Hand Plane Cabinet

Comments (0)

This article is from Issue 62 of Woodcraft Magazine.

A fitting home for fine tools

Designed By Craig Bentzley

There’s a long-standing tradition of cabinetmakers displaying their woodworking skills in the form of finely crafted tool cabinets and chests. Very often, the contents include a number of hand planes, which can accumulate surprisingly quickly. It’s not unusual for a serious woodworker to have a dozen or more of these tools, all of which deserve care and protection.

To that end, this dedicated hand plane cabinet was designed for beauty, utility, and accessibility. The cabinet is deep enough to compactly accommodate block and smoothing planes on the gallery shelf. This shelf is raised to the level of the top edge of the lower door rail for clear visibility and quick inventory when you’re looking for a particular plane for a job at hand. The cutaway in the shelf above the gallery also aids visibility.

The upper ramps provide a good solution for storing long-bodied planes in a shallow cabinet, while perfectly presenting the totes for easy grasping. As an added benefit, the hinged ramps can be lifted upward to allow access to the interior space for storage of infrequently used items. Finally, two drawers offer compartments for plane-tuning tools, paraffin, and other related supplies and accessories.

For efficiency and joint accuracy, saw the dadoes in a “double-wide” panel before ripping it into two to create the case sides.
Glue a wide piece of solid wood between the plane gallery shelf and cutaway shelf. Afterward, rip through it to create two edged shelves.

Make the plywood case

1 Cut a single 261⁄4 × 47" hardwood plywood panel from which you’ll ultimately make both case sides (A), as shown in Figure 2. Make sure the panel is square, and that you’ve removed any factory edges.

2 Referring to the Cut List, saw three of the five horizontal panels (B) and the drawer divider (C) to final size. For the remaining two horizontal panels, cut a single 24"-wide × 25"-long panel for now. You’ll rip this “double-wide” panel into the two finished panels after cutting the dadoes for the drawer divider.

3 Referring to the spacing shown in Figure 2, use a dado head to saw the 3⁄4 × 1⁄4"-deep dadoes in the sides (A) panel (Photo A).

4 Saw the 3⁄4 × 1⁄4"-deep dadoes for the drawer divider (C) midway across the 25" length of the double-wide horizontal panel you cut in Step 2.

5 Saw the 11⁄8 × 1⁄4"-deep rabbets in the outermost edges of the double-wide sides (A) panel, where shown in Figure 2.

Clamp or tape a wooden sacrificial facing to your rip fence to prevent scarring it.

6 Rip each side (A) to its final 127⁄8" width. Also rip the double-wide horizontal panel into two 113⁄4"-wide pieces.

7 To efficiently make the edging (D) for the horizontal panels (B) that will become the plane gallery shelf and cutaway shelf, first dress a piece of solid oak to 13⁄16 × 37⁄8 × 25". Then edge-glue it between two of the slightly oversized horizontal panels (B), as shown in Photo B. After the glue cures, hand-plane and/or sand the faces of the edging flush to the faces of the panel. Then rip through the solid wood section to create one panel with 31⁄2"-wide edging (for the upper cutaway shelf) and the other with 1⁄4"-wide edging (for the lower gallery shelf). Clean up any saw marks, and then rip each panel to its final 113⁄4" width.

8 Referring to Figure 1, lay out the cutaway on the 31⁄2"-wide edging. Use a jigsaw or bandsaw to cut the shape, and then smooth the edge.

Use a scrap panel to square the horizontal panels to the drawer divider during glue-up, and use a carefully squared spacer panel to accurately locate the drawer guides.
Rehearse the rest of the case glue-up by first clamping across the face, with the case resting on cauls overhanging the edge of the bench.

Next, lay the case on its front, insert the back panel, and check to make sure that all the joints mate tightly.

Glue up the case

1 In preparation for assembling the case, make eight thick, straight cauls, squarely crosscutting their ends.

2 Glue the drawer divider (C) into its dadoes (Photo C). Also, make the drawer guides (F), and glue them in place to the case bottom (B) at the same time, using 101⁄4"-long spacer panels to aid location.

3 Dry-clamp the case together to check the fit of the joints and to rehearse your clamping procedures (Photos D and E).

With the unit clamped up, measure for a perfect fit of the back (E), and then cut it to size. Make sure it’s dead square, as it will serve to square up the case during assembly.

4 After the divider (C) joints have cured, glue up the case.

With the ramps centered in the case and held back 1⁄2" from the front edge of the cutaway shelf, mark along the hinges’ barrels and ends to establish the hinge locations.

When planning your plane arrangement, keep in mind that the ramps are designed to accommodate longer planes (numbers 5, 51⁄2, 6, 7, and 8). Smaller bench planes (numbers 41⁄2 and under) should be placed either in the plane gallery below, or on the upper sections of the ramps. Otherwise, when placed low on the ramps, their totes may prevent the door from closing.

Make and fit the ramps

1 Cut the ramp panels (G) to the size in the Cut List. Then saw the 1⁄4 × 1⁄8"-deep grooves, as shown in Figure 3. I spaced them about 3" apart, which accommodates most planes, but double-check the widths of your specific tools (for a #8 plane, allow an extra 3⁄16"), and adjust the spacings to suit.

2 Saw the ramp edging strips (H), vertical divider strips (I), and rails (J) to the sizes in the Cut List.

3 Cut the biscuit slots in the bottom edges of the ramp panels (G) and in the mating edges of the ramp rails (J). Now glue and tack the strips (H, I) to the ramps, and clamp and glue the rails (J) to the ramps. Lastly, saw a 74° bevel on the top and bottom edge of each assembled ramp, where shown in Figure 3. For safe sawing, this is best done using a crosscut sled or a miter gauge outfitted with a long auxiliary fence.

4 Temporarily attach a 10"-long section of continuous hinge to the rear face of each ramp at its top edge, using just a few screws for now, but drilling all of the pilot holes. (Note that the 1⁄2"-long screws that come with the hinge will poke through the panel unless shortened. After drilling the pilot holes, I pre-threaded them by driving a screw partially in, and then removing it. I then ground about 1⁄16" off the tips of the screws before final installation.)

5 Put the ramps in place, with their lower edges set 1⁄2" back from the inner edge of the cutaway shelf. Now mark the hinge locations by tracing along the hinge barrel and the ends of the hinge leaves (Photo F).

6 Trace along the rear edges of the horizontal panels (B) onto the back (E). Then remove the back, extend the horizontal panel centerlines across its rear face, and drill countersunk clearance holes for attaching it.

7 Detach the hinges from the ramps (G), and screw them to the back (E), again with just a few screws, but drilling all the pilot holes. (As you did for the ramp attachment, grind about 1⁄16" off the tips of the screws.)

8 Glue and screw the back (E) in place with #6 × 11⁄2" screws placed approximately 6" apart.

Drill pocket screw holes in the ends of the face frame rails for their attachment to the stiles.
Cut the end mortises first, and then remove the waste between them with subsequent cuts.

Make the face frame

1 Cut the face frame stiles (K) and rails (L) to the thicknesses and lengths shown in the Cut List, but make them about 1⁄32" oversized in width for now. Also make the piece for the drawer box edging (M).

2 Join the stiles and rails using pocket screws (Photo G).

3 Glue and clamp the assembled face frame to the case.

4 Cut the drawer box edging (M) to length, and glue and clamp it in place.

5 Use a flush-trim bit to rout the face frame (K, L) and edging (M) flush to the case.

For efficient sawing of tenons, register the stock against the rip fence for the first cut, and then remove the rest of the waste in subsequent passes.

Make the door

1 Cut the door stiles (N) and rails (O, P) to the sizes shown in the Cut List. For aesthetics and stability, use straight grained stock.

2 Lay out the mortises where shown in Figure 1, and then cut them. I used a hollow chisel mortiser (Photo H), but you could rout them instead.

3 Lay out the tenons where shown in Figure 1, and then cut them. I used a dado head on the tablesaw to do the job (Photo I). 

4 Assemble the door, ensuring that it’s dead-square under clamp pressure.

5 Rout the 1⁄4 × 3⁄8"-deep rabbet for the glass, and then square the corners with a chisel. Measure the distance between opposing rabbet shoulders, and subtract 1⁄16" in each direction. Then order a sheet of 1⁄8"-thick (double-strength) glass cut to that size.

6 Make the door stop strip (Q), and glue or tack it in place, flush with the front edge of the top horizontal panel (B), where shown in Figure 1.

7 With the case on its back, lay the door in place with a 1⁄16" gap between the door hinge stile (N) and the face frame stile (K). Attach the hinges, and then mark the perimeter of the door for a consistent gap all around. Remove the door, and joint or plane the edges to your lines.

Saw the dadoes and grooves feeding with a miter gauge and using the rip fence as a stop.
Saw the rabbets with the stock standing on end. Use a raised featherboard to prevent tipping.

After repositioning the fence a hair closer to the blade, saw the bottom rabbets in the same fashion.

Make the drawers

1 Cut the drawer box sides (R), fronts and backs (S), and bottoms (T) to the sizes shown in the Cut List.

2 Set up a good quality dado head for a 1⁄4"-wide cut. Stand a piece of drawer stock on edge against the fence and position the fence so that the face of the plywood is flush with the opposite face of the saw teeth. Raise the blade for a precise 1⁄4"-deep cut, and leave it at that height for the following steps.

3 Saw the dadoes in the drawer sides (R), as shown in Photo J. Use the same setup to cut the drawer bottom grooves on the inside faces of the drawer sides (R), and fronts and backs (S).

4 Reposition the fence if necessary until test cuts yield a rabbet with a tongue that fits snugly into the dadoes you cut in Step 2. Then saw the rabbets on the drawer fronts and backs by standing the stock on end (Photo K).

5 Reposition the fence about 1⁄64" closer to the blade, and cut the rabbets on all four edges of each drawer bottom, as shown in Photo L. (The slight fence adjustment will allow the drawer bottoms to slide easily in their grooves for simpler assembly.)

6 Glue up the drawers on a flat surface, ensuring that they’re square under clamp pressure.

7 After the glue cures, check the fit of each box in its opening, and plane or sand the parts if necessary to create a nice sliding fit with no side-to-side wobble.

For stability when routing the moldings, shape the edge of a wide piece of stock, and then rip it to final width. Keep a pushstick at hand for safe feeding.
To clamp the moldings, use hot-melt glue to attach a
stand-off strip to the thinnest section of the molding, and then span the molding with another strip used as a caul.

Attach the applied drawer fronts

1 Make the applied drawer fronts (U). The sizes shown in the Cut List are theoretically perfect, but it’s best to gauge yours from your actual drawer openings. Match the length of each front to the width of its opening, but make it 1⁄16" less than the height. Cut the fronts side by side from the same board to create a visually pleasing continuous grain pattern across both faces.

2 At the drill press, bore a 1⁄4"-diameter hole through the center of each drawer front.

3 With the drawer boxes inserted, place the applied fronts in their openings. Using each previously drilled 1⁄4"-diameter hole as a guide, bore a 1⁄4"-diameter hole through each drawer box front. A brad-point bit will minimize tear-out.

4 Remove the drawers, and install the pulls. Then drill and countersink the drawer box front for four #6 × 3⁄4" screws, where shown in Figure 4. Install the screws, and remove the pull.

5 Push each drawer completely into its opening against the cabinet back, and cut two strips of wood a few inches long and equal in thickness to the inset. Then spot-glue these to the cabinet bottom behind each drawer to serve as stops. No need for clamping here; a rubbed joint is fine.

Installing Double French Cleats

Step 1: After marking wall stud locations on the wall cleats, place them against the previously attached cabinet cleats.

Step 2: Screw a wide panel to the wall cleats to maintain their spacing.

Step 3: Remove the cleat/panel assembly, screw two wide boards to the opposite faces of the cleats (avoiding the wall stud locations), and then detach the panel.

Step 4: Place the cleat/board assembly against the wall, screw the cleats to the studs using 21⁄2" screws, and then remove the boards. Hang the cabinet on the wall cleats.

Add the moldings

1 Referring to the molding details in Figure 1, as well as the Cut List, cut the moldings (V, W) using your router table (Photo M).

2 Crosscut and miter each pair of bottom and top side moldings (V, W) to length, and glue them to the case sides. After the glue cures, fit the front sections and glue them in place, too (Photo N).

Finish up

1 Make the cleats (X) to the size in the Cut List, beveling one edge of each to 45°. Then rip away the knife edge, leaving a flat about 1⁄8" wide. Glue and screw two of the cleats through the back (E) and into the rear edges of their respective horizontal panels using 21⁄2" screws.

2 Sand the case, door, and drawer fronts through 220 grit, gently easing any sharp edges in the process.

3 Apply the finish of your choice. I wiped on one coat of General Finishes’ Seal-A-Cell, followed up with two coats of the company’s Arm-R-Seal topcoat.

4 Attach the ramps, installing all the screws this time.

5 Make the glass stop strips (Y, Z) to the sizes in the Cut List. Lay the door glass in its rabbets, and carefully tack the stop strips in place using 1⁄2" brads. Then hang the door, and drill for the pull.

6 Install the brass knobs and cupboard turn.

7 Hang the cabinet. Although using a single French cleat may do the job, I’m not taking any chances of it crashing to the floor filled with finely tuned hand planes, so I doubled up on the cleats. To ensure that each cabinet- and wall-cleat pair is carrying its fair share of the load, install the cleats as shown at left.  

About Our Author/Builder/Designer

Geoffrey Noden has been working wood for over 30 years. The first American graduate of the John Makepeace School for Craftsmen in Wood in Dorset, England, Noden now builds custom furniture in Trenton, New Jersey. He is also the inventor of the Adjust-A-Bench and the Inlay Razor. For more info, visit adjustabench.com.


Write Comment

Write Comment

You must be logged in to write a comment. Log In

Top of Page