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Building a Stunning Dovetailed Whiskey Cabinet

I am not much of a whiskey drinker myself, but there's something captivating about whiskey cabinets that piques my interest. So, I decided to surprise my husband, an avid whiskey lover, with an exquisite display...

I am not much of a whiskey drinker myself, but there's something captivating about whiskey cabinets that piques my interest. So, I decided to surprise my husband, an avid whiskey lover, with an exquisite display for his collection. Little did I know that this project would become so much more than just a gift – it turned into an opportunity for me to explore the art of creating unique, handcrafted hanging cabinets.

Embracing Hybrid Woodworking

As a self-proclaimed hand tool woodworker, I have always relied on traditional methods. However, with the availability of modern tools and a dedicated workshop, I've started incorporating power tools into my process. This combination of hand and electric tools has made each project more enjoyable. For this whiskey cabinet, I saw it as the perfect occasion to put Rockler's new line of Bench Dog® Tools hand planes to the test.

Selecting and Preparing the Stock

The key to a successful project lies in paying attention to the little details. Grain selection is paramount to me, even if it means sacrificing a few extra pieces of wood. In the long run, the investment is worth it when considering the hours spent on the project and the years it will hang proudly on display. For this cabinet, I carefully chose alder stock and surfaced it to the perfect thickness of 5/8". By cutting the sides and top of the case from a single board, I was able to maintain a continuous grain pattern, adding to the cabinet's visual appeal.

Sharpening Tools for Optimal Performance

Before diving into any project, I make sure to sharpen all my hand tools. A sharp tool not only ensures safety but also improves precision and makes woodworking a breeze. As I prepared for this project, I also took the time to unbox Rockler's Bench Dog hand planes. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the steel in the plane irons, the flatness of the soles and mating bits, and the ergonomic design straight out of the box. Whether you choose to invest in pre-finished tools or put in the extra effort to refine your own, finding the right balance between cost and quality is crucial.

Constructing the Door with Ease

When it came to the cabinet door, I decided to simplify the process by using a tongue-and-groove assembly rather than traditional haunched mortises and tenons. This approach saved time and reduced complications, given the small size of the door. By cutting grooves in the rails and stiles, I created a secure yet straightforward connection. The walnut door panel was sized to fit perfectly within the frame, allowing room for wood movement.

Moving Forward with the Case

Assembling the case required careful planning and attention to detail. Rabbets along the inside back edges accommodated the back slats, while a sliding dovetail or dado (depending on personal preference) secured the shelf. These operations were efficiently executed at the router table, ensuring precision and accuracy. To guarantee a seamless fit, I recommend creating a practice piece to refine your techniques and adjust your joint cutting as needed.

Meticulously Cutting Dovetails

Dovetails are the hallmark of fine craftsmanship, and cutting them requires patience and precision. I follow a tails-first approach, using the tail boards as a template for the pin boards. By marking the boards with dividers and a dovetail marker or bevel gauge, I ensure consistent dovetail spacing throughout the project. Cutting the waste with saws and chiseling the shoulders brings the dovetails to life, while a final cleanup ensures a snug fit. Taking the time to refine the dovetail joints is essential, as they form the foundation of the cabinet's strength and beauty.

Completing the Cabinet with Care

Once the dovetails were perfected, I pre-finished all the interior pieces using shellac to avoid any glue stains. The shellac enhanced the natural beauty of the spalted alder and figured walnut, providing a rich and warm tone. The final glue-up required meticulous labeling and precise alignment to ensure a seamless assembly. Hanging the door and adding the back slats completed the construction process. The use of coins or playing cards as spacers allowed for cross-grain expansion and contraction. Additionally, a French cleat securely mounted the back slats, providing a seamless finish.

The Finishing Touches

To create a truly unique piece, I turned a small door pull from walnut, carefully selecting a piece that incorporated a strip of sapwood. After sanding and finishing, the pull was fastened to the door, adding the perfect final touch. Throughout the entire process, I realized that even with my intention to simplify the project, passion and attention to detail took precedence. This project became a labor of love, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Completing this dovetailed whiskey cabinet has been an absolute delight. It has allowed me to explore the intricacies of woodworking and further refine my skills. The hours spent were well worth the joy it brings both to me and my husband. If you're up for the challenge, I encourage you to embark on your own woodworking journey. Remember, it's the small details and personal touches that make each project truly special.