Stash your wax in mid-century style with this simple mitered case
We’re calling this cool cabinet a “Basic Build,” but with a few caveats. As you can see from the drawing, this retro record stand has only a few parts, and is fairly simple in its overall construction. However, before you drop the needle and get started on this project, be aware that a few of the procedures require careful attention to stay in the groove.
Take the joinery, for example. Grain-wrapped case miters are a clean and classic way to join panels at corners, but done sloppily, they can introduce sour notes in a piece. Routing perfectly fitting dadoes for hardwood plywood can be tricky, and assembling a cabinet like this definitely requires rehearsal. Likewise, applying and trimming hardwood edging, making solid drawers, and fitting inset false fronts all require finesse. But, done well, it pays off in a piece that sings.
We’ve jazzed up this article with tips and jigs to help develop your chops while adding to your catalog of useful woodworking accessories. Best of all, you’ll also have a sturdy, attractive cabinet to accommodate more than fifty vinyl LP’s. The two drawers will hold headphones and other audio gear. Ready? Let’s rock.
Plywood for the case, hardwood for the edging
With a few judicious cuts, you can grain-wrap your case parts from one sheet of 3/4" birch plywood. Miter-cut ends are joined with biscuits, and the 1/2"-thick back fits into rabbets that run along the rear edges of the top, bottom, and sides. Dadoes in the top and bottom hold the divider. Hardwood edging hides the plies. Inexpensive and easy-to-install hairpin legs prop up this handsome retro storage cabinet.
See the Buyer’s Guide on p. 70 for more information on the tools and hardware I used here.
Order of Work
- Cut case pieces and joinery
- Assemble case in two stages
- Attach and trim edging
- Make and install drawers
- Stain and finish
Make and miter the case parts
Lay out the case panels on a sheet of 3/4" birch plywood. To ensure a nice grain-wrap at the visible corners of the assembled piece, lay out the top and sides contiguously, minimizing the amount of waste between the ends of the pieces. Mark them for subsequent reorientation, then rip the panels to final width, removing the factory edge in the process. Crosscut the top, bottom, and sides to final length, and then miter their ends as shown. Leave the divider stock a couple of inches oversized in length for now.
Simple miter sled. A hardwood runner attached to a plywood base and fence makes a great basic sled for sawing case miters. Initially attach the fence through the runner and base with a screw from underneath. Pivot the fence square to the blade, and temporarily tack the far end in place from above. Test-cut and tweak if necessary, securing the fence with more screws after establishing a square cut.
Cut the joinery
Rout the divider dadoes in the top and bottom pieces, locating them where shown in the drawing on p. 37. A shop-made T-square and a spacer ensure that your nominal 3/4"-thick divider panel will fit perfectly in its dadoes. Saw the rabbets on the back edges of each piece, and then cut biscuit slots as shown.
A better T-square. The T-square shown at right features integral clamping flanges that secure the square and workpiece to the bench at the same time. For more info, see April/May 2016, issue 70, or visit woodcraftmagazine.com and click on onlineEXTRAS.
Targeting rabbets. Outfit your saw with a 5⁄8" wide dado stack. With the cutter raised 3⁄8" above the table and partially buried in a sacrificial fence, sneak up on the rabbet width by adjusting the rip fence setting. Test-cut scrap until the rabbet width matches your case back thickness.
Cut biscuits slots. To align parts during glue-up, cut slots for #20 biscuits into each miter face, with one in the center and one 2" in from each edge. Locate the slots nearer the “heel” of the miter to avoid cutting through to the outside face of the panel. As always, test first using scrap.
Assemble the case in two stages
A case like this can be tricky to glue up. But it’s more manageable as a two-step assembly using miter-clamping panels and thick cauls. First glue the top and sides together as shown, and dry-fit the bottom in place in order to measure for the divider length. Next, glue the two assemblies together and check for square. For this procedure, use shop-made I-beam risers to raise the work off the bench for clamp access. Rehearse your glue-up procedures, and use glue like Titebond III, with a long open time.
Case miter clamping panels. These shop-made clamping panels provide a great way to pull case miter joints together. Size the 1⁄4" plywood panels to match the width of your project parts, and glue and clamp 3⁄4 × 3⁄4" unbeveled hardwood cleats to them. Saw the bevels afterward.
Edge the case
With the case fully assembled, cut four edging pieces to 3/4 × 13/16 × 34". I used maple to match the light-colored birch plywood case. Apply and trim the edging as shown. (For more on edging sheet goods, see p. 45.) Trim the edging and chisel the corners square. Then measure the rabbeted opening and cut the case back for a snug fit.
Attach the edging. Miter one end of your top edging blank, and align it with the joint line of a top case miter. Mark and cut the opposite end, and glue and clamp the piece to the case. Abut the freshly mitered end of a side edging blank to one end of the installed top edging, and mark the bottom end as shown. Sneak up on the fit, then glue and clamp the side edging in place. Repeat for the opposite side, then cut the bottom piece to fit. Finally, cut the divider edging to fit.
Trim the edging. Install a flush-trim bit in your router, and trim the edging flush to the case faces. Use a router stabilizer as shown, feeding counter-clockwise around the case exterior, and clockwise inside the openings. Because the bit can’t reach into corners, use a chisel to pare the edging flush there (left). Take care not to create any dips. Using a sharp scraper in addition helps clean-up.
Router stabilizer. This simple jig prevents miscuts caused by router-tipping when flush-trimming narrow edging. For stiffness, make it from 5⁄16"-thick solid wood, as wide as your router base, and long enough to span the case opening. Drill a hole for bit access, and use the detached sub-base as a screw pattern for locating the counterbored holes for attachment to your router.
Make and install the drawers
Temporarily tack the back in place to square the case. Also temporarily install the legs to register the case stance for drawer fitting. Measure the width of the case opening, and subtract exactly 1" to determine your finished drawer box width. Then subtract another 1/2" to determine the exact length of your drawer backs and fronts. Cut the drawer walls to size and saw the joints as shown. Use the dry-fit walls to measure for the exact drawer bottom dimensions. When all the parts fit well, glue up the drawer boxes, ensuring that they’re square under clamp pressure. Then install the drawer hardware per the manufacturer’s instructions, and fit the false fronts as shown. (For more on drawer slide hardware, see April/May 2014, issue 58, or visit woodcraftmagazine.com and click on onlineEXTRAS.)
Rabbet the bottoms. Rabbet the drawer bottoms in the same fashion, but after moving the fence inward 1⁄64", which will make drawer box assembly easier.
Fit the false fronts. Rip the lower false drawer front to final width, and crosscut it for a tight fit in its opening. Rest it on 1⁄16" worth of shims and then mark for an equidistant gap near the top and bottom at one end. Connect the two marks to create a cut line that will parallel the adjacent case side. Plane to the line, reinsert the drawer front, then mark the opposite end in the same manner, as shown. After trimming it, repeat the process for the top drawer, aiming for a consistent 1⁄16" gap around both drawer fronts.
Shop-made featherboard. A featherboard helps press stock against a rip fence to ensure accurate cuts. I made one from 3⁄4" hardwood about 8" wide and long enough to extend to the edge of my saw table. I cut the business end at 60° and bandsawed the 3⁄16"-wide × 4"-long fingers.
In preparation for finishing, sand the case through 220 grit. The drawer compartment doesn’t need finish, so mask off behind its edging. Also mask the case rabbets and their contact areas on the back piece. I used walnut stain to keep with the mid-century aesthetic, applying two coats of water-based dye from General Finishes, followed by three coats of their Arm-R-Seal topcoat, scuff-sanding between coats with #0000 steel wool. Once the finish has dried, reattach the legs, and then glue and tack the back in place. Finally, attach the drawer fronts and install pulls of your choice.