Shaker Tailor’s Cabinet

With the tenons and mortises formed,and the legs turned, the puzzle begins to take shape by gluing up the front frame. Notice the double-tenon used in the legs for extra strength.

With the tenons and mortises formed,and the legs turned, the puzzle begins to take shape by gluing up the front frame. Notice the double-tenon used in the legs for extra strength.

This tailor’s cabinet was brought to my attention by a customer who wanted one just like it. She had seen the piece in John Kassay’s “The Book of Shaker Furniture.” The original was made in Watervliet, N.Y., during the first half of the 19th century using plain and figured maple, and pine for the panels and interior pieces. The book also describes the drop-leaf on the original as being of walnut, indicating it may have been added later. My customer wasn’t looking for a walnut leaf or pine sides, and I assured her I could make those changes.

This is a great storage piece for any number of rooms in the house, and while the leaf adds character, it doesn’t add all that much space. While the leaf may never be used, I like the way it looks; so it’s well worth the effort.

The basic construction of the cabinet is frame and loose panel for the sides and back. The front is a mortise-and-tenoned frame filled with drawers. Construction starts with the legs. Cut them to size according to the Schedule of Materials, then mark the foot of each leg for the simple tapered turning. The taper starts 4-7/8″ from the bottom. At the top of the taper the leg is turned from a 1-5/8″ square post to a 1-1/2″ round, then tapered to 1″ at the base.

It never hurts to check the fit when so many pieces come together in one place. Check the spacing of the panels and rails into the legs and adjust as necessary.

It never hurts to check the fit when so many pieces come together in one place. Check the spacing of the panels and rails into the legs and adjust as necessary.

With all four legs tapered, determine the arrangement of the legs to show off the best figure and mark them to keep them straight. The sides and back of the cabinet are made of panels and rails with tenons that fit into grooves that are cut on the inside faces of the legs. The grooves are 3/8″ wide x 1-1/8″ deep and are run 1/4″ in from the outside edge of the leg. I used a router table to run the grooves, lowering the leg onto the bit to start the cut and lifting at the end of the cut. Use indexing marks on the router table fence to indicate when to start and stop the groove. Make the same groove in the side and back rails and stiles to hold the panels in place. The groove will be off-center on the rails, so determine which face is most attractive and run the grooves with the best side on the 1/4″ offset while the router table is set up.

The next step is to cut the mortises in the legs, then form the tenons on the front rails. You’ll see in the photo above that the front rails have double tenons for extra strength. Mark the mortise locations on the front legs, then use a mortiser or router to cut the mortises. While using the mortiser, mark the locations for the 10 drawer runners on the inside of the face rails and cut those mortises as well. Then set your table saw to cut the double tenons on the ends of the front rails.

The front stile dividing the upper four drawers is attached to the second rail with a half-lap or bridle joint, cut exactly in the center of the rail and the stile. I made these cuts on the table saw, nibbling away with repeated passes. Assemble the front frame by starting with the stile, attaching it to the top and third rails using pegs through the rails.

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