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Cherry Pie Safe


Cherry Pie Safe

This versatile classic goes together fast with biscuits.

By Dave Munkittrick and Bruce Kieffer

Pie safes like this one were once commonplace. The pierced-tin panels kept insects out while providing ventilation for cooling baked goods.

Our version is built of solid cherry with a simple, modified-Shaker style that blends easily into most any decor. Adjustable shelves and a pair of drawers make it a versatile storage cabinet. The pierced-tin panels that once cooled pies provide ventilation for a modern sound system. Or, you can use this pie safe to store clothing and take some of the pressure off that overstuffed closet or bureau.

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Biscuits make the joinery on this project as easy as pie. If you’ve never made a project of this scale before, or are new to biscuit joinery, this is the perfect place to start. You’ll need to know how to make stopped rabbets for the back and dadoes for the drawers, but hanging the flush-fit doors is a breeze with no-mortise hinges.

Cut the biscuit slots about 6" apart for edge joining. The biscuits align the surface of the boards producing flush joints that require little sanding. You don’t want to expose a biscuit joint when making your final cuts so keep your biscuits at least 3" away from the ends of the top (A) and the leg cutout area on the sides (B).

Click any image to view a larger version.

Cut the slots in the end of the shelf with the base of the plate joiner on the cabinet side. Clamp the shelf on the side so the top edge of the shelf lines up with the top edge of the layout mark on the side. Mark for biscuits in the middle of the shelf and 3" in from each end.

Cut the slots in the side with the plate joiner held vertical and using the markings on the shelf.

Drill for adjustable shelf pins using a perfboard template. Mark the bottom and back edge to correctly register the template on the other side of the cabinet. Mark the holes to be drilled (every other hole gives a 2" spacing) and use a sharp brad-point bit. Make your own fool-proof depth stop from 3/4" x 3/4" stock that’s drilled down the center and cut to length.

Clamp the carcass assembly using shop-made cauls to distribute clamping pressure across a wide joint. See Photo 6 for how to make cauls.

Make your cauls from 2x4s cut to the width of the cabinet. Make sure they are well dried and all four sides are square. Plane or sand a 1/16" crown on each caul and mark the crown with an arrow. While you’re at it, make some extras and keep them for future use.

Cut slots in the ends of narrow parts, like this face frame rail, using a simple jig to steady the work and provide a wider surface for the plate joiner fence. We used a 12" x 30" piece of melamine with a 3" x 18" piece of hardwood centered along the edge. Add a couple of hold-down clamps. Note how the cabinetmaker’s triangle identifies the piece being cut as the top rail.

Assemble your door frames on a perfectly flat surface using identical clamps. This helps ensure a flat door and saves all kinds of headaches later. Spacer sticks hold the frame up off the clamps (so it won’t get stained) and in line with the clamp screw pressure (so it won’t get twisted). Note how the biscuits protrude into the panel rabbets. They’ll be removed later when the rabbets are completed with a router.

Mark the position of the drawer runners on the lower back support cleat. Have the drawer in place with even margins around the opening and enough room between the slides and drawer sides for smooth operation. Remove the drawer and fasten the runners with screws.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker April 2000, issue #79.

April 2000, issue #79

Purchase this back issue.