Pie safe cabinet

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Project by Schwieb posted 05-04-2013 12:29 PM 5120 views 5 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am old enough to remember cabinets similar to this being useful for storing bread and baked goods to keep the flies away before the days of plastic bags and containers. The traditional pie safe had tin panels that were hand punched in a design of the builders choosing. I had admired these very practical cabinets since I was a little boy. My folks had restored one that was in our house when I was growing up and it was used as a storage cabinet. I always had a mind to build one. I admit that there was something inviting about making the hand punched panels and an old-fashioned cabinet so in 2012 I set out to do that. I had a plan from a craft magazine from 1988 that I had saved and I used it as a guide. I almost never build things from someone else’s plans so this was an experience by itself.

I located some sweet gum from a guy on Craig’s List and picked up what I could get. There was about 50 bf but nothing wider than 5” or longer than 7’. It had been cut about 5 years before and was well stored. I let it “stabilize” in the shop environment for about 6 months. It was pretty wood but pretty squirrley as far as knots, checks, and twists; but I got enough out of it to make the main parts of the cabinet and eliminated any possibility of getting more of it so I had to use secondary woods and elected to make the back out of plywood. Yes, I cheated

I wanted to build a very traditional cabinet: Mortise and tenon joints for the case and the doors. Dovetail joints for the drawers but I also took some artistic liberty with a few of the elements. I added some detail to the bottom rail of the cabinet; added a curved backsplash to the top; and made the side panels more sculpted as opposed to just flat. I was planning to punch my own tin, maybe copper panels, but as I was building the cabinet I realized that it would never be used for a pie safe and the inside was beautiful and it would be better used as a display cabinet. So I elected to insert glass panels instead of the puched tin panels in the doors. This was a short-cut I know but it seemed to make the best use of the cabinet.

I turned my own knobs out of some eucalyptus, left over from some urban wood harvesting for turning stock.

I finished it with Minwax antique oil finish and then wax.

Thanks for looking and I always appreciate comments.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

14 comments so far

View MadeinMT's profile


260 posts in 2362 days

#1 posted 05-04-2013 01:21 PM

Beautifully done. I love pie safes (and related early-American style cupboards) because they can take so many different forms. I prefer to make them “distressed” (take a look at my projects for examples) because I like the look but also because I have not yet acquired the skills and tools to work successfully with hardwoods like your safe.

Well done!

-- Ron, Montana

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 2545 days

#2 posted 05-04-2013 01:26 PM

nice job

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 2070 days

#3 posted 05-04-2013 01:44 PM

Let me start off by saying this piece is in my top five favorites I’ve seen here. It’s beautiful.

I thought I was seeing walnut, but you said it was sweet gum. I am certainly no expert. I recall a tree needing to,be downed for a addition/remodel I was to frame. It was what I was referring to as a Japanese maple in Florida. The tree service guy said the wood was commercially unviable, and he referred to it as sweet gum. I have a tree which appears to be the same species. They are common here, and very fast growing. Is this the same species as you used here?

I could post a picture of the tree type…

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View stefang's profile


16133 posts in 3536 days

#4 posted 05-04-2013 01:50 PM

Your cabinet turned out very beautiful Ken, and the craftsmanship look wonderful too. I love your wood choice for the cabinet. The Eucalyptus knobs were a surprise for me with their deep red color, another plus. Altogether a great project.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3692 posts in 2453 days

#5 posted 05-04-2013 02:28 PM

Nice job, Ken! When I first looked at the first picture, I thought the inserts were wire screens. I like the glass panel inserts and the use as a display case. Whatever you put on the display there will think it’s been put in a museum case.

I’ve favorited your case, to add to my other pie safe favorites. I keep threatening to build one, and one of these days . . .

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3778 days

#6 posted 05-04-2013 03:24 PM

Very nice work super looking pie safe.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View ChuckV's profile (online now)


3179 posts in 3729 days

#7 posted 05-04-2013 04:29 PM

That is really beautiful. It is both a great design and a great build.

Thanks for posting and for the fine photos.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View gsimon's profile


1293 posts in 2315 days

#8 posted 05-04-2013 08:45 PM

very nice piece – thanks for the great pics too

-- Greg Simon

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4181 days

#9 posted 05-04-2013 09:44 PM

Beautiful job on this cabinet, Ken.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View wooded's profile


366 posts in 2473 days

#10 posted 05-05-2013 04:13 AM

My complements , it came out great!.............;-j

-- Joe in Pueblo West, Colo.

View horologist's profile


104 posts in 3941 days

#11 posted 05-05-2013 02:44 PM

Cheat? Never! It is beautiful. With the glass doors it makes a excellent display cabinet. Someday if you decide you want it for storage you can always replace the glass with the punched metal sheets, a multipurpose cabinet. I’ve never done anything with sweet gum but it is an interesting looking wood.

-- Troy in Melrose, Florida

View sedcokid's profile


2735 posts in 3800 days

#12 posted 05-05-2013 11:19 PM

Outstanding Doc, just beautiful! And yes I remember when we had one.

Thanks for sharing

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View mafe's profile


11741 posts in 3291 days

#13 posted 05-07-2013 07:53 AM

Hi Ken,
I can see you have been busy in that wonderful shop of yours.
What a wonderful cabinet.
You made it special with your touch and choice of wood.
Always a pleasure to see your work.
Never seen one of these, but my grandparents had a closet haning outside to keep food fresh.
I am baking bread a lot these days, got into sourdough and enjoy the good bread it gives.
Think I have to check out the storage for my bread, it could be a woodworking project.
Best thoughts my friend,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View RichardDePetris's profile


61 posts in 1887 days

#14 posted 03-17-2016 02:23 AM

It’s been a while, but ihow is the cabinet doing? I’ve read in mamy posts that sweetgum is unstable. Are the dovetails still tight? Any warpage in the panels? I have a few pieces of sweetgum I harvested a couple of years ago. I want to use them to build a bathroom cabinet, but I am afraid of its alledged instability.

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