The Shakers always had a knack for packing a lot of storage into a small space and making it look good. The three-sided built-in in the Center family residence at Pleasant Hill, Ky., is a prime example. You’ve probably seen a photo of it. It’s the impressive cherry unit that’s in an attic with a skylight that illuminates all 45 drawers.
It is in that spirit that I designed this two-door cabinet for a client in Ohio. The family needed to store an enormous number of board games and toys in a small space. The doors had to hide everything.
How to Pack Lots of Stuff Into Small Spaces
Organizing clutter is an interesting problem that you also might face as you design storage in your home or case pieces. Here’s what I did: Behind the left door I put a series of five 3/4″-thick adjustable solid-wood shelves. These would handle the heavier games and books. Behind the right door is a series of 1/4″-thick tempered Masonite shelves. These 10 shelves slide in and out of 1/4″ x 1/4″ dados.
The Masonite won’t hold a lot of weight, but it’s just right for storing lightweight objects. Think home office, and you’ll know what I mean. Masonite (sometimes called “hardboard”) shelves are perfect for storing letterhead, envelopes, CDs and any other paper goods in an office. The other challenge in this piece was getting the shelves, doors and face frame positioned so they didn’t interfere with one another. As you’ll see in the drawings, it took a few pieces of “blocking” to get everything to work in this cabinet.
Face Frame First
This seems backwards, I know, but begin construction by building the face frame. The size of the case and doors are determined by your face frame, so it’s clearly the place to begin.
When ripping out the material for the face frame stiles, cut them each about 1/16″ wider than the dimension called for in the cutting list. This will make your face frame hang over the edge of the case sides. Once the face frame is attached, you can trim it flush for a perfect fit.
I use mortise-and-tenon joinery to build both the face frames and doors. The tenons are 3/8″ thick and 1″ long, and I usually cut a 3/8″ to 1/2″ shoulder on the edges. Be sure to cut your mortises 1-1/16″ deep so your tenons don’t bottom out. When everything fits, put glue in the mortises, clamp the frame and allow the glue to cure.
Doors are Second
Next, build the doors. It’s much easier to fit the doors into your face frame before it’s attached to the case. Build the doors much like you did your face frame by using mortise-and-tenon joints. The only difference is that you need to cut a 3/8″ x 3/8″ groove in the rails and stiles to hold the door panels.
I cut my grooves along the entire length of the stiles; as a result, I cut my tenons with a “haunch” to fill in that extra space on the ends of the stiles. The panels are flat on the front, and beveled on the backside so they fit in the grooves in the rails and stiles. I cut that bevel by setting my table saw blade to 7° and slicing off a little of the backside of each door until the panels fit snug and without rattling.
Sand the panels up to your final grit (#120 will be fine for a painted piece) and assemble the doors. Sand the assembled doors and face frame and then peg the tenons if you like. I used square pegs that I pounded into round holes.