Downstairs Built-ins Extravaganza! #7: Making up for lost time.

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Blog entry by BethMartin posted 05-03-2009 03:11 AM 1415 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Inside of drawer case is done. Part 7 of Downstairs Built-ins Extravaganza! series Part 8: Time to stock up on sandpaper! »

So I’m finally over my flu. I’ve since put almost 3 days into my project since my last update and I’ve gotten a lot done!

I made the face frame pieces for the drawer cabinet. I’m working with maple now and it took me a moment to figure out why my saw suddenly didn’t seem to cut so fast anymore – this stuff is hard! I guess that’s why it’s called “hardwood”, eh?

Making the face frame pieces was time consuming because I was working with rough cut boards. Luckily they all had one straight edge on them, so I would first make the other edge straight, and then rip them to width. I had some trouble ripping at first, but I realized that it was the blade guard that was getting hung up on stuff and moving (it’s an old saw I’m using and a little wonky). I seem to be able to keep it from doing whatever crazy thing it was doing now.

I decided to fasten everything together with biscuits, although pocket screws would’ve been a lot faster. But I chose biscuits because a) I’d already bought a biscuit joiner off craigslist when I started this project, b) I didn’t already have a pocket screw jig, c) I really don’t want any visible connectors – it wouldn’t be an issue with these drawers, but it would be with some of the other shelves I’m planning, and so I might as well get used to the biscuits. d) pocket screw holes are very inviting for spiders. Spiders!!

So I had to figure out the biscuit joiner thing. First lesson – make sure the blade is all the way retracted into the housing before you start it. Otherwise it rolls down your wood wreaking destruction. Luckily, nobody will be able to see where this happened. ;) It takes some practice to get to know exactly where the cutter is going to cut, but once you have it figured out then you’re good to go. Now I have all my biscuit slots and the face frame is ready to be joined together and fastened to the cabinet. I’ll just use dowels for the skinnier pieces. I think I’m going to stain all the pieces first and then join them together. Not all the pieces are attached in this pic, in case you notice any big gaps. ;)

I was debating what to do with the side. One side is against the wall in the corner, but the right side is visible. I really didn’t want one big smooth piece there. So I was hemming and hawing because I thinking what I might like is boards joined together with a touch of a bevel on the edges. But I didn’t really want spend a lot on maple boards when the maple plywood is cheaper. My solution was to cut the maple ply into “boards” following any existing lines in the plywood facing. I put rabbets in them and the little bevels. Then I glued them up overnight. It worked out pretty well! It’ll give the side some visual interest and make the cabinet a little more rustic. I’ll stain this up before I attach it also.

I still need to work on the top. I had to get more wood because I had the lumber guys rough cut it a tad too small. The top will be plywood, and I’ll put a rabbet in it to attach some simple molding to and finish the edge.

Meanwhile…I am almost halfway done with the top shelving section that sits atop these drawers! I’ve got the sides cut and dadoed, the 4’ shelf pieces doubled and glued together and rabbeted on both sides to fit into the dadoes. I had a little disaster cutting the dadoes in the side and realized that it is more goof-proof if I use my router. But I’m almost done with the case for the upper shelving unit – one little vertical shelf needs its dadoes and the top needs some rabbets.

I think I have one more day of cutting stuff, then I’m going to start sanding, sanding, sanding, and then clean the garage and then stain for a while. I’m at a turning point in my project where I think I’ve done all the skills that I needed to learn, and I have a lot more confidence to proceed. I feel very good about how it’s all going to come out! So excited. But man, I am so tired right now! I’m looking forward to building the drawers because the pieces of wood are a lot smaller than what I’ve been dealing with!

-- Beth

10 comments so far

View BigBard's profile


114 posts in 3438 days

#1 posted 05-03-2009 04:07 AM

Your on your way, this is shaping-up Lovely!

-- Carolina Panther fan!

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

716 posts in 3642 days

#2 posted 05-03-2009 04:54 AM

One step at a time. Forcing yourself to work when you are tired = mistakes and accidents. Good job!

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18286 posts in 3699 days

#3 posted 05-03-2009 05:12 AM

Beth, That wasn’t the swine flu, was it?? Looks like you are doing a great job!! Are you going to dovetail the drawers?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#4 posted 05-03-2009 05:20 AM

Your best tool is between your ears and when it’s tired it can be dangerous and damaging to your project.
good progress, look forward to your next report.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3401 days

#5 posted 05-03-2009 05:25 AM

Big Bard~ Thanks!

Don Newtonand Jim~ I’m usually pretty good about quitting when I get tired. Except for the previous day’s work on this thing where I went to do one last little trim and forget to check the setup and cut off too much. lol! Luckily that piece was not all the way cut down to size so I could still use it today. But I quit after I got the hint!

TS~I’m pretty sure it was just the regular human flu. I forgot to get my flu shot this year. The regular flu is going around WA right now, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they figured out that the most recent flu going around has been swine flu the whole time and they are just now finding it. In any case, I am all better now! The swine flu thing did add a bit of drama to my misery, though!

I was planning on dovetailing the drawers on account of my dad gave me his old dovetail template. I still need to see if it works with my router though, and then figure out how to use it. That reminds me, I have a question about drawers. How thick should I make these things? The big ones are about 18” wide. Should I use 1/2” or 3/4”? I should probably go around my house and look for myself what my existing drawers use. I’m too tired to get out of my chair, though.

-- Beth

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18286 posts in 3699 days

#6 posted 05-03-2009 05:50 AM

I hopw you’re right about them finding out the swine flu is the normal flu this time. I heard on the news the other day they discovered it isn’t a swine flu at all.

Back to the drawers, I’d go with 1/2”. I assume you’re talking about the sides and backs. 1/4” ply for the bottoms.

If you can’t figure out that thig-a-ma-jig, there are plenty of options, hand cut dovetails :-)) dados, box joints, plain old butt joints, rabbets…........

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View lew's profile


12101 posts in 3779 days

#7 posted 05-03-2009 05:54 AM

Coming along nicely, Beth!

About the drawer thickness, a lot depends on what you want to store in them. If it’s just light weight stuff (paper and office type stuff) you could probably get away with half inch sides and back and 1/4” bottoms. The fronts may be thicker depending on how you were going to fasten them.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3401 days

#8 posted 05-03-2009 06:03 AM

Ts~ I figure since I’m putting all this effort into hiding fasteners and I have the concealed slides, then I should make my drawers pretty too. Though I draw the line at hand-cutting the dovetails. lol! I imagine if the template won’t work with my router, maybe it’ll work with my father-in-law’s and I’ll just borrow his. I’ll have to take a picture of the jig and see if someone here can tell me how the heck it works. :)

Lew~ Thanks! These drawers will be filled with DVDs and CDs and games. I imagine 1/2” will be good, but I also have to take into consideration my 4-year-old who likes to use open drawers as stepstools. ;) The fronts will be simple framed panels – so 3/4” frame around 1/2” ply. (The little top drawers will just be solid, but I might put something decorative on them.)

-- Beth

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4114 days

#9 posted 05-03-2009 12:47 PM


You may have thought of this, but you might want to cut some spacers for those big drawer openings for when you glue up the face frame. Two per drawer would allow you to position the horizontal members with greater ease.

Thinking ahead:

Also, you might want to rabbet or otherwise relieve the right stile edge that will be scribed to the wall by a 1/4” before you attach it. This will make it easier to scribe to the wall if you plan to use a belt sander or plane.

For the top, there is no need to rabbet the edge if you plan to hide it with a molding. Just attach it and nail a molding on when the whole piece is in place. That will hide the ply edge.d

If the floors are not level, you will need to shim and put some time of molding to hide as well. So you might as well make and stain all of the moldings ahead of time. Depending on how well you scribe that right egde, you might need a little molding for that too, though if you scribe it well that can handle it.

Keep on.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3401 days

#10 posted 05-03-2009 06:08 PM

gizmodyne~ I think I know what you’re talking about with the spacers. But what I was planning to do was glue up the face frame and then put it on the case with the biscuits without glue just to help hold everything in place until it dried. Which would be sort of the same idea as the spacers. Then once that’s dry, glue the face frame to the case. The face frame piece that goes against the wall I definitely will leave loose til the end since I might need to trim it a bit. Really, what I mean to say is after all that, I’m just going to wing it. ;) I know it’s kind of complicated because there are so many pieces interlocking and I’m not sure how much I can glue up at once.

I was thinking I would put a rabbet in the top because I’d like to avoid nails. I thought a rabbet would help hold the molding flush with the top better. And yes, I will have molding on the bottom too and I’ll stain that up before I put it on, and I’m sure I will be doing some shimming. :) But it’s nice to know you all are lookin’ out for me!

Oh! That reminds me – I am putting these on concrete. What should I put underneath them to protect them from moisture?

-- Beth

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