Build a Blade Safe

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This article is from Issue 95 of Woodcraft Magazine.

A wall-hung armory for your table saw blade collection

Woodworkers have a way of collecting table saw blades. It starts innocently enough with an all-purpose blade or two, and before you know it, you’ve added a dedicated ripping blade, a crosscut model, a dado set, and specialty blades for cutting everything from plywood to composite materials and even metal.

These tools are tough, but not indestructible. Their carbide teeth are brittle and subject to damage from other blades when haphazardly stored. You don’t want them lying about on a benchtop waiting to clash with other metal tools, and you certainly don’t want to knock one onto the floor, as even a slight bend from a fall can compromise clean cutting. That’s not to mention the damage a blade in the wild can inflict on inattentive fingers scrounging around in clutter searching for something else.

For less than the cost of one premium blade, you can build this stout hanging cabinet to store and safeguard your collection. Made of birch plywood and solid poplar, it holds 10 blades plus a dado set and a few other table saw accessories. Sliding shelves that facilitate blade identification and retrieval feature a scalloped cutout for blade access, along with two finger holes along the front edge and a locator dowel near the center. Notches in the sides allow sliding, but also serve as outward stops. Rare-earth magnets secure the door and a subtle cove serves as its pull. This blade safe is a great way to protect your investment, and it’ll sure look nice on your shop wall.

Order of Work

  • Build the case body
  • Make and attach face frame
  • Make and assemble door
  • Make shelves
  • Prefinish and paint
  • Assemble and hang

A menagerie of joinery 

This cabinet is flush with strong, but easy-to-make joinery. Biscuits align and reinforce the case miters, while a simple rabbet captures the back and French cleat. The shelf dadoes are quickly cut using a simple jig that automatically spaces them, and the face frame attaches with glue and pocket screws. The bridle joints used for the face frame and door frame are made entirely on the table saw using a tenon jig, and the stopped door panel grooves are easily plowed using a table router.

Construct the case

Rip the case pieces to width and miter them to length. Mark the location of the uppermost dado on one side piece and use it to set up your saw as shown. Then use a miter gauge to guide each case side in turn over the blade, applying consistent downward pressure over the joint. Using each of these initial dadoes as reference, add an index pin to your miter gauge fence and saw the nine remaining sliding shelf dadoes on each side. Remove the index pin before adjusting the fence to saw the dado in each side piece for the fixed shelf. Next, set up a dado stack for a 3/8"-deep, 7/8"-wide cut, burying 1/8" of the blade in a sacrificial fence. Then saw the back rabbet in each piece. Cut biscuit slots in the case miters and drill pocket holes for attaching the face frame. Sand the inside faces of the case and assemble it, making sure it’s square under clamp pressure.

Make your mark. After marking out the uppermost dado on a case side, set your 3⁄8"-wide cutter for a 3⁄8"-deep cut as shown. Then locate the fence and saw the first dado on each case side.

Automatic dado spacing. Attach an auxiliary fence with an index pin to your miter gauge. Register each dado in turn on the index pin to cut the next sliding shelf dado on one case side. Then repeat the process for the other case side.

Cut the biscuit slots. Attach a 3⁄16"-thick spacer to the joiner’s fence to properly locate the #10 biscuit slots. Using a bench hook to hold the workpiece makes for fast slotting.

Assemble the case. Pull the case together with band clamps and check for square by comparing diagonal measurements.

Make the face frame

Mill the face frame stiles to 3/4 × 1-1/8 × 24-1/4" and the rails to 3/4 × 1-1/8 × 12-3/4", which allows excess for flush-trimming later. Also mill some extra lengths of 3/4 × 1-1/8" stock to test your setups. Cut the bridle joints with the aid of a tenoning jig before assembling the frame and attaching it to the case with glue and pocket screws. Next, glue and insert the fixed shelf before trimming the face frame’s overhang on the table saw using a fence-mounted flush-trim guide.

Mortise the stiles. Set up a tenon jig to hold the stiles vertically. Using a 1⁄4"-wide cutter, make each 1⁄4"-wide cut in two passes, flipping the piece face-for-face in between to ensure a centered mortise.
Tenon the rails. Without changing the blade height, reset the rip fence to position the jig to cut the tenons on the rail ends. Again, flip the rails face-for-face to ensure the tenons are centered.

Assemble the frame. To glue up the face frame, pull the joints home with bar clamps, check for square, and then clamp the joints across their faces.

Frame the case. Turn the case on its side and clamp it to your bench atop three manila folders to create clearance for the frame overhang. Then glue and screw the face frame in place. Turn the case over and repeat on the second side.
Flush the edges. Assemble a flush trim jig with a guide board that hovers over your table saw blade. Adjust the fence so the left edge of the guide board is flush with outside of the saw blade. Run the case face down along the guide board to trim the frame flush. 

Make the door

The door frame is also joined with bridle joints. As you did with the face frame, size the pieces to make a slightly oversized door that can be trimmed flush to the case. Cut the joints in the same manner, then rout the grooves for the door panel. After sizing a panel to fit, glue up the door. Rout hinge mortises in your chosen stile and the mating mortises in the door. Temporarily install the hinges, and mark the door for flush-cutting to the face frame. After trimming it, rout the coved pull in its edge.

Rout the panel groove. At the router table, adjust a 1⁄4"-diameter bit for a cutting depth of 1⁄4". On the fence, pencil a start line to the left of the bit and a stop line to the right. To groove each rail, lower it onto the spinning bit with its leading end at the start line, and then feed the piece to the left. Stop when the trailing end reaches the stop mark. No need for stopped grooves in the stiles.

Door glue-up. To assemble the door, glue the rails to one stile, insert the panel in its grooves, and then attach the remaining stile. As with the face frame, pull the joints home, square the frame, and clamp across the joint faces.

Hinge the door. After routing the hinge mortises in the face frame, install each hinge in its mortise with a single screw. Put the door in place and transfer the hinge locations with a knife as shown. Then rout the mating mortises in the door.

Rout an inset pull. Chuck a 1⁄2" cove bit in your router table and rout a 41⁄2" long finger recess on the backside of the door opposite the hinge mortises.

Make the shelves

Cut the shelves to size, double-face tape them together in batches, and saw the notches. Referring to the drawing on p. 45, make a shelf-sized scallop template from plywood, bandsawing the curve and then refining the shape with a spindle sander. Use the template to lay out a scallop on each batch of shelves, then bandsaw proud of the cut lines. Attach the template in turn to each batch, and pattern-rout to your cut lines. Next, drill the finger holes and the stopped 1/2"-diameter holes for the blade locator dowels. Then use a 1/8" roundover bit to ease the front edges and the finger holes. Lastly, make the dowel locators and glue them into their holes.

Batch notching. Clamp a stack of shelves to your miter gauge to saw the short notch shoulders. Position the rip fence to serve as a stop, and back up the stack with scrap to prevent exit tearout. After sawing all the short shoulders, finish the notches on the bandsaw. 

Stacked scallops. After rough-bandsawing the scallop into each batch of shelves, attach the scallop template to the stack with double-faced tape. Then use a flush-trim bit to clean up the saw marks. 

Two at a time. To make the 10 locator dowels, first chuck a 10" length of 1⁄2"-diameter dowel in a hand drill and round each end in turn against a disc sander. Then cut off the ends at the bandsaw using a piece of scrap with a stopped hole. Repeat 4 more times. 

Finishing up

Begin wrapping things up by installing two cups and rare-earth magnets in the face frame, as well as the mating washers in the door. Then cut the back and French cleat to size. For finishing, I next removed the shelves and sprayed them and the case interior with clear lacquer before painting the door and the cabinet exterior. Once things were dry, I replaced the shelves, glued and screwed the back and cleat in place, and reinstalled the door hardware. When you hang your cabinet, make sure to attach the wall cleat with several long, stout screws driven one above the other into a wall stud. This sucker will be heavy when loaded with blades.

Drilling for magnets. Use a simple self-centering jig to drill holes for the steel cups that house the magnets in the face frame. Install mating washers in the back of the door.

Secure the back and cleat. Drill pilot holes through the back and into the rear edges of the case pieces, avoiding the shelf dados. Glue and screw the back into its rabbets, then attach the cleat in the same manner. 


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