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Winter 2013-2014

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Shaker Sideboard


Shaker Sideboard

Updated construction yet traditional looks.

By Randy Johnson

The essence of Shaker design is simplicity. Although I didn’t use traditional construction techniques in this project, I did keep it simple. Behind this sideboard’s elegant front and sides is a very easy-to-build birch-plywood box joined with biscuits. It’s strong and durable. The front and sides are assemblies that are added onto the box. The result is a beautiful, traditional-looking piece that doesn’t require complicated joinery.


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Begin building the sideboard by constructing a simple plywood case using glue, screws and biscuits. When you attach the sides, use a spacer to ensure a precise setback from the case’s front. The legs will fit into the notch that this setback creates. 

Click any image to view a larger version.

Glue the leg panels. The center piece fits into a groove in the top and bottom rails and legs, and the rails attach to the legs with biscuits. 

Clamp the leg panel to the plywood case. Test-fit the thickness of filler boards in the spaces between the rails and the plywood case side. When the fillers are planed to the correct thickness, remove the leg panel and glue the fillers to its top and bottom rails. 

Attach the leg panels to the sides of the plywood case. Secure the leg panels with screws for now; you’ll need to remove these parts later.

Drill dowel holes in the face-frame parts. Only a single dowel is needed at each joint, but you must make sure the joints do not twist during final gluing and clamping. 

Glue and clamp the assembled face frame to the front of the plywood case. Biscuits on the case’s front help with alignment. Don’t put glue on the ends of the rails at this time; you’ll make biscuit joints and glue them in the next step. 

Permanently attach the leg panels to the plywood case using both screws and glue. The face-frame rails are joined to the front legs with biscuits. Use half-length biscuits in the middle and top rails and two three-quarter length biscuits in the bottom rail.

Glue guides to the bottom of the drawers. A spacer set in a notch in the drawer back and centered at the front of the drawer keeps the two guides correctly positioned. Use a couple of bricks to hold the guides in place while the glue dries.

Install the hinges and doors. The top and bottom of the doors have a lip, but the sides do not. This allows you to use standard butt hinges. The hinges are mortised into both the door and the case.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker March 2007, issue #127.

March 2007, issue #127

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