A Start To A Spice Chest

Woodworking is decision making. Even if you are working off a plan with full sized measured drawings you will have decisions to make through the process. But this isn't cookie cutter territory here pilgrim, this is one off, custom furniture country round here so get off the fence, tighten your belt, and sharpen your spurs John Wayne.

The first decisions come before you even cut a board, probably before you even pick out your stock. These are your sizing and dimensions. But beyond that it's time to start thinking about your joinery styles and techniques. Dovetails are pretty traditional for a piece like this though recently I became a little intrigued by Krenov's use of dowel joints in certain applications. Sometimes my decisions are less of a certainty and more about a gut feeling.

I decided to use half blind dovetails for the top corners for a couple reasons. I was tempted to use full blinds after reading Chris Schwarz's campaign furniture article in the most recent Popular Woodworking Magazine, but I decided to break up the run of the grain by a little. The confession is that the stock cut to build the outer carcass comes from the same board but it is not perfectly continuous. It's very close, but I'm trying to use the line of the half blinds to make a little visual break to fool the eyes into following the lines.

I did want the sides to look complete, solid to the top so I buried the top into them. We'll see if this is the right decision eventually, I made it though, it's done, and I'm sticking to it.

It had been a good while since I'd last cut anything different than through DTs for my boxes. It was kind of a cool and challenging refresher that went pretty well.

I like to extend my saw cuts well past the layout line when I'm cutting this style.

Some small gaping but nothing that will be noticeable by the time I'm done.

And a little dry fit to satisfy the curiosity.

 After finishing the dovetails I ran some rabbets along the back and gave it a rest for the night.

Not bad for a first real day back in the shop. The following day I was able to knock out the stopped dados to support the drawers, but that is another post.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. How did you cut the stopped rabbet on the back? I usually cut that with a fillister/rabbet plane, but doing a stopped rabbet that way is hard.

    Is it your usually approach to stop the (in this case) top rabbet short of the matching rabbet on the side? Is there a reason? Do you then cut away the corners of the back to fit around the protruding piece?

    1. Hi Scott,

      Thanks for the question. Unfortunately I didn't get any good pictures of that process this time. I start by marking out the rabbet with a marking gauge. I try to get the lines good and deep. I use a carcass saw to cut a stop at the tail.

      Then I use a old 78 Stanley Rabbet plane to hog out as much as I can. If I'm planing towards the stop I lift the nose of the plane up as I get close. One the other side you plane away from the stop and there I just toe down after the stop. Basically I let the plane blade float over and not cut where I don't want it to.

      Then I clean up the rest with a bench chisel. kind of like chiseling out the waste in the half blind DTs. I deepen my scribe marks with a 1" chisel and chunk out the waste with a 1/2". I clean up the surfaces with the 1/2" chisel and get them close to correct by eye. They don't need to be perfect, they'll be covered up by the back boards later.

      This is how I find myself doing this quite often so I don't get a void in my dovetail joints that I have to fill later. I do notch the boards I use for the back, often ship-lapped boards to fit around the corners.

      Is all this necessary, I'm not sure. Probably not. You can adjust your dovetail layout to compensate for the rabbet or glue up the box and use your Porter Cable router to achieve your results. There's something about this detail that feel right to me when I do it, and maybe it takes a little more time, but I'm ok with that too. Could be that I'm just crazy, I might just have to ask around.

      It's good for you to call me on the carpet though. I may have to do some more thinking about this in the future. I am not interested in making meals out of snacks if I don't have to.


  2. No intention to call you onto the carpet :-). Just curious.

    When I try to rabbet in the manner you suggested, I find that my filister plane is too long and rides on the stopped ends. I just recently picked up a Stanley 78 (the Record equivalent, actually) and it may be that with the blade in the bullnose position (is that where you have it?) this may work better. I'll have to try it out.

    Lately I've been floating the backs of cases in a dado, so I haven't had much opportunity to do this kind of a back.

  3. Welcome back Derek, I look forward to the details of the rest of the build.



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