinets are 99" tall, 36" wide and 24" deep. Too tall for my shop so I had to assemble them in our sunroom.



You might notice that the birdseye pattern on the drawer fronts is less pronounced than on the cabinet doors. I chose a "smaller" pattern for the drawers to balance the difference in the size of the drawers vs. doors. So before anyone asks, it was intentional. I will install the final trim between top and bottom when they are delivered (not me, thank goodness) and set up. They weigh a ton!

As to what I learned, there were lots of little things, but probably the most important lesson was to take my time and enjoy the process. I don't do this for a living so being fast is unimportant. Despite my slow pace, I still made dumb mistakes, some of which became design changes, others scrap. I'm a little worried about the strength of the doors, since they're so large. I glued the mdf panels in for extra strength, so hopefully they're there to stay. I probably should have put a floating tenon in the joints, but didn't. I might have chosen to make the cabinets less tall, but that's what the customer wanted. Now I can start thinking about my next, year-ending project, a simple rocking chair from Scott Morrison's plans.

Splint Eastwood

New User
Wow Dan!

Nice work, I would consider putting that project up for consideration in the Calendar, if not too late!

Looks Great!

Great Job!



Corporate Member
Hey Dan, Great Job!!

I'm curious to know why you used the corner brackets rather than fastening the drawer fronts from inside the box.


Corporate Member
:icon_thum That is some nice handiwork, Dan. You might have a future in this hobby. :mrgreen:

Dan Bowman

Dan Bowman
Senior User
Hi Geoff - the panel is only 1/4" mdf, so screws through the box into the panel wouldn't work. Kolbe corners are useful for overlay Shaker doors with thin panels, but if there's a more elegant way, I'd love to learn it!


Corporate Member
Beautiful work.

Really unfortunate that you had to cover those perfect dovetails. That maple veneer on the doors is superb. :thumbs_up


Corporate Member
That is some really beautiful work there, Dan!:icon_thum:icon_thum:icon_thum

That veneer is pretty spectacular!:wsmile:

Hope you didn't end up in the doghouse with the assembly being done in your great sun room!:gar-Bi

You will no doubt have a very happy customer with this one.

Thanks for sharing all of the details.

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