DVD Cabinet #2: Creating dovetail cabinent

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Blog entry by SPHinTampa posted 01-27-2013 05:05 PM 2632 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Getting Started - Milling cabinet sides Part 2 of DVD Cabinet series Part 3: Dovetail drawers »

In the last session, I used a router sled to surface the large glued up panels of padauk. This session, I cut the panels to size and used the MCLS through dovetail jig to create cabinet case.

Ended up session with this:

Starting from:

The specific steps I followed were:
1. Create a prototype of the drawer in order to get exact size of cabinet
2. Clean up and cut panels to size
3. Set up test joint on MCLS jig
4. Cut pins and tails using MCLS jig
5. Rabbet the back of the cabinet
6. Glue up cabinet using 1/4” ply back board to keep square
7. Clean up dovetail joint mistakes

The details steps were:

Step 1 – I created a mock up of the drawer using left over particle board and pocket screw joinery. Because I want to store DVDS in rows, I built the drawer first rather than sizing the drawer to the cabinet.

Using the prototype, I defined my inside dimensions

H = 6 x (size of drawer + separation per drawer – to be covered by face plate) + 2 x clearance on top and bottom (1/8”)
W = size of drawer + 2 x slide clearance (1/2”)
D = depth of drawer + clearance (1/4”) + back panel groove (5/16”)

Step 2 – I began the clean up on panels to ensure accurate cuts. Using a jointer plane to remove router milling marks and ensure panel flatness. (flex in sled showed here with a slight concave center)

Then I ripped panels to width on table saw

I then tried to cross cut, using mitre gauge – bad plan and will not work for large panel size. Really need to make myself a panel sled instead. Panel pulled slightly and left me a little out of square.

My dad was visiting, so he came out and helped for this project. Here he is, cross cutting the long panel side properly using a skillsaw. Used a square to clamp a straight edge to panel and then cut.

We then marked matching side by lining up panel and using the marking knife to strike a line to precise match first panel.

Step 3 – Cutting a test joint
Whenever using a wood that is substantially harder than the wood I used on the test joint, I alway try out the jig first. The use of the MCLS jig is pretty straight forward. You clamp the jig to the panel, chuck up dovetail or straight bit through a PC collar, set your router to the depth of the board you are cutting and go.

Simple in practice, but there are some limitations that I find frustrating. First of all, chip out is a real issue, so if you don’t get the test fit right and have to adjust, you are likely to have a backer board that does not fully support your cut. Even if you get it perfect for one cut, the first time you use the jig for another board that is smaller than the original, the cut is not supported. At some point, I will redo jig to put a replaceable backboard under cuts to address this issue.

My issues were compounded by a dumb mistake on my part. My router plate was mounted 1/32” eccentric to the bit, so my cuts using the guide bushing varied slightly. Caused joints to be alternatively loose or tight, depending on how I positioned the router during the cut.

First cut tails using 14 deg dovetail bit. Then swap bits and using straight bit, cut pins on opposite panel. You could line up jig using center mark but I find this difficult so I line up all cuts using back edge of jig against back edge of panel.

Here is how I cut the tails.

Here is the test joint – look good.

Step 4 – With test cuts confirming jig set up with actual stock, I cut tails in side panels.

And then cut pins in the top and bottom

Dad and I then test fit the cabinet – which is a little nerve racking because the joints were so tight that I caused some damage working them loose. Padauk is fiddly to work with and prone to splintering.

Lesson learned here as well. I cut the first pin and tail combination in sequence in order to double check fit. When I reset the bit to cut the three remaining joints, I set the depth slightly differently (by accident) than the first joint. As a result the assembly was slightly out of square – which caused me no end of pain. Next time, I will cut all the joints with the same set up before switching bits.

Step 5 – With joinery cut. I cut a stopped rabbit on the router table along the back edge of the panels and then cleanup up corners with a chisel.

Step 6 – I then glued up panels, using the 1/4” plywood backer to keep the assembly square. With Padauk being so dense, I did not notice a lot of swelling in the joints when I applied the glue but I did not wait around to see what would happen.

With all joints together, back panel fit snug but highlighted my mistakes in the joinery cutting, causing a slightly out of square assembly. Note panel is not glued in place so I could mount hardware and finish cabinet. Charles O Neil – thanks for the tip, your DVDs are great .

Clamp up the assembly – This is half way. Added a bunch more.

Step 7 – Last step is to clean up mistakes.

On a good day, you get joints like this.

However, on a two sides, I got bad chip out on the back of the tails.

I use shims and custom cut plugs, which I glue in place, leaving proud. When they are semi dry, I cut down to surface using flush cut saw and use a hammer to mash the edge out a little to make sure end completely fits. Once the plug or shim as set for 24 hours, I use a low angle block plane to level the surface, I get a pretty good (but not perfect) correction.

Next session, drawers.

-- Shawn, I ask in order to learn

4 comments so far

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 2410 days

#1 posted 01-27-2013 06:20 PM

Very nice! And very brave tackling Padauk like this! Every time I use my dovetail router fixture I am a little more in awe (read jealous) of the guys that cut them by hand and get beautiful results.

One of these days/months/years I swear I am going to bit the bullet, by a nice dovetail saw, and lock myself away until I get it right.

With that being said, I think your cabinet is coming together great!

The plugs look great as repairs, and once they are finished people will be hard pressed to find them. You, on the other hand, will wince a little on the inside every time you see the cabinet because it will be the first thing your eye catches.

-- Steve

View Woodmaster29's profile


5 posts in 1995 days

#2 posted 01-28-2013 01:02 AM

how heavy did this end up being on comparison to a silly purchase purchase from Ikea? quality is always tough to replace junk without getting heavy…so wondering how you faired. cool idea.

View SPHinTampa's profile


567 posts in 3736 days

#3 posted 01-28-2013 02:07 PM


The unit is very heavy. Padauk is dense, even compared to many other hardwoods. I have not measured scientifically, but judging on the back pain scale, it is about double the weight of a typical 1/2” particle board cabinet from Ikea.

-- Shawn, I ask in order to learn

View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2854 days

#4 posted 01-28-2013 10:36 PM

Hope you have a few extra router bits. That Paduk will wear em down quick I think. Looking very good.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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