They’re not all perfect, but they all run smoothly

Like the guitar I’ve just completed the nail cabinet I’ve been building is one of those projects I could envision sitting partially finished for a long time if I didn’t just take the time to follow through. Our fall schedule is filling up and I have a few projects on the horizon so this week I decided to knuckle down and finish the darn thing. Honestly, that’s good medicine sometimes. Especially in my situation where I generally have the luxury of time, it helps me to think about things differently. Working to a deadline (real or contrived) forces me to consider efficient movement and work habits and to develop those skills for when they really matter.

That’s enough philozophising I suppose. The proof is in the product.

As I came to the last few drawers I took the time to mill and size all of the material roughly to dimension, leaving just enough room to trim and fit each individual drawer. The reason for that is simple. Each individual drawer slot is ever so slightly different. They’re all close, and some of them are certainly interchangeable, but I’m not a machine. In order to make each one run smoothly I had to assemble and trim them to fit. Honestly, after all that milling this was the fun part.

It also gave me an excellent excuse to use my shooting plane, although this thing needs no excuse. At first I thought it did because it feels like an extravagant tool, but I have used it hard since finally purchasing it and I wouldn’t want to give it up.


I still have some reflection to do on this piece, but my sense is I’ve learned more than I thought I would. I assumed this would be a quick little project to solve some storage problems and class up the shop. It was all of those things, but it was also a good lesson in utility.

The dovetails, for example. Although we have come to hallow the form it is without doubt that dovetails came into being as a way to solve a problem and not as a way to show off. This cabinet boasts some of the cleanest dovetails I’ve ever cut and they’ll never be seen because they’re buried under nailed on battens. My soul was set free a little when I hammered those brads into the trim.

Speaking of being set free. After making two or three drawers with cut headless brads I reached for my brad gun to do the rest. Besides the sheer savings in cost, I reasoned that whoever made the original that hangs in the Woodwright’s Shop was probably just trying to get it done and get on with the next project. That’s what I was trying to do too. Look at any given drawer and the evidence is there, but that thing is on the wall now doing what it does because of my Bostitch brad gun.

I also learned to pay close attention in each operation because a problem at one stage doesn’t generally go away when you get to the next. Any twist or wind in the carcase or door frame will not be solved by hinges, only magnified.

Finally, I feel like this project that started out as a way to use up some of my stock taught me to better count the cost of a potential build. I don’t know why, but it didn’t occur to me how much 22 pulls and handles would cost when I was dovetailing the casework. I also didn’t work out the full amount of stock I would need at the beginning thinking I would just use up scraps and then supplement as needed. That’s what I did, but there was a fair amount of supplementing that I hadn’t anticipated.

In any case, with the last few drawers sliding smoothly and the hardware added, all that’s left to do is fill it up. I may subdivide a few of the drawers for small tacks and escutcheon pins and I may also go back and replace one drawer that ended up a little short when I ran short of attention (another good lesson). The drawers aren’t all perfect, , but they all run smooth and they all hold nails and screws and that’s the point really. I’ve already begun to empty out those little plastic drawers across the shop.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Curt Seeliger says:

    Thanks for the series on your build. Like you, I batched my parts and assembly and had fun, mostly. How are you hanging it? Mine is feeling a bit heavy, loaded it’ll be over 100 lbs…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right now it has one French cleat, but I’m considering a second. Luckily (for structural reasons) all of the walls of my shop are paneled with knotty pine. I hate looking at it, but it holds heavy stuff really well.


  2. Bob Easton says:

    Yep. That’s something that can “class up the shop.” Very handsome!

    I could use one too, but other than not having gotten a round tuit, I’m afraid it would aggravate my pack rat tendencies.

    Nicely done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks! I’m hoping that it helps me to shed some of the accumulation of my own tendencies to save bits and bobs. I currently have a shelf full of those little plastic drawer organizers and I want to get rid of at least half of what’s stored there within the next few months.


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