Fine Woodworking Tool Cabinet #1: My interpretation of Jan Zoltowski's tool cabinet

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Blog entry by Jack Dalton posted 02-19-2009 05:50 AM 5483 reads 7 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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When I saw Jan Zoltowski’s tool cabinet in Fine Woodworking I knew I had to make one for my new shop. I was intimidated by the number of finger joints involved since this is only my second big project and I had not done finger joints before. My two best woodworking buddies; Karson Morrison and Bill Jefferson encouraged me to take the plunge. I made a jig and practiced until I felt I could attempt this project.

I did not have room on the shop wall where I wanted to put it so I decided to re-size it. I decided to make it 42” high and 48” wide instead of the 48” high and 32” wide of Zlotowski’s. I was very proud of myself when I had all the finger joints cut and the box was assembled. I then folowed Jan’s instructions perfectly to cut the front off to make the doors. I then had my wife help me so I could rip the doors. Again, I followed the instructions perfectly and then realized that my cabinet was 48” wide instead of high and I had cut the doors horizontally. I added stifeners to the center of the doors and glued and screwed them back together, but of course now I had a seam right across the front.

The rest of the construction went well and I got lots of practice cuting finger joints for all the drawers. Since I had made it wider I had room for three stacks of drawers and decided to make the middle ones 4” deep. I banded all the exposed plywood edges to give it a more finished look, and used piano hinges for the interior doors for additional strength and stiffness.

Here it is with the back off.

Here is a side view with the interior doors closed. it will be deep; but I have a nice spot on the wall for it.

This is when Karson stopped by and asked me what I was going to do about the scar across the door fronts. I told him I had planned to paint the outside to blend into the shop so I guessed I would paint them. Thats when he asked me if I wanted to learn veneering. Now remember, I had just tackeled finger joints for the first time and he is talking veneering. But, I jumped in and took the doors to his shop. Oh My God!! there had to be 200,000 board feet of lumber in every species I knew and others from around the world. He then took me upstairs to he “veneering room” and there was veneer in a variety i could never imagine. We picked out a beautiful maple that he showed me how to bookmatch so it shows beautiful cathedrals repeated six times across the front.

Here is one of the doors before finishing so the cathedrals don’t show up well but you’ll see them again later on.

Then Karson asked what I was going to do with the drawers. I was so proud of the finger joints I had done and they had looked so good on Jan’s canbinate that I planned to leave them alone. Then he showed me eight beautiful pieces of birdseye maple that I fell in love with. he told me all I had to do was put glue on the drawer fronts and the back of the veneer, let them dry, and then simply iron them on. WOW, are they going to be beautiful.

I know you can’t see the full beauty at this stage, but here is one with the veneer “ironed” on. and not yet trimmed.

I’m now going to trim all the drawers and the inside edges of the doors that I also ironed maple veneer on to dress up the exposed plywood. I’ll finish the interior with shellac and maybe an antique maple stain if my tests come out all right. I’ll then paint the outside and get it ready to hang.

I do need some help. In Jan’s article he shows some very nice custom built holders, does anyone have pictures or drawings of holders that would work welll for this cabinet?

-- I leave behind little bits of beauty to compensate for for my impact on this world.

8 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3646 days

#1 posted 02-19-2009 06:10 AM

Nicely done! and a good use of veneer to hide the scar! thank god for friends like Karson :)

I really love that kind of tool cabinet. I made mine smaller though (I seriously don’t have the room for anything bigger then what I made yet).

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4398 days

#2 posted 02-19-2009 06:12 AM

Looks like you got it posted. Great job Jack. It’s going to be beautiful.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3751 days

#3 posted 02-19-2009 07:15 AM

Wow that looks awesome, I am looking forward to seeing the completed project.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View WoodSpanker's profile


519 posts in 3389 days

#4 posted 02-19-2009 10:50 PM

Wow, tool holding in style… :)

-- Adventure? Heh! Excitement? Heh! A Woodworker craves not these things!

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 3689 days

#5 posted 02-19-2009 10:56 PM


i’m just starting this cabinet myself and if mine comes out half as good as yours i’ll be proud you have done a very nice job


-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View Peter's profile


23 posts in 4110 days

#6 posted 10-21-2011 05:42 PM


I am looking to start the same project. Would you have any more photos that you could post? I would love to see how this has finished up for you.

Thank you!


-- ~Peter

View azdustdevil's profile


12 posts in 2843 days

#7 posted 04-27-2012 01:38 AM

I’ll be building one also. I just finished converting my workbench to a “murphy workbench” and this new cabinet will go right next to it. Perfect for someone who downsized from an entire basement to a single garage bay. BTW, I have a brand new Porter Cable biscuit cutter that will be used for much of the joinery. I ditched my table saw several years ago in favor of a track saw because of an injury, so cutting the finger joints would be an issue.

-- --so many little time

View helluvawreck's profile


31071 posts in 2864 days

#8 posted 05-23-2016 08:38 PM

This will be a beautiful tool cabinet.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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