There are two kinds of skill involved in constructing a fine cabinet or bookcase: putting together the basic skeleton of the piece and then embellishing it.
The finials and rosettes of the Queen Anne highboy featured on page 106 must be turned with care on a lathe and then artfully carved; the distinctive pilasters of an armoire (page 60) require careful attention to produce on the router. But although these distinctive adornments may capture a viewer’s attention, they also reflect a truism: No amount of decoration will conceal the defects of a poorly built structure. This chapter looks in detail at the basic skills you will need to select stock, prepare it professionally, and then assemble it into a sturdy foundation for your cabinet or bookcase.
The basics of cabinetmaking begin with an understanding of wood. The sections on dealing with wood movement (page 14), ordering wood (page 16), and preparing a cutting list based
on a sketch (page 18) will help you purchase the right lumber for your project.
With your stock in hand, you can begin the step-by-step process of building a carcase. This begins with preparing stock (page 20) and gluing up panels (page 24). A variety of corner joinery options, including hand – cut dovetails and plate (or biscuit) joints, are presented beginning on page 26. Next comes installing a back panel (page 31) and final glue-up and assembly.
The ffame-and-panel method of building a cabinet is described starting on page 32. This technique is popular not only for its appearance, but because it allows for wood movement. In many frame-and-panel cabinets, the panels are “raised”—that is, they have bevels cut around their edges. Not only do the bevels lend a decorative touch, but they also allow the wood to expand and contract while preserving the work’s integrity. Raising panels is shown starting on page 36.
A skew chisel removes slivers of waste from the dovetails in a drawer side. Cutting the joint by hand is painstaking, but it imparts a traditional and distinctive look to a piece of furniture.