Collector’s Showcase

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This article is from Issue 34 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Display your treasures in style in this handsome glass-topped box.

Designer/Builder/Writer: Craig Bentzley

Box projects are perennial favorites with woodworkers. They’re a fun way to hone your skills, and there’s always a need for additional storage. While extra storage is appreciated, the treasures within are usually unseen. This good-looking tabletop showcase is different. Sporting a glass top and four interchangeable drawers, this case serves as a mini-museum. It offers up an ever-changing display that makes collections easy to see while keeping them secure.

In addition to showing off your favorite keepsakes, this box gives you an opportunity to display your woodworking skills. You’ll get a chance to try your hand at simple veneering, using rail-and-stile bits, installing full-mortise locks, cutting interlocking drawer dividers, and lining drawers. In the end, you’ll have an heirloom quality piece suited to any décor.

Note: For a list of the materials and supplies used to build this box, see the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide on page 61.

Make the veneered panels

Veneering the side and back panels to match the curly maple drawer fronts is a simpler and less expensive alternative to using solid wood. Despite the conventional wisdom that panels must be balanced on both sides, these panels are only veneered on the show face. By using a ¼" Baltic birch substrate and containing the panel within the rails and stiles, the small panel is neither willing nor able to move.

Apply a few tabs of tape to keep the veneer from shifting. An expired credit card, cut with pinking shears, makes an efficient glue spreader.

1 To create a simple veneer press, make a pair of ¾ × 8 × 16" clamping cauls. (I used melamine because it’s cheap and most glues won’t stick to it.) Also make three pairs of bearers from 2 × 3" construction lumber. Plane a slight crown along the length of the bearers to direct extra pressure to the center of the sandwich when applying clamps to the ends.

2 Cut the side and back panels approximately ¼" larger than the finished sizes in the Cut List. The extra material provides insurance against veneer shift during glue-up. Using the plywood panels as guides, cut the veneer to size with a utility knife or veneer saw.

3 Working one panel at a time, tape the long edge of the veneer to the underside of the substrate and spread glue on the top face of the plywood as shown in Photo A. Fold the veneer onto the panel, attach tape to the free edge, and then use a roller to work out bubbles and spread the excess glue.

Crowned bearers direct extra clamping pressure to the middle of the glue-up. Clamping the center bearer first helps force excess glue out to the edges.
Hold down the panel firmly and trim one edge. To decrease the chance of chipping the veneer, orient the panels so the good side faces up.

4 Place the veneered panel between the cauls and arrange the bearers as shown in Photo B. Clamp the ends of the bearers and then place a few extra clamps around the edges. Allow time to dry.

5 Repeat steps 1-3 with the two remaining panels. When you’re done, use a cabinet scraper to remove tape and dried glue. Finish-sand the good veneered face through 220 grit.

6 Moisture in the glue will make the veneer swell a bit, creating some overhang. Using a tablesaw and crosscut sled (see page 21 for our plan), as shown in Photo C, butt an end against the fence and true one long edge of each panel. Now cut the panels to final size for side panels (A) and back panel (B).

7 If you want to enhance the look of the figured panels, but don’t intend to color the entire project, stain the veneered panels now, then put them aside.

Make the case

1 Mill the rail and stile stock (C-H) to ¾" thick. Referring to the Cut List, joint and rip the parts to correct widths, and then crosscut to length.

2 Measure the thickness of your side and back panels (A, B) and adjust the width of the slot cutters on your rail and stile bits to match. Next, install the rail bit in a table-mounted router. Use a straightedge to align the guide bearing flush with the fence and set the fillet for 1/16". Now cope the ends of the side rails (C, D) and back rails (F, G), as shown in Photo D. Make sure to keep the ends of the rails tight against the fence.

3 Install the stile bit in a table-mounted router. Align the guide bearing with the fence and adjust the fillet depth to match the rail. Make a test cut on scrap, and adjust the height as necessary to ensure perfectly flush faces. Now rout the profile on the inside edges of the rail and stile stock (C-H) as shown in Photo E.

4 Arrange the parts according to subassemblies; sides (A, C, D, E) and back (B, F, G, H). The subassemblies go together identically. Apply glue to the stub tenons on a rail and a small amount in each end of the stiles. Insert that rail into the stile, slide in the panel, and then insert the second rail. Now attach the second stile and then press the assembly together.

Lay the assembled panel onto a pair of clamps and apply pressure to the rails. Use a straightedge to make sure that the assemblies are flat and the ends of the stiles are flush with the rails. Repeat the process with the other two panels.

5 Mill the stock for the drawer dividers (I, J), drawer runners (K, L), upper drawer kickers (M), rear screw cleat (N), and lower drawer support (O). Cut the parts to the dimensions on the Cut List.

Use a sandpaper-faced backer block to keep the rails from slipping into the fence opening and to prevent blowout at the end of the cut.
Focus on the feed rate when routing the cherry stiles. Feed quickly enough to prevent burning, but slowly enough to avoid tear-out.

6 Install a dado set in your tablesaw and cut the ½" rabbets ¼" deep along the top edge of the side panel assemblies (A, C, D, E) where shown in Figure 1. Adjust the fence and cut the dadoes for the drawer runners (K, L) and drawer dividers (I, J) as shown in Photo F. Next, cut the ¾" rabbets ¼" deep along the bottom edge of the side panel assemblies.

7 Rotate the side panel 90° and cut the ¾" rabbets ¼" deep on the front of the side panel assemblies to house the drawer false fronts (AA) where shown in Figure 1. Finally, cut the ¾" rabbets ¼" deep for the back panel assembly (B, F, G, H).

8 Apply glue to the two side assemblies (A, C, D, E), position the back between them, and then apply light clamping pressure to hold the box together. Insert the drawer dividers without glue, as shown in Photo G and increase clamping pressure.

9 Install a ⅛" slotting bit in a table-mounted router, clamp the router table slotting jig (refer to the slotting jig sidebar on page 58) to the fence, and cut ⅛"-wide slots to fit mini biscuits on the inside edges of the drawer dividers

(I, J), and the ends of the drawer runners (K, L) and kickers

(M) where shown in Figure 1. Locate the jig so the cutter doesn’t break through the visible edges of the parts. Now, plunge the parts into the rotating bit. Trim the ends of the biscuits so they don’t protrude from the outer edges of the parts.

10 Using the same slotting bit, cut the ⅛"-wide mortises ⅜" deep for the lock strikes in all drawer dividers (I, J) where shown in Figure 1.

11 Drill and countersink screw holes in the upper drawer divider (I), upper drawer kickers (M), and rear cleat (N) where shown in Figure 1.

12 Glue all the runners (K, L) and dividers (I, J) into the box. Make and install the four drawer guides (P) where shown in Figure 1.

With a dado set, cut the ½"-wide dadoes for the drawer runners and dividers. Use the sacrificial fence to cut the rabbets on the top and bottom edge.

Dry-fitting the dividers between the side panels will keep the box assembly square as you glue and clamp the sides to the back.

Router-Table Slotting Jig

This simple jig provides an easy way to support workpieces when slotting square-cut and mitered ends for biscuits or splines. Use it to reinforce the runners (K, L) and kickers (M), and in the mitered top frame parts (Q, R) as shown at right.

After building the jig as shown, set your router table’s fence 3/8" in front of the bearing and adjust the bit height to cut a slot at the midpoint of your stock.

When slotting narrow pieces, locate the jig on the fence so that the biscuit will protrude from a less visible edge, for trimming later. When slotting wide pieces, position the jig so the slot is centered on the stock.

Make the top

1 Mill the top frame front/rear (Q) and sides (R) to ⅝" thick. Referring to the Cut List, joint and then rip the parts to width. Leave them a few inches long for now.

2 Using a table-mounted router, align the guide bearing flush with the fence and set the fillet for 1/16". Shape the inside edges of the top frame’s front/rear (Q) and sides (R).

3 Set your tablesaw blade height to ¼" and fence to 13/32" and rip off the bottom lip of the groove from the top frame parts (Q, R) to create a rabbet for the tempered glass top.

4 With a table-mounted router and ¼"-radius cove bit, rout the bottom outside edges of the frame parts (See Figure 1.)

5 Miter-cut the top frame (front/rear) (Q) and sides (R) to final length. Dry-fit the frame to check the fit of the miters. Use the router table and slotting jig, but this time employ the jig’s mitered face, as shown above. Adjust the bit and jig so that the slot cut is centered on the mitered end of the workpiece and then plunge the end into the bit.

6 Apply glue and assemble the top frame (Q, R) with biscuits.

7 Cut the glass retainer strips (S, T) to size. Finish the top frame and glass retainer strips before installing the glass and attaching the top to the case.

Make the base

1 Mill the parts for the base (U, V). Rip them to width, but leave a few inches extra length for now.

2 Using a tablesaw and dado set, cut a ¼" rabbet ⅜" deep where shown in Figure 1.

3 Table-rout the ¼"-radius cove on the outside top edges.

4 Cut the base pieces to fit the box. To do this, miter one end of the two side pieces (V), clamp them to the box, and then mark and miter the front and rear pieces (U) to fit. Next, clamp the finished pieces to the front and back of the box and trim the sides to fit.

5 Chuck a 1⅜"-diameter Forstner bit in your drill press to cut the coves for the foot profile. Remove the remainder of the waste using a bandsaw.

6 Apply glue to the rabbets and miters and attach the parts to the bottom of the case. Once the glue dries, make and install the glue blocks (W) where shown in Figure 1 to reinforce the miters.

Make the drawers

1 Cut the drawer fronts and backs (X) and sides (Y) to a hair undersize to fit the opening. Cut the bottoms (Z) to size from ¼”-thick plywood.

2 Referring to Figure 2, use a tablesaw and dado head

to cut the ¼" rabbets ¼" deep along the ends of the drawer fronts and backs (X) and their mating dadoes on the inside faces of the sides (Y) to create the lock rabbet joints. Then cut the grooves along the inside faces of the fronts, backs, and sides for the drawer bottoms (Z).

3 Drill the ⅜"-diameter counterbores ¼" deep and the 3/16"-diameter through holes in the drawer fronts (X) where shown in Figure 2. (The oversized through-holes will allow drawer adjustment later.)

4 Glue up the drawers. Use a hand plane or sanding block to trim the drawers’ sides and edges to create a snug, easy fit.

Drill the mortise for the lock plate, then drill the lock body mortise without changing the fence setting.
Focus on keeping the chisel vertical when paring the scalloped walls and rounded ends.

A cherry backer serves as an easy-to-read depth gauge. Stop as soon as you see darker sawdust.

Install a full mortise lock set

1 Cut the false fronts (AA) a hair undersize. Drill holes for the pulls. Referring to Figure 2, lay out the central locations of the lock sets on the top edges.

2 Using a drill press equipped with a 7/16" Forstner bit, adjust the depth and drill shallow mortises matching the lock plate lengths as shown in Photo H. Straighten the outer edges with a chisel.

3 Chuck a ¼" brad-point bit in the drill press and hog out the 5/8"-deep mortises (or as needed) for the lock bodies. Pare the walls of the mortises flat as shown in Photo I.

4 Measure the distance from the top of the lock to the key pin and mark the location on the false fronts (AA). Lay out the location of the escutcheons and drill the 9/32"-diameter hole (Photo J), but don’t install the escutcheons yet.

5 Test the fit of the lock. Then drill pilot holes for the screws and install the locks.

6 Attach the false drawer fronts (AA) to the drawer boxes with #6 × ¾" roundhead wood screws. Install the drawers, adjust the false fronts as necessary to even out the gaps, and then tighten down the screws.

Dividing Drawers

Egg crate dividers are simple to make and easy to remove or replace, but to look good, the lap joints must be cut precisely. I made this simple jig using a piece of plywood and divider stock scraps. The dimensions given here will create 15 openings, each 2.95 (261/64) × 2¾", but I’ve provided a formula so that you can adapt the jig to create different evenly-sized compartments. (For the jig to work, your divider stock must be consistent. Thickness, rip, and crosscut your divider stock (BB, CC) carefully to ensure that the parts are identical.)

Make the jig as shown. Mark stop-to-notch distances on it, and then clamp it to your miter gauge. Adjust the dado width to match the divider thickness, set the height a hair above half the width, and make a through-cut on the fence. Unclamp the fence, flip it end for end, and make a second through-cut.

To use the jig, butt a pair of long drawer dividers (BB) against the inside of the stop as shown and cut the first notch. Then lift the pair, fit them over the stop, and make your second cut. Now rotate the pair and repeat.

To notch the short dividers (CC), rotate the fence, set the stock against the stop, and cut the notch. Rotate the stock and cut the second notch.

Finishing up

1 Sand the box through 220 grit. Dye the drawer fronts to match the side panels and then brush several coats of 11/2 pound-cut garnet shellac on all exterior surfaces.

2 Install the glass in the top frame assembly (Q, R). To do this, I tacked the glass retaining strips to the top frame with a 23-gauge pin nailer.

3 Attach the top frame assembly to the box with an offset screwdriver and (8) #4 × ¾" flathead wood screws. Install the knobs and press-fit the escutcheons.

5 Now dress up the drawer interiors as shown in “Lining Drawers with Fabric” on page 62.

6 Build dividers (above), insert them, and add your collection.

About Our Designer/Builder

Craig Bentzley has been restoring antiques and building furniture for nearly 40 years.

His primary interest is 18th-century American furniture. In addition to writing, Craig also teaches at guilds, woodworking shows, and at Woodcraft stores.


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