Making a Penn spice cabinet using mostly hand tools. #10: Half-blind DT pictorial.

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Blog entry by JeremyPringle posted 04-18-2012 11:09 PM 4040 reads 6 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: The blade master, and I'm not talking lightsabers! Part 10 of Making a Penn spice cabinet using mostly hand tools. series Part 11: Mantra adjustment, moulding & ogee feet »

Hello again, welcome back. In the last week I have been making the drawers for the spice cabinet. There are 14 in total. That meant there was A LOT of sawing and planning to get all my drawer sides and back to thickness and width. Since I have gone through that process already, I did not feel taking pictures would be very important. Even though I have covered dovetails already, since I am going to be doing it for the next week, I decided to do a more detailed pictorial of the process.

These are the tools that I use. The obvious saw and chisels, mallet but I also use two dividers, two marking gauges, a small adjustable square, DT angle saddle, dull chip carving knife and missing from the picture is a small coping saw.

First I use the two marking gauges to mark all my lines. I have one set for the longer tails and the other is set to the thickness of the material. Because I am doing 14 in total, I am not going to be touching or adjusting the gauges until I am done all of the drawers, so after marking, I put them in a safe place.

Once marked, I set the tail boards into my vice and then I can start the lay out of the tails. I have one set of dividers set to the size of the half pin at the top and bottom, and the other set it going to be adjusted for every size of drawer.

First step is to mark off the half pin on each side.

I drew the tail lines for clarity.

Then with the other set of dividers, one point goes on the first line and you step off the number of tails you want, in this case I will have two.

Before making any other marks, its trial and error to get the spacing right.

The amount of space PAST the opposite side line, is going to be the thickness of the pin.

Once its set you can mark off points from one side to the other. Remember to start ON the half pin line and not at the edge of the work piece. The go to the other side and make point going the other way.

Then mark your angles.



I turn and clamp, so I can cut two shoulders at one, repeat at necessary.

Time to chop out waste, start from the back, chop to the line and only go about half way.

Then flip over and meet up in the middle.

I do not chop out the very edge of the shoulders, I pare then by hand very carefully so I don’t get any blow out. After cleaning everything up, its time to mark the pins. I generally do the back before the front, so again this is the other part of a through DT. I use my block plane in this case (because the pieces are so small) and I set the pin board in the vice to the same height as the plane, I move it back and I use it to hold the tail board up balanced so I can mark the pins.

I use the dull chip carving knife to scribe my lines. I use a dull knife because it leaves a more visible line than a sharp knife will. Then with the small square I mark the vertical lines, I make sure to place them so I can see them and use them a guide instead of the actual cut line.

Then same as before, cut, cope, chop.

Test fit… that’s pretty good.

Now the half blind for the front. Basically its almost the same. I set it to the same height as the block plane, then lay the tail board down, mark the lines, but this time I turn it over to I can cut it.

The trick here is to know your saw, start your kerf and be really careful sawing only to the layout lines, anything past and it is going to be visible when someone pulls the drawer out and looks at the side so they can inspect your work.

Historically half blinds for drawers would have been cut by an apprentice and they would almost certainly have cut past the lines on the inside, as it was the inside face of a drawer front, it would never have been seen, and doing it this way would also significantly cut down on the amount of chopping that needs to be done in the next step. But since I am not pinched for time this is not what I will be doing.

Since there is no way to cope out most of the waste, it all needs to be chopped. Start at the front and make your way back to your line. Be careful to only go about halfway down and progressively go further down with each move backwards. If you go down all the way right away, you have a very high risk of blowing out the end grain past your lines. To keep track of my depth, I use a sharpie and mark the depth on the back of the chisel I use.

Once I have chopped to the line and correct depth, I set the work piece back into the vice.

Now its time to clean everything up using chisels, if you have one, a fish tail chisel really helps with the tight corners, but if I did not have one, I would not let it stop me from doing half blinds.

Test fit.


Not bad. 6 down 8 to go.

You will notice that the side and backs are not full width. I am going to be using the old school method of nailing the bottoms to the sides and back. As the material is around ¼”, it would impractical to use the plough plane and have an inset bottom.

Well, I hope you learned something from the pictorial process, and once I am done all the drawers, I will have another post on the next step.


5 comments so far

View GrandpaLen's profile


1650 posts in 2299 days

#1 posted 04-19-2012 04:09 AM


That’s a good looking joint and that makes for a great looking drawer.

Thanks for sharing your tutorial, very nicely done. – Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 3009 days

#2 posted 04-19-2012 04:13 AM

Very nice tutorial. i’ve got my saw coming from lie-nielson,and i have the other items,except the chisels.
do you use just bench chisels or dovetail chisels?
then i could get down to business.

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2603 days

#3 posted 04-19-2012 04:13 AM

Beautiful joinery Jeremy, thanks for posting.

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1041 posts in 2339 days

#4 posted 04-19-2012 07:57 AM

An excellent description of the process. Many thanks for taking so much time to share with everyone.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View JeremyPringle's profile


321 posts in 2501 days

#5 posted 04-20-2012 02:43 AM

Thanks everyone for reading.

Doordude: Which saw did you order from LN? I have the progressive pitch DT saw. But my friend has the LV 14tpi DT saw, and I have been using this project to do a side by side test between the two. Stay tuned for that entry.

Chisels… they have a soft spot in my heart. I have the LN bevel edge set. The LN have very little bevel which make them good for DT’s, but I also use them for basically everything. If I had to start over, I would buy them again and again and again. BUT…. I am a strong advocate for using what you have and figuring out a way to make it work.

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