Cherry Sideboard

Cherry Sideboard

Curved parts add flare to a simple, square plywood box.

By Jason Holtz

This sideboard is a hybrid-an
interesting mix of plywood and solidwood
construction. It requires accurately
cutting plywood parts, a lot of
biscuit joints (you may want to add
gravy!), and a pleasant workout with a
spokeshave to shape the oval legs.

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I really designed myself into a corner
when I built the sideboard,
though. I had previously made a similar
piece with rectangular sliding
doors, which fit behind the curved
legs. I built standard doors for this
piece and intended to hinge them on
the legs. Nothing doing. I think I
exhausted every hinge solution available,
but none worked on a curved
door stile inset next to a curved leg.

I realized there was only one solution:
hanging the doors on the straight
sides, so they open towards the center
drawers. I know it’s a little odd, but it
works well and the doors don’t interfere
with the drawers.

Buy the wood

You will need two sheets of 3/4″
cherry plywood. I prefer Columbia’s
Classic Core (see Sources, below). It
has an aspen veneered core, which is
free of voids, and MDF crossbanding under the face veneer. It’s light and
very flat. For solid wood, you’ll need
8/4, 6/4 and 4/4 cherry. You can
make the drawer boxes from any
hardwood or from Baltic birch plywood.
You’ll need one sheet of 1/4″
plywood for the drawer bottoms.

Build the interior case

1. Cut out all of the plywood case
parts: the back (A1), bottom (A2), vertical divider (A3), horizontal
divider (A4) and upper divider (A5).
Cut each piece about 1″ extra-long
and 1/2″ extra-wide.

2. Mill strips of solid edgebanding
(A7). Glue the edgebanding on the
bottom edge of the back and the
front ends of the vertical, horizontal
and upper dividers. (Note that the
bottom, A2, doesn’t receive edgebanding.)
Trim the edging flush with
the panel’s surfaces and rip the
pieces to final width. Crosscut the
pieces to length.

3. Cut biscuit slots to join the pieces
together (Fig. A). Space the slots about
4″ apart, center to center. To reference
the biscuit slots for the vertical
dividers, use a piece of plywood with a
strip screwed onto one end. Mark the
location of the slots on this jig, then
hook the strip onto the end of the
piece you are cutting slots in.

4. Dry clamp the dividers to the
bottom, then put on the back and
mark a line under the horizontal
divider. Take off the back and clamp
a straight board on the bottom side
of that line. Cut biscuit slots in the
back for the horizontal divider, then
cut matching slots in the divider
itself. Cut slots in the ends of the
back, bottom and horizontal dividers.

5. Sand all the interior surfaces.
Cover the biscuit slots with tape and
apply your finish of choice. I use shellac
and wax.

6. Glue the bottom, vertical and
horizontal dividers. Add the back
(Photo 1). Getting sufficient clamping
pressure is tricky. I made a couple
of open-ended boxes and clamped
them to the horizontal divider.
During glue-up, I pulled the back
tight by engaging these boxes with
deep-reach clamps. Screws through
the back will work, too.

Build the sides

7. Mill the side’s top and bottom
rails (A11 and A12). Cut the side panels
(A6) to exact length and about
1/2″ extra-wide. These panels are
quite prominent on the finished
piece, so I plan the cuts carefully. I
want the panels to have a balanced,
bookmatched look, as if I had laid
them up myself. Sand the faces of the
panels. Glue the rails flush to the
backside of the panel, then rip the
assemblies to their final width. Draw
a curve on the bottom rail (Fig. D).
Bandsaw and smooth the curve.

8. Mill blanks for the legs (A8). Use
a negative-space paper pattern to lay
out the legs (Photo 2 and Fig. D).
Orient the pattern so the wood’s
grain direction follows the leg’s
curve. Bandsaw the leg blanks and
spokeshave the legs to the pencil
lines (Photo 3). Make a jig to cut the
legs to length (Photo 4).

9. Cut biscuit slots to join the legs
to the sides. Draw lines on the legs
following the inside edge of the
panel. Clamp a narrow board to the
legs following this line and cut the
biscuit slots (Photo 5). Cut matching
slots in the side panels.

10. Cut biscuit slots to join the
sides to the interior case. There is one
row of slots down the back, a second
row across the bottom and a third
row along the horizontal divider. Be
careful to position the slots for the
back so they don’t coincide with the
slots for the legs.

Assemble the case

11. Clamp the legs to the sides,
without glue, and clamp the ends to
the case. Use a single-bevel marking
knife to scribe, in each front leg, the
location of a notch for the horizontal
divider (Photo 6). Mark the intersection
of the bottom (A2) to the
legs–this is where the bottom rail
(A9) joins to the legs. Unclamp the
side assembly and remove the front
legs. Cut the notches with a handsaw,
then chop and pare to the knife lines.
Re-clamp the legs to the sides and
the sides to the case.

12. Mill the bottom rail about 1″
extra-long. Both ends of the rail must
be cut at an angle to fit the legs, and
this is best done one end at a time.
Clamp the rail to the case and mark
the angle on one end. Cut the angle
to an exact fit, then clamp the rail
back in place and mark the other end
(Photo 7). Cut this angle on the rail about 1/8″ past the mark, then make a
series of nibbling cuts until the rail fits
perfectly between the legs. Remove
the sides from the case once more.

13. Mortise the ends of the rail
and corresponding locations on the
front legs (Fig. D). Make loose tenons
for the joint (A10) and glue the
tenons into the rail.

14. Clamp the legs back to the
sides. Mark the outline of the sides
on the leg in preparation for shaping
the legs (Photo 8). In addition, mark
the thickness of the door on the
legs–this area will not be rounded,
either. Use a spokeshave to shape the
legs, avoiding the areas you’ve
marked (Photo 9). Put the legs back
on the side now and then to check
your work. After the legs are shaped,
sand and glue them (Photo 10).
Plane the inside face of the side bottom
rail so it’s flush with the legs.

15. Glue the bottom rail to the
case with the side assemblies
clamped on. This ensures that the rail
is centered in the proper position.
You can use a few biscuits to help
align the rail flush to the bottom of
the case. Glue both sides onto the
case (Photo 11).

Add doors and drawers

16. Mill pieces for the doors (B1-
B4). Scribe the outside edges of the
curved stiles (B2) directly from the
legs, and cut and smooth the curves.
Lay out the inside edges of the stiles
so they’re parallel to the outside
edges (Fig. D), then cut and smooth
them. Cut and smooth the curves on
the inside edges of the rails (B4). For
the curved ends of the rails, scribe
them to the stile’s curve, then bandsaw
and sand to the line with a drum
sander or oscillating spindle sander.
Rout mortises for the loose tenonjoinery
and glue the doors together.
Use a piloted rabbeting bit to rout a
rabbet around the inside of the door
for glass (Fig. D). The type of glass
retaining strip I use requires a rabbet
and a narrow slot, which I routed
with a slot cutter. The strips squeeze
into the slots, so no nailing is
required (see Sources).

17. Install the doors’ hinges (see
Sources) and hang the doors. You
probably noticed that the doors and
drawers on my cabinet don’t have any
pulls. I like that clean look, so I just
carved a recess behind each door and
drawer for your fingers. If you prefer to
add pulls, that’s fine.

18. Install drawer slides in the cabinet.
I used Blum Tandem undermount
slides (see Sources), which require 1/2″
of clearance on each side of the drawer
box and 9/16″ of clearance under
the box. The bottom is 1/2″ up from
the sides’ bottom edges. Build the
drawer boxes (C5 – C10) and attach
them to the slides.

19. Make the drawer faces (C1 – C4).
Their top edges are curved, but leave
them straight for now. Install the drawer
fronts on the drawer boxes using
3/32″ or 1/8″ shims to set the gaps
(Photo 12). Start at the bottom and
work your way up. Once all the gaps
are set, remove the drawer faces and
cut and sand their curved top edges
(Fig. D).

Make the top

20. Mill and glue the top (A13). I used
4 boards to get the required 25″ width,
placing a wide board in front to accommodate
the top’s curve. Cut the top to
size, then saw and smooth the curve
(Fig. D). Rout a 3/8″ roundover on the
underside. Sand the top to 220 grit.

21. Drill shallow holes in the side
top rails and back for figure eight
desktop fasteners (see Sources). Attach
the top (Photo 13).

Disassemble and finish

22. Remove the top, doors and
drawers. Remove the drawer fronts
from the boxes. I used shellac and wax
on all the interior portions of the case,
including the doors and drawers. On
the exterior, I used four coats of Watco
Danish Oil, wet sanded in between
coats with 400 grit paper, and finished
with a paste wax applied with 0000
steel wool. The top needs more water
resistance than an oil finish can deliver,
so I sprayed it with lacquer, instead.

23. Install glass in the doors using
the rubber retaining strips and reassemble
the sideboard.


Columbia Forest Products,,
(visit the website to find a local dealer),
Classic Core plywood.

Blum,, 704-827-1345, (visit the website to find a local
dealer; ask dealer for prices),Tandem
with Blumotion Full Extension Drawer
Slides for 15″ drawers; 100° Clip Top
Hinges and Mounting Plates.

Lee Valley,, 800-871-8158, Clear Panel Retainers,
#00S24.20, $9.10 for 25 ft.

Rockler,, 800-279-
4441, Desk Top Fasteners, #21650,
$4.19 for 8.

Cutting List

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August 2009, issue #143.

Purchase this back issue.

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. The sideboard’s interior is an open-ended
rectangular plywood box, joined with biscuits.
The back, which makes the structure
rigid, goes on last.

2. Lay out the curved legs using a windowstyle
pattern. Position the pattern so the leg’s
curve follows the wood’s grain direction, then
draw the pattern and bandsaw the blank.

3. Use a spokeshave and a plane to smooth
the bandsawn surfaces. Work the leg down
to the pencil lines.

4. Cut the legs to length. Place each leg
against a template mounted to a straight
board. This ensures that both ends of the
leg are square and parallel to each other.

5. Cut biscuit slots in the legs. Clamp a board
to the leg to guide the plate joiner.
Assemble the sideboard’s sides, without

6. Clamp each side to the case and mark the
horizontal divider’s position on the front
leg. Remove the side and cut a notch in the
leg to receive the divider. Re-clamp the
sides onto the case.

7. Cut the lower front rail extra-long and
hold it up to the case. Cut both ends of the
rail at an angle to fit the legs.

8. Mark the legs for shaping into an oval.
Mark around the rails and panel–these
areas on the leg will be left flat.

9. Spokeshave the leg to create its oval
shape. Leave flat areas between the pencil
lines, where the rails and panel go.

10. Glue the legs to the side assemblies.

11. Glue the sides and lower front rail to the case. The open-ended boxes clamped to the
upper shelf allow deep-reach clamps to pull the sides tight.

12. Temporarily attach solid-wood drawer
faces to the drawer boxes using hot glue.
After the faces are positioned, pull out the
drawers and fasten the faces with screws.

13. Attach the top using figure-eight desktop
fasteners, which provide clearance for the
drawer boxes. A stubby ratcheting screwdriver
is very handy in this small opening.

Fig. A: Exploded View of Case

Fig. B: Exploded View of Door

Fig. C: Exploded View of Drawer

Fig. D: Cabinet Details