Wednesday 18 March 2015

First Aid Cabinet (Part 3)

After having a side project last week I finally came back to my main build.
This time I'll report about making the housing joints for the drawer shelf.
And I would like to share my thoughts about doweling the top and bottom into the sides.

Everybody Is Talking About

As chance would have it there were two interesting post about dadoing or housing joints the last days.
One you can find in The Unplugged Woodshop blog as a guest post by
And the other one you will find in Richard Maguire's blog The English Woodworker.
I wanted to try both discussed methods, but I haven't thought about the grooves for the back panel.
So I decided to use the chisel method.

Housing Joint

Before the case can be assembled the dado for the shelf has to be established.
The height of the shelf is not exact science. In my version it is 6,5 cm from the bottom
I've marked the position with a knife nick on one of the side pieces. Now I've positioned the second pieces parallel to the first one and transferred the mark on both pieces.
Then I've established a deep knife wall to the boards. 

Knife line for the dado

Now a V groove was established with a chisel along the knife line.

Deepen the knife line
V groove

If you have this groove, you can register your shelf board against it and mark out the second needed line for your dado. 

Marking out the second line
Stay a whisker under the shelf thickness. That will guarantee a snug fit.
Again, a second V groove will be established.

Second V groove
So you will get a good starting point for chiseling out the waste.
From this point you can chisel out the waist to the desired depth.

Chiseling out the waste
If I were near to the ground of the dado, I was grabbing my router plane and planing down to the final depth.

The same procedure to the second side piece.

Final housing
With the dado done a test fit could be done. The shelf was a bit to thick for the housing.
But with a few swipes with the smoother it was made to fit.
As the shelf fits into the housing I could mark and cut out the notches at the shelf.

Notch in the shelf
Both notches done, time for a test fitting.

Test fit

Side view
And folks, that's what I'm calling a snug fit.

Snug fit :-)


As described in my first post (First Aid in the Woodshop), I have got the idea to fix the top and bottom between the rabbets with dowels.
As I haven't worked with dowels that much, I made some tests before I was going to use it at my final piece.
And I had some findings.
Due to the fact that the dowels are sitting near to the end of the boards, the drilled holes tend to splinter.
And my plan to insert them at an angle did not work, because the holes will be a bit to big and the dowels are sitting pretty loose.
So I changed my plans and set them perpendicular.
To avoid tear out and splintering I had to drill pretty carefully and to take some additional actions.   
But see for yourself how it goes.

First of all I had "clamped" all pieces together.

Fixing all parts
I've used masking tape for this. That worked pretty well because it's only a small box and the wood is lightweight.
Then I used my beloved special tool, the "Hello Kitty" pencil for marking out the dowel holes.

Marking the holes
For drilling the dowel holes I clamped the whole box into my vice.
And at the end where I wanted to drill I had clamped a supporting board. This should prevent splintering (and it did).
Before starting boring. I was prepunching the holes with an awl.


With all this preparations I started the drilling.
I took my brace and a 6mm bit for the holes. When I started to drill I did it pretty carefully and slowly. As soon as the bit grabs the wood and the first chips started to break I rotated the brace back a quarter turn.
That done three to four times I prevented break and tear out very well.
By the way. I changed the design during the building phase. Initially I had planned to insert four dowels but I've changed it to three per edge. I guess it looks better and is more than enough.
This was done on all four ends. And here is how it came out.

Dowel holes
Unfortunately I had to stop at this stage of the build.
The reason was that I only had  beech as dowel material. In my test it didn't swell pretty much so that I had very tiny gaps between dowel and hole.
I think I will try some pine dowels. But I have to go and buy some material.
Next time I 'll have a result and will report about how it went.

Dry Fit

All that done I'm ready for dry fitting once again and check if everything went nice.
If so, I'll start with the glue up.

Dry fit
Looks good! Everything came out nice and square.

Next Time

I'll report about the final setting of the dowels, the glue up and then we can start with the next steps.
A drawer has to be build and the door has to be constructed.  

What Do You Think?

How are your experiences with housing joints and with doweling as a jointing method?

I'd love to read your thoughts

Do You Like This Article?

This is a pretty long post. Was this okay for you?
If you found this article useful check out the next post on next Wednesday. 

Stay tuned,



  1. Will you use conical dowels like the miller dowels Tom uses? oh oh I see you are building a kerfing plane too! nice!

  2. Thanks for your question.
    No I will use standard dowel material. Miller dowels are really hard to get in Germany.
    And they will slightly pass the target. It's just a simple cabinet.
    Well observed :-) For the time being I'm somehow prototyping a kerfing plane.
    I guess I will write about it in the future.

  3. Looks like its going to turn out great Stefan.