The Making of an Arts & Crafts Corner Cabinet
(original design by Karl Caillouet)


The design and fabrication of an Arts & Crafts corner cabinet (2007)

11/07 - Populating my home entirely with custom made furniture, designed for a specific spot and built with my own hands, has always been a pursuit of mine. On that note, we had a perfect spot picked out for a corner cabinet of quarter sawn white oak, with flat panel doors designed for the bottom, and glass doors on the top, to match the sideboard I made for our dining room..

 Due to limitations of the corner wall space at the intended location, the height to width ratio is less than desirable for my taste, as I would much prefer a wider cabinet, but the design was maximized to utilize the available space, as can be seen in the preliminary CAD drawing below:

The 4/4 hardwood stock for the main casework had already been selected and was acclimating in the shop while the final design/construction details are worked out.

Rough cut quarter sawn white oak purchased and ready for milling to project specs.

The final design settled upon, we shift to its implementation:

After the usual dimensioning of the rough stock to project thickness, batch cutting of the face frame rail and stiles and other project parts; routing of dadoes and grooves in the face frame components to accept the side panels; and routing of the side panels and back to accept the top, bottom, and middle shelf; the flat, front part of the face frame was constructed using loose mortise and tenon joinery.

At that point a glue-up jig/fixture, pictured in use below, was fabricated to facilitate gluing the mitered left and right side components of the face frame to the already assembled front part:

The gluing jig, pictured above from both sides, is basically a 'to scale' mock-up of the front third of casework top, bottom and the middle shelf.

Along with the application of biscuit joinery in the mitered parts, and the previously routed dadoes in the face frame components and sides, this jig allows the parts to be held in precise alignment, and at the proper 45 degree angle, during the gluing and clamp-up process.

Scraps were used to make angled clamp blocks and, with the aid of three band clamps, one side at a time of the angled face frame is glued and clamped, then set aside to dry.

Below, front and back views of the completed casework face frame, with dadoes ready to accept the sides, floor, top, and the middle shelf/partition:

Applying the finish before glue up will help with clean-up of glue squeeze out, and also makes it easier to apply a gel stain, which can be hard to wipe off in the confines of an already assembled corner cabinet, with all its hard to reach angles.

Pictured below is the results of one coat of Rockler's "Mission Oak" stain applied to the face frame of solid quarter sawn white oak, as well as to the quarter sawn white oak plywood cabinet back in the foreground of the picture on the right

Onward to the actual casework, which will make up the cabinet box itself.

This step involves the marriage of the horizontal components (top, bottom and middle shelf), with the cabinet's two sides and back. As with the fabrication of many cabinets, it can be advantageous to assemble these components on top of the already completed "face frame" above.

The four photos below show that process: a test fitting is done first to insure all components fit "as designed"; those components are then pre-stained to facilitate the removal of any excess glue during the actual glue-up; and the actual glue-up and clamping, resulting, when dry, in the finished casework for the corner cabinet:

Fabrication of the custom crown moldings on the table saw:

Along with the custom design, and since off-the-shelf trim in quarter sawn white oak is not readily available, I decided to design a custom 'cove' profile for the crown molding on top of the corner cabinet, and fabricate it myself.

While not normally the tool used to cut profiles for molding, the shop table saw can be readily, and safely, used for the task. And, doing it on the table saw also makes for an interesting, fun and rewarding problem to solve ... determining the angled, compound cut that results in the desired shape ... an exercise in using that geometry and math you were once convinced you would never have to use again after graduation from school. 

Below, the table saw, setup to cut the cove for the crown molding, and the end results after ripping the stock into two parts. The actual cutting involves making shallow, angled passes over the table saw's blade, raising the blade only about a 1/16" for each pass. Slow and easy does it ...


Below, the newly made crown molding being test fitted to the face frame.

Once again during final assembly the risk of glue sticking to the finish during glue-up is mitigated by pre-staining. As seen, the completed cabinet casework is used to hold the three crown molding pieces in the correct orientation during glue-up of the crown molding assembly (#0 biscuits are used to reinforce the 22 1/2 degree miter joints).

After glue-up and staining, the crown molding assembly is attached with glue and screws from the back side on the long grain front; and screws, in elongated holes, but with no glue,on the two cross grain sides (the latter is necessary to mitigate future damage caused by the inherent dimensional instability of wood when its moisture content changes due to changing relative humidity of its environment; something that must always be taken into consideration when gluing two faces across their grain)

Next, the base for the corner cabinet is then constructed, and attached, in much the same manner/method as the crown block, as can be seen below.

The basic corner cabinet casework, complete with base and crown, finally standing on its on.

The trim piece on the middle rail and the four doors and shelves remain to be fabricated, but the 76" tall case, which has been taking up space in the shop and making it difficult to move about, is finally out of the way and work can now commence on those parts.

Fabrication of the cabinet doors

Four doors are planned for this corner cabinet: two wooden panel doors for the bottom section, and two glass panel doors for the top section.

Below, the face frames, dry fitted, for the top two glass doors; and the glue-up of the bottom two wooden panel, doors.. All the doors are assembled with loose tenon joints, with mortises cut on the Multi-Router:


Below, doors are temporarily mounted for fitting and determining hinge and hardware locations prior to final finishing:

Trim details, and the finished project, in use: