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Modern Mission Cabinet

Simple jigs create stylish joints.

By Tim Johnson

My dog’s energetic tail inspired this cabinet. Anything within wagging range was endangered, including a number of my favorite antique toys. After one-too-many near misses, I decided to move these small treasures to safety—above the wag line and behind glass. The cabinet I built for them measures about 27 in. wide by 32 in. tall, so it’s small enough to fit just about anywhere.

This elegant cabinet is deceptively easy to build, thanks to a couple of jigs that make quick work of the most challenging joinery: the doors’ mitered, half-lapped muntins. The cabinet itself assembles with biscuits; the door frames use simple loose-tenon joinery.

I spent about $110 for top-grade cherry, but most of the cabinet parts are short or narrow, so you can save money by buying lower-grade boards and cutting around knots. The door panels provide a perfect setting for one of your treasure boards—I’ve been saving the piece of spalted maple that I used to make my panels for years. I paid $15 for a 2-ft. x 4-ft. sheet of 1/4-in. cherry plywood to make the back.

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The door frames assemble with splines that fit in centered grooves. First rout grooves in the inside edges of all the stiles and rails. Then use a sled to rout grooves in the ends of the rails.

Resaw a board to make panels for the doors. Opening the two resawn pieces like a book reveals mirror-image, book-matched panels. Assemble the doors after fitting the panels.

Rout rabbets for glass in both assembled doors. Install an oversize bearing so the rabbet matches the groove’s depth. Position the bit so the top of its cut is centered in the groove. Routing simply removes the lower lip.

To rout the mitered rabbets, clamp the rabbeting jig at the center of the glass opening on each stile and rail.

Rout tiny rabbets with a tiny straight bit. The jig’s rails guide the router so the bit cuts just shy of the jig’s mitered notch.

Finish each mitered rabbet by paring it flush with the shoulders of the notch.

The mitering jig stabilizes the thin, slender muntins so you can accurately miter the ends. First, rough-cut the miters on the vertical muntins.

Pare the mitered ends, using the jig to support the chisel. Pare each vertical muntin to final length by test-fitting it in the door’s mitered rabbets.

Saw half-laps on the ends of each mitered muntin using the mitering jig, your miter gauge and the rip fence. You can dial in the exact width of the rabbet by adjusting the fence, but it’s best to play it safe and make this cut slightly undersize. 

Pare the half-lap rabbets to fit, using the square end of the jig.

Use the centerpoints of the mitered rabbets in the stiles to locate the rabbets on the vertical muntin.

To cut mitered rabbets on the vertical muntins, simply add a spacer to the rabbeting jig. A muntin blank is the perfect size.

Saw, pare and rabbet the horizontal muntins to fit. Voila! You’ve created a stylish, sturdy divided-light door.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2006, issue #123.

September 2006, issue #123

Purchase this back issue.


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