One useful way of using woodworking skills is to build simple cupboards and display cabinets. These are basically wooden boxes, and you can make good use of dowel joints, knockdown fittings and similar labour-saving devices.
This need be only a light wooden case with glass or wooden shelves and either with or without glass doors. As the cabinet is intended to be looked at, it is best to make it using some form of concealed joint rather than the plastic blocks which make storage cupboards easy to construct.
One of the simplest concealed jointing systems is the dowel joint. It does require some form of jig to get the holes in exactly the right places. If only a few dowels are to be used, twin-point locaters are all that you need. These are metal discs with a centre point at each side. The board edge is pierced by the locater at the required position. A dowel or small tube can be used to press it home. The board to be mated is then positioned accurately and pressed on to the exposed point of the locater. Both board and locater are then separated and the pin marks are used to centre the drill. For accuracy, the holes should be bored using a purpose made dowel bit which is similar to a metal twist drill except that it has a centre point and side spurs for clean cutting and accurate centring.
When a lot of dowel joints are to be made, it is better to buy a dowelling jig. There are two or three different types but the basic principle is the same. A metal block contains holes of various sizes and set at right angles to each other. These holes are used to guide the drill for face and edge boring. Usually they take bits of 6, 8 and lOmm diameter.
Methods of adjustment for the positioning of the holes for the dowels and the sizes of timber that can be accommodated vary according to the make of the jig.
Glass shelves for ornamental displays can be supported by studs let into the side of the cabinet. Decide on the number of shelves and the adjustment needed, then drill a plywood strip with holes at the required spacings and use this as a template
when drilling the holes in the cabinet sides.
If possible, drill these holes before assembling the unit. A bush is then pressed into the hole and into this is pushed the stud on which the shelf rests. Always use a depth stop of some kind when drilling these holes, to prevent you boring too deep and damaging the face side of the boards.
A well made dowel joint will make a fairly rigid cabinet, but rigidity and appearance are improved if a back is fitted. This can be hardboard painted to match the woodwork or for better finishes use veneered plywood. If you have the facilities a rebate can be made to take the back, otherwise bevelling the edge of the board will make it less obtrusive when viewed from the side. The fit must be close.
There are two main types of storage cabinet. One is of the quality suitable for use in living rooms and the other is the more sturdy store room type.
Cabinets for use as furniture are made using veneered boards and for these the dowel joints described in making display cabinets are most suitable. Plastic block connectors are quite suitable for general storage cabinets and for kitchen cabinets.
As these units have a fair weight of materials to support, it is more usual to house the shelves into the side of the cabinet, unless plastic blocks are being used. For the best appearance, the housing should be stopped and not cut right through
to the front of the side pieces. Mark the position and thickness of the shelves, then square the lines across the boards. Mark the depth of the housing and bore two or three shallow holes at the stopped end of the housing. Clean out these holes to make a small recess and you will find this a help when sawing each side of the housing. The waste is best cut away with a chisel and finished off with a hand router. If a router is not available, you will have to take great care in getting the housing level and even.
The front edge of the shelf is cut back to clear the end of the stopped housing and the shelves are glued into place. These shelves are slid into the cabinet from the back after the top and bottom have been dowelled and fixed.
When the shelves are installed the back can be fitted. This is either set in a rebate, or if that cannot be made the cabinet must be squared by measuring the diagonals, which must be the same length, and the back nailed to the sides and bottom edges. Extra nails into the shelves will make an even more rigid job.
Rigidity is very important if a door is to be inset, any movement of the cabinet would cause the door to bind and jam. Face fitted doors hung on adjustable concealed hinges are the best for this type of unit as any slight discrepancies can be overcome by the adjustment of the hinge.
Wall-hung cabinets must be firmly fixed and this means making provision for fixing when making the cabinet as well as providing a secure fixing in the wall. One method for use where heavy weights are expected, is to fit a supporting batten underneath the top and the shelves. The shelves and the top can be screwed down into these battens and the battens then plugged and screwed to the wall.
Brass mirror plates, which are screwed to the edges of the top or sides and then fixed to the wall, are really satisfactory only when solid timber is being used. Chipboard soon gives way at the edges.