Organize, organize, organize
Do you have DVDs scattered all over the room? We offer this handsome cabinet as one solution to the clutter. As shown, the cabinet is 42 in. wide and holds about 60 DVD cases. Go ahead and expand or shrink the width to better hold your collection or to fit a particular spot on the wall. The construction techniques will be the same no matter the width. In this article, we’ll show you simple cutting and joining techniques that’ll deliver fine cabinet-quality results. We’ll show you how to make clean and accurate crosscuts, rabbets (grooves on edges), and miters so you’ll wind up with a spectacular finished product.
What you’ll need
You don’t need any special woodworking skills to complete this project, but you will need a table saw. To get good, true, splinter-free results, buy a 40-tooth carbide blade. If you have a pneumatic nailer, use it with 1-1/2-in. brads to fasten the cabinet parts and 1-in. brads to nail the cornice. This will speed up the assembly and give better results than hand nailing. All told, the actual cutting and assembly only take a few hours, plus time spent finishing.
Choose the wood to match your decor
Our cabinet is made of oak and finished with oil stain (Minwax “Golden Oak”) and shellac. Make your cabinet from whatever wood best matches your room’s decor. But be aware that if you choose wood other than poplar, oak or pine, the home center probably won’t stock matching molding for the top and bottom. If you choose paint for the finish, select poplar boards and clear pine molding.
Rip the parts to width first, then to length
Begin by ripping the two 6-ft.-long 1×8 s to 6 in. wide, then crosscut the end and top and bottom boards to length as we show. Go ahead and rip the divider panels to the final 5-in. width, but hold off on cutting the dividers and top cap to length for now. Cut those when you assemble the cabinet frame so you can measure and cut for perfect fits.
Miter gauge tips and tricks
Photo 1: Miter gauge setup
Screw a 2-ft.-long extension fence to the miter gauge. Square the miter gauge with the miter gauge slot.
The key to clean tight joints is to make matching pairs of parts exactly the same length. We used our table saw, but you could use a miter box instead.
The small fence that comes with your miter gauge isn’t much good for holding wood square to make accurate cuts. Extend it by screwing a 24-in.-long fence extension to the miter gauge, with the right side hanging a bit past the blade (Photo 1). (There are holes in the miter gauge just for this task.) One of the leftover pieces from your previous rips will work great for the extension fence. Choose screw lengths that penetrate the wood about 5/8in. after allowing for the miter gauge wall thickness.
Don’t trust the angle indicators on your miter gauge; they’re bound to be inaccurate. Instead, square the miter gauge to one of the miter gauge slots with a carpenter’s square (Photo 1). When it’s square, tighten up the locking handle. Raise the blade and cut off the end of the fence and you’re ready to crosscut. The end of the fence perfectly marks the saw blade’s path. Line up measurement marks with that end and you’ll know exactly where to place the board for cutting.
Nest the wood against the miter gauge clear of the blade, start up the saw, and push the wood all the way past the blade. To be safe, shut off the saw before removing both parts.
Cut the rabbets
Photo 2: Cut a clearance slot.
Set the blade to cut 3/8 in. deep. Make a series of passes along the back edge of each board, moving the fence away from the blade with each pass until the width is 1/4 in.
Photo 3: Cut the rabbets.
Set the fence 3/4 in. from the far edge of the blade and make a series of 3/8-in.-deep overlapping saw kerfs to rabbet the top and bottom of the end panels.
Photo 4: Clean up with a chisel.
Smooth the saw marks by shaving the rabbets flat with a sharp chisel.
Now cut the 3 /8-in.-deep, 1/4-in.-wide rabbets on the back of the bottom, top and sides to create a recess for the 1/4-in.-thick plywood back (Photo 2). First lower the blade below the throat plate and clamp a straight 3/4-in.-thick sacrificial board to the saw fence. Position the clamps at least an inch above the table so the 3/4-in. boards can slide under them. Move the fence over the blade so it will cut about 1/8 in. into the sacrificial board, then lock the fence, turn on the saw and slowly raise the blade into the board until it’s about 1 in. above the table to cut a clearance slot (Photo 2). Lower the blade to 3/8 in. above the table to start cutting the rabbets.
Nudge the fence about 1/16 in. away from the blade and make cuts on all four boards (Photo 2). Be sure to hold the boards tight to the fence and the table for smooth, complete cuts. And keep your hands well away from the blade, because you have to remove the guard to make this cut. Continue moving the fence in 1/16-in. increments and making cuts until you approach the final 1/4-in. depth of the rabbet. Then check the depth with 1/4-in. plywood and make fine adjustments in the fence to make a final cut. The plywood should fit flush with the back edge of the board.
Leave the depth setting on the blade and use the miter gauge to cut the rabbets on the end panels. Set the fence to cut 3/4 in. wide (measured to the far edge of the blade). Make a series of cuts at each end (Photo 3). Push the wood completely through and stop the saw before pulling the miter gauge back. The more and the narrower passes you make, the less you’ll need to clean up the saw kerfs later. Smooth any saw marks with a sharp chisel for a cleaner-looking, tighter-fitting joint (Photo 4).
Sand all the surfaces to 120 grit for open-grain woods like oak, pine, cherry and walnut. And sand to 220 grit for closed-grain woods like maple and birch.
Stain before assembling
If you’re staining, we recommend staining the parts at this point because it’s tough to get into inside corners after you assemble the cabinet. For stronger glue joints, cover the surfaces of the rabbets with masking tape to keep stain off. Cut the plywood back about 1/2 in. larger than the opening, prefinish it at the same time and cut it to exact size later along with the center dividers.
This step will give you better finishing results, but it will add to the project completion time because it means letting stains dry before assembly. If you’re wild to complete the cabinet in one shop visit, go ahead and assemble it, then stain and finish it afterward.
Assemble the sides, dividers and back
Photo 5: Clamp the box.
Glue and nail the end panels to the top and bottom. Then clamp the assembly and check for square.
Photo 6: Attach the back.
Cut the back panel to fit, then glue and nail it into the rabbets with 1-in. brads.
Photo 7: Fit the center dividers.
Measure and cut the center dividers to fit. Then space them equally and nail them with 1-1/2-in. brads.
Glue and nail each end panel to the top and bottom boards. Four 1-in. brads, two at the top and two at the bottom, are plenty. Then clamp the assembly together to pull the joints tight (Photo 5). Check for square right away before the glue sets. You’ll need clamps that are at least 5 ft. long for this. Use blocks to spread the pressure over the whole joint. If one of the diagonal measurements is longer than the other, gently squeeze another clamp across those corners to pull the frame square.
If you don’t have long clamps, just glue and clamp the joints together with a few extra brads. (The joints might not be as tightly fit as clamped ones, but you can plug slim gaps with wood filler later.) Measure and cut the back to fit, then glue and nail it in place with 1-in. brads spaced every 6 in. (Photo 6).
Save the dividers for last. Measure and cut them to fit, then space them equally in the cabinet and nail them through the top and bottom with 1-1/2-in. brads (Photo 7). No glue is needed.
Add the cove trim and top cap
Photo 8: Cut the molding.
Cut the moldings to length using the miter gauge with the saw blade set at a 45-degree bevel.
Photo 9: Fit the pieces.
Use a scrap of cove molding to test-fit lengths. Glue and nail the molding with 1-in. brads.
Photo 10: Install the top cap.
Cut the top cap to length so that the end overhangs match the front. Then glue and nail it to the molding with 1-1/2-in. brads.
Cut and install the cove molding starting at one end, then the long front piece, then the other end. To get perfect final lengths (Photo 9), cut 45-degree bevels on a short piece of molding to use as a test block when you’re fitting and cutting. Use your miter gauge to cut the bevels. The technique is the same as crosscutting, only with the saw blade set to 45 degrees (Photo 8). Leave 3/16 in. of “reveal” (exposed cabinet edge) for a nice look. You can go with a wider or narrower reveal as long as it’s consistent. Fasten the molding to the cabinet with glue and 1-in. brads.
Center the top cap on either side of the molding and flush with the back, then glue and pin it to the molding with 1-1/2-in. brads (Photo 10). Place the brads carefully over the thick part of the trim. It’s easy to accidentally blow through the narrower, contoured front.
Clear-coat the cabinet with the finish of your choice. It’s easier to apply smooth coats of finish with a spray can than with a brush, especially when you’re finishing the interior. We used three coats of shellac. It dries quickly so you can completely finish (all three coats) in one day. It’s also the least hazardous of all finishes. Do your spraying in a dust-free room and you won’t even have to sand between coats.
Hang it on the wall
With a 42-in. cabinet, you should be able to hang it with 2-1/2-in. screws driven through the back and into two studs. But if you can only find one stud, use drywall anchors near the end farthest from the stud.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Air compressor
- Air hose
- Brad nail gun
- Combination square
- Corded drill
- Extension cord
- Framing square
- Hearing protection
- Miter saw
- Nail set
- Putty knife
- Safety glasses
- Sanding block
- Speed square
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- 1-1/2-in. brad nails
- 1-in. brad nails
- 1/4-in. plywood
- 1x8 hardwood boards
- 2-1/2-in. wood screws
- Cove molding
- Oil Stain
- Painter's tape
- Wood filler
- Wood glue