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Shaker Sewing Cabinet

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Shaker Sewing Cabinet

Machine-cut dovetails add a new twist.

By Tom Caspar

You can find a place for every conceivable sewing notion in this Shaker-inspired chest of drawers. Mix 'n' match modular trays fi t perfectly in the middle drawers. Store patterns or magazines in the large lower drawer. There’s enough compartments for a complete sewing kit.

You’ll make the most out of your router and half-blind dovetail jig when you build this cabinet. Not only are the drawers dovetailed, but the case is as well! All the joints are modern variations of the dovetails made by Shaker cabinet-makers 150 years ago.

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Cut dovetails in the sides and top rails. Each side of the cabinet is composed of two pieces that are glued together after the dovetails are cut because the complete side is too wide to fit in a basic dovetail jig.

Click any image to view a larger version.


Cut biscuit slots in each half of one side. Use biscuits or splines to align the two halves when you glue them together.


Glue the side together. Align the ends with a clamp placed lengthwise. With biscuits in the glue joint, you’ll need the force of a clamp to shift the boards. Once the ends are aligned, remove the long clamp and check the side for flatness. Flat sides are necessary for the next step to succeed!


Rout dovetailed grooves in the sides. Align the jig with center marks on the edge of the side. Screw the jig directly to the side; the screws will hold down the far side of the jig, where clamps can’t reach. The screw holes are invisible in the finished case.


Cut dovetails in the ends of the dividers. Rout equally from both sides of the divider so the dovetail is centered. Clamp the narrow workpiece to the jig so it doesn’t slip down into the opening of the router table.


Dovetail the drawer supports. It’s basically the same setting as in Photo 5. You may have to move the fence to cut a fraction deeper, because the fit over a longer distance needs to be looser.


Cut slots in the ends of the drawer supports for #0 biscuits. Line up all the supports and make, in effect, one continuous slot. Biscuits align all the pieces that support the drawer so the drawer will slide smoothly, without hitting any uneven edges.


Assemble the case one piece at a time. That’s the beauty of dovetails! You don’t have to clamp a dozen pieces at once.


Glue the drawer supports to the front dividers. The drawer supports are only glued at the front, not in the groove, so the case side is free to expand and contract.


Drill screw holes for the top from inside the case. That way you know the holes will be accessible when you install the top.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December 2000, issue #84.

December 2000, issue #84

Purchase this back issue.