The number and placement of shelves in a frame-and-panel cabinet will depend on the use you have in mind for the furniture. If the cabinet will hold books, for example, you may need fewer shelves than if it will be the place for your compact discs.
Although some shelf-support systems can be put in place after the cabinet is glued up, a little advance planning will make the installation easier. First, choose between fixed and stationary shelves; each has its advantages.
Fixed shelves can add to the structural integrity of a case, but once installed they cannot be moved. One way to install permanent shelves is to mount cleats on the frame inside the cabinet and then screw the shelving to them. Fixed shelves can
also be glued into dadoes routed in the frame before the cabinet is assembled.
While adjustable shelves do not add strength to a piece of furniture, they allow greater flexibility. As in simple carcase construction, adjustable shelves are commonly held in place with wooden dowel pins, plastic or metal shelf pins, or adjustable shelf standards. The method shown below and on the following pages uses corner strips and wooden supports.
Rip a board to a 4-inch-width and then cut it to length to reach from top to bottom inside the cabinet. Install a dado head on the radial arm saw, setting the blades to a width to accommodate the thickness of the shelf supports (page 62). Starting at the end that will be at the bottom of the cabinet, cut a dado across the board for the lowest shelf. Slide the board along the fence to cut the second dado at the next
shelf position. Before making the cut, to make dadoes the same distance apart, drive a screw into the fence with the head of the fastener against the left edge of the first dado. Then cut the second dado and slide the board along until the left edge of this dado is up against the screw head. Cut the remaining dadoes in this fashion (above), then rip the board into four equal strips.
2 Installing the corner strips
Cut a rabbet at the bottom end of each corner strip to allow it to sit on the bottom of the cabinet while fitting around the rail. To mount the strips, bore two screw holes in each of them near the ends. Make the holes on a drill press in a two – step procedure as for ledger strips in the bottom of a cabinet (page 60). Position each strip in a corner of the cabinet, making sure that the dadoes face the interior as shown. Mark the screw holes in the stiles using an awl, then bore a pilot hole for a No. 8 screw at each point. Use a screwdriver to fasten the strip to the cabinet (left).
Inserting the shelf supports
Measure the distance between the front and back stiles on both sides of the cabinet. Cut shelf supports to fit the gaps between matching pairs of dadoes. Make sure that the supports are wide enough to buttress the shelves properly, and test-fit them (right) to ensure that they fit snugly in the dadoes.
4 Cutting the shelving to fit
Use plywood or edge-glued boards to make the shelving, cutting each piece to size on a table saw so that the ends will be flush against the cabinet sides and the edges will butt against the stiles. Add edge banding to the visible edge if you are using plywood (page 39). To make a shelf fit, set it on top of the corner strips and outline their shape on the underside of the shelf. Then, secure the shelf in a vise and cut out the corners with a backsaw (right). With edge-glued shelving, you have the option of routing a decorative molding contour along the front edges (step 5).
Routing a molding
Place the shelves momentarily inside the cabinet, and mark two lines on the front edge of each one to indicate the beginnings and ends of the moldings. Draw a third line for the desired depth of cut. Protecting the shelf with a wood pad, clamp it to a work surface. Fit a router with an edge-shaping bit, then set the depth of cut. Gripping the router firmly with both hands and resting its base plate on the shelf, turn on the tool. Move the bit pilot up against the edge of the shelf and guide the router against the direction of its bit rotation to cut the molding (left).