The top supports a large flat-screen TV, the drawers house remote controls and DVDs, and the shelves hold audio/video components.
Building this cabinet is challenging. Work slowly, assemble one joint at a time, test clamp and dry fit every joint before gluing, and use slow-set glue to allow for more open time.
Assembling the cabinet requires many clamps, including two deep-reach 5-ft. pipe clamps and five standard 6-ft. pipe clamps. You’ll also need about eight 24-in. bar clamps for the rest of the work.
Almost all of the dowel holes are drilled using a self-centering doweling jig. The one I like has two holes with a fixed 3/4-in. spread (see SOURCES in PDF below). You’ll drill both holes with one setup. This makes aligning the dowels nearly foolproof.
Trying to predict where the rear-rail dowels holes go in the rear legs is impossible, so those holes are not drilled with the doweling jig; instead, they are marked with dowel centers during construction and drilled by hand.
Another important technique involves the setup to cut the biscuit grooves for the divider-to-bottom joints and the bottom-to-side joints. The parts are clamped face-to-face, creating a 90-degree corner exactly where the grooved pieces meet. The grooves are then cut relative to that corner. Your biscuit jointer’s manual should explain this technique.
The carcass must be assembled in a specific order, so follow the steps carefully when you get to that point.
Making and attaching the top’s large, beveled solid edging is a bit tricky. Once the bevel has been cut, the remaining clamp-bearing edge is only 3/8 in. thick. This makes clamping the top edging to the top panel much more difficult. The clamp pressure will tend to pull the edging up. You’ll need to compensate for this. I found that using more clamps with less pressure and alternating the clamps over and under the top helped greatly.
Making the legs
The first step in constructing the cabinet is to cut the solid maple pieces (A-O) to size (see cutting list, left). Cut the top edging pieces (J and K) 1 in. longer than the dimensions listed so that they can be mitered to fit the top panel (S). Make the 1/8-in.-thick edging pieces (L, M and N) a bit wider than the thickness of your 3/4-in. maple plywood and a bit longer then their finished lengths. This way they can be sanded flush and trimmed to fit after they have been attached.
Orient the face grain forward on all of the legs, and choose the best-looking legs for the front. Cut the leg tapers (see illustration in PDF below, and photo 1, below).
Cut the leg tapers using a band saw. Draw and cut one face and sand it smooth; then draw the second taper on the same workpiece, cut it and sand it smooth.
Lay out and drill the dowel holes in the front legs (A) for attaching the front rails (D and E; see illustration and photo 2). Don’t drill the dowel holes in the rear legs yet.
Drill the dowel holes in the front legs using a self-centering doweling jig. Place a 1/4-in.-thick spacer between the jig and the front face of the leg. This shifts the jig forward to make the correct offset for the rails.
Making the carcass parts
Cut the maple-plywood pieces P through S to size. All of the 3/4-in. plywood pieces can be cut from one sheet with just enough room to make them a bit oversize. Rip the sheet in half and cut the top panel (S) and bottom (Q) from one half; you can cut the rest of the pieces out of the other half. Plan to cut all of the drawer faces from one piece so the grain will be continuous from top to bottom when you look at the finished cabinet.
Finish sand the outside faces of the sides (P). Cut the biscuit grooves that join the top and bottom side rails (B and C) to the plywood sides; then glue and clamp the pieces together. Make sure the rail ends align with the plywood edges. Now cut the biscuit grooves that join the legs to the sides, and then glue and clamp the legs in place. Rout the stopped rabbets for the back (DD) in the rear legs.
Drill the screw holes in the top cleats for attaching the top and those for screwing the cleats to the divider. Drill the dowel holes in the ends of the front and rear rails (D, E and F), and the front stile (G). Also drill the dowel holes for connecting the stile to the upper and lower front rail. Insert biscuits and glue the front rail (D) to the bottom (Q), the front rail (E) to the front top cleat (H), and the front stile (G) to the divider (R). Glue and clamp the rear rail (F) to the underside of the bottom. Cut the biscuit grooves for joining the top cleats to the sides.
Draw lines on the assembled sides where the top face of the bottom will meet each side. Also draw a line on the bottom where the shelf side of the divider will meet the bottom. Use these lines to align those parts; then cut the biscuit grooves for joining the bottom to the sides and the divider to the bottom (photo 3).
Cut the biscuit grooves that join the bottom and side. Position the top edge of the bottom shelf on the alignment line drawn on the inside face of the assembled side. Cut the grooves in the end of the bottom first; then, using the same biscuit center marks, cut the grooves in the side.
Mark and drill the dowel holes for joining the rear rail to the rear leg (photo 4). Then drill the shelf-pin holes in the divider and in the assembled right side.
Using dowel centers, mark the dowel holes for fastening the rear rail to the rear leg. Place the dowel centers in the rear-rail dowel holes. Dry assemble the bottom and side with biscuits and dowels. Press the parts together to mark the dowel-hole centers.
Assembling the carcass
Finish sand the inside of the left front leg, the inside of the assembled right side, the shelf side of the divider (R), the left edge of the stile (G), the top side of the bottom (Q), and the faces of the front rails (D and E) and stile (G).
Use glue, dowels, biscuits and clamps to fasten the divider to the bottom. Drive two screws up through the bottom into the divider to draw it tight to the bottom. Use glue, dowels and screws to fasten the upper front rail and top cleat to the divider. Align and screw the rear top cleat to the divider. Fasten the assembled left side to the assembled center section with glue, dowels and biscuits. When the glue has dried, add the assembled right side (photo 5).
Glue and clamp the right side to complete the carcass assembly. The deep-reach clamps are used to reach over the lower side rails and apply pressure to the side-to-bottom joint.
Making the top
Glue the top rear edge (L) to the top panel (S). I use pieces of masking tape placed every 2 in. to temporarily hold 1/8-in. edging like this in place. Trim the edging piece flush all around.
Use a table saw to cut the bevels on the top edging pieces (J and K; photo 6). Miter the ends using a miter saw. You’ll have to make these cuts with the top of the edging pieces facedown. To eliminate tear-out, place a sacrificial board under the pieces while making these cuts. Cut the front top edging to length so it fits on the front of the top panel. After test clamping the edging (as discussed in the construction notes in PDF below), add the biscuits, apply the glue and clamp the pieces together. Next, fit and attach the top side edging pieces. Finish sand the top and attach it to the cabinet.
Use a table saw to cut the beveled faces of the top edging. The fence setting is approximately 1-5/16 in., and the blade angle is 24 degrees. Don’t set the blade any higher than is necessary.
Making the drawers
Cut the Baltic birch drawer pieces (W through BB) to size. To compensate for any variation in the nominal thickness of Baltic birch, cut the dadoes and rabbets in the drawer sides to a depth that leaves a remaining thickness of 1/4 in. Now cut the drawer-bottom grooves in the drawer sides and drawer fronts. Drill the drawer faces’ mounting-screw holes in the drawer fronts.
Finish sand the inside faces of the drawer sides, fronts and backs; then assemble the drawers with glue and brads (photo 7). Make sure the drawers stay square as the glue dries. Fill the brad holes with putty, and finish sand the outside faces of the drawer sides and the top edges of the drawers. Cut the drawer bottoms (CC) to size so that they fit in the drawers. Finish sand them, slide them in place, and screw them at the back edges.
Assemble the drawers with glue and 1-in.-long 18-gauge brads. Out of scrap, make a 16-1/2-in.-long T-shape jig to hold the drawer front and back upright as you glue and nail on the first side.
Attach the drawer-slide supports to the divider (photo 8). Start with the top one and work down. Use the spacers to align and mount the drawer-slide cabinet members to the drawer-slide supports and to the left side of the assembled cabinet. Mount the drawer-slide drawer members to the drawers. Test fit the drawers in the cabinet, and make any necessary adjustments.
Screw the drawer-slide supports (I) in place. Use spacers to align them. The slide-support mounting screws are set slightly above center so they won’t interfere with the drawer slides.
Make the drawer faces (N, U and V) and handles (O). Attach the handles to the drawer faces using two flathead wood screws, spaced 3 in. apart. Mount and fit the drawer faces to the drawers so there are 1/16-in. margins all around.
Make the shelf (M and T) and back (DD). Disassemble all of the parts fastened with screws except for the drawer-slide cabinet members. Finish sand any unsanded exposed surfaces, and ease all of the exposed sharp edges. Apply the Danish oil finish; then reassemble the cabinet and you’re done.