File Cabinet

At long last the file cabinet is finished. I originally started planning this project in 2001, knowing very little about wood working at the time. And it’s now finally complete in 2010. (Many other projects took priority…and I had a lot to learn.)

Here are two views of the front showing the curly maple solid wood drawer fronts. This material was too wide for my planer so I flattened it and surfaced it entirely with hand planes. (The planer also tends to give me tear out on curly maple, something which is not a problem for hand planes.)  My experience with the napkin holders indicated that I would get tear out if I took shavings over .002″, so to do this job efficiently I fit my plane with a toothed blade.

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I thought the back might end up exposed, so I used maple plywood that was not rotary cut. (This cost double the rotary cut stuff.) Notice that the plywood happened to have an interesting splotch of color in it.

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Just about every joint in this cabinet is a dovetail joint. You can see the dovetails here on the cabinet top (which features a very nice piece of quarter sawn cherry) and from the side.

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Joinery Details

This project involved 28″ long dovetails joints at each corner. I cut these joints by hand using a rip tooth dozuki and an assortment of chisels. Close ups of the finished joints from one side, top and bottom:

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qt_dovetails_botAt the front I used sliding dovetails for the drawer dividers. I cut these joints by sawing the sides and then removing the waste with a router plane (the hand tool). Some people say they use a chisel for this, but I had trouble when I did a practice joint and used a chisel. Note that the hand cut sliding dovetails is dovetailed only one one side because you can more accurately align the part on the top (straight) edge. I only had to do two practice joints before I felt ready for the real thing.

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For wedged mortise and tenon joints, I’m afraid I need significantly more practice. I snuck some in on the inside of the case when I mounted the feet. Using this joint here is overkill, but I thought it would be a nice opportunity to try the joint. First I tried one wedge, and the joints left enormous gaps at the sides. With two wedges things were better, but they still weren’t joints I’d want to display prominently. (Since they’re hidden inside the case nobody is likely to scrutinize them.)

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Dovetailed File Cabinet Drawers

After the practice dovetails it’s time for the real thing. The goal is a three drawer file cabinet. One problem I noted with the wood I used for the practice dovetails is that it wasn’t straight. How does one get straight wood? One straightens the wood right before using it.

So for this project I bought rough sawn maple to be my drawer sides. The goal was to turn this material into 1/2 inch thick wood. I used my Clifton #7 hand plane to make one face of each board flat. This step definitely involves some skill. The first time I tried I started with a one inch board and by the time it was flat I had reduced parts of the board to less than 1/2 inch thick. Oops.

But I learned and can do a somewhat slow, but reasonable job at this now. After making one side flat I ran the boards through my thickness planer to get 1/2 inch wood. Then I glued them together. Finally I was ready to trim the wood to size.

All of this preparation took longer, I think, than the actual cutting of the dovetails. These drawers will hold hanging files so I fit them with plastic rails for the files. They will someday be graced by curly maple fronts. They will also someday have a case to live in.

One thing I noticed when joining maple boards together was that this wood seemed quite variable and in some cases I didn’t match the boards well. But when one board happens to have some curl on it, there’s no way to get a good match.

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