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Shop cabinet done right

comments (12) October 18th, 2010 in blogs

MKenney Matthew Kenney, special projects editor
thumbs up 34 users recommend

Yes, this is a shop cabinet. I know it looks like something youd see in the house, but I just got tired of looking at bare wood furniture in my shop.
Plenty of room for routers. The cabinet isnt that large, but there is enough room for my plunge router (and its fixed base), my trim router, and a few trays for bits.
A modern detail on a traditional cabinet. The general lines of the cabinet make me think Shaker. I decided to give it a modern twist by leaving all of the plywood edges exposed (finished with a few coats of Danish oil).
Yes, this is a shop cabinet. I know it looks like something youd see in the house, but I just got tired of looking at bare wood furniture in my shop. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Yes, this is a shop cabinet. I know it looks like something you'd see in the house, but I just got tired of looking at bare wood furniture in my shop.

Photo: Matt Kenney

Earlier this year, there was a sort of reckoning here at Fine Woodworking. It seems that when you get a bunch of woodworkers together and give them a shop to use, they accumulate a lot of wood. And I do mean a lot. And that means that storage in the shop (even though it is big) was a problem, and you could find lumber in just about every nook and cranny of the shop. Personally, I had at least 100 bd. ft. in the shop. And a few guys had quite a bit more than me. So the word came down: get your lumber out. Once all of the lumber was out, bins were built, and we were allowed to bring our lumber back in, as long as it fit in the bin. I got most of mine in (the rest is at home), but a co-worker ended up with several pieces of birch multi-ply that he had no room for and so he gave them to me.

Oddly, the pieces seemed sized for a cabinet. So, I made a wall cabinet. As it was plywood, I decided to make a shop cabinet. It seemed I could make one just the right size to store my routers and router bits. As it turned out, I was right. I did have to scrounge up material for the door (rails and stiles were made from left over Douglas Fir T&G floor boards, panel is a piece of 1/4 in. MDF I had in the shop). I made the cabinet one Saturday a few weeks ago, and knew that I could't leave it bare. Not only did the MDF and Douglas Fir door look...well, let's just say it wasn't attractive, but I also couldn't stand the thought of having yet another piece of shop furniture that was either bare wood or wood finished in a quick coat of oil or shellac. So, I decided to paint the cabinet, and that gave me a chance to try out something I've wanted to do for a while: make a piece of furniture from plywood, paint it, and leave the edges bare (something that only looks good when you're using multi-ply, with at least 7 plies). What did I end up with? A shop cabinet that really is nice enough for the house, and evidence that attractive furniture can be made from plywood. Perhaps the next one will end up in the house.

I'd like to hear what you think (as long as you're civil!).

posted in: blogs, shaker, router, router bit, matt kenney, painted, shop cabinet

Comments (12)

AnaheimWoodChuck AnaheimWoodChuck writes: Great Cabinet. It brings something I wish Woodworking magazines
would cover more. How about a column called "offcuts", ideas for that lady foot or two of a board(s) from project that you can't stand to throw away? Not jigs and such, we get plenty of that, but small cool pieces for around the shop and home.
Posted: 11:07 am on December 22nd

cricketconstruction cricketconstruction writes: Beautiful. Thanks for the idea. Dumpster diving rewarded me with some pieces of 'cell board' used in building MRI medical rooms. They are particle board with galvanized steel sheets attached to each side. Very heavy! I was thinking of a shop cabinet made of this. I have enough for a sizable cabinet set on casters. Any suggestions on hiding the particle board edges would be helpful, as they are not as pleasing to the eye as layered ply.
Posted: 12:45 am on November 17th

PORC PORC writes: I think this is great! If you have a bit of extra material, and extra time, shop projects are a great way to both improve your abilities designing, but also building. I can't find enough ways to rid the shop of extra materials that seem to be in the way most of the time.
Posted: 12:38 pm on October 25th

JJerman JJerman writes: Good point Matt. I see the value of finishing the shop cabinet if you are trying something new and experimenting with your finishing techniques.
Posted: 3:32 pm on October 24th

Woodsmithy Woodsmithy writes: I love use of left-overs and the color.
I did a similar cabinet upgrade in my shop. It was more of a rehab though. I had some birdseye and curley beech that was less than furniture quality and decide to cover my old melamine cabinets this summer. I'll send you a link.
Posted: 10:12 am on October 22nd

Red_F Red_F writes: Nice Cabinet, especially for the shop. I think projects like that are a good way to test design ideas.

I agree that the multi-ply edge does look good. It reminds me that I was in a modern furniture store in western NC and noticed a book case. Apparently multi-ply is too expensive for some company because they actually were using plastic edge banding that was made to look like multi-ply.

I never thought I would see immitation plywood.
Posted: 6:29 pm on October 21st

mcase1 mcase1 writes: Pretty nice,
I've two in almost exactly the same style, but a little fancier with small coved crowns. Both are painted with colonial colors that imitate milk paint - one in dark green and one in red. They have been banged a bit but are going on twenty years and looking great. It isn't physical damage, but the occasional stain splatter and the eternal patina of dust that detracts from their looks more than anything. Over the years I've devoted time to a number of things in my shop that are purely aesthetic. I enjoy it in the morning when it looks nice at the start of the day. Hey whatever makes you happy right?
Posted: 9:50 pm on October 20th

jallenwc jallenwc writes: 100 bf?? you're a piker. After 35+ years doing woodcarving commissions, I decided it was time to inventory. I am also crowded for room due to the accumulation. I came up with 632 bf valued in today's market at about $3600. Species vary from alder to zebrawood - really. I've made a list of the big stuff which I am distributing to various woodworking groups in my area (Sacramento). Then I'm going to Craig.s list. I've sold some and hoping to decrease inventory by at least 25%. Anybody interested in the list? My email is I will make deals but must have shipping costs.
Posted: 5:52 pm on October 20th

etemte etemte writes: I enjoy the look of the cabinet. I had never considered painting the face but not the edges. I recently collaborated with a metal-whiz friend of mine to design some modern beside tables made with stainless steel frames, thick glass tops, and a 3/4" cherry faced ply drawer box size to "float" within the larger steel frame. We made no attempt to hide the edges of the ply, feeling it added a neat detail to an otherwise very plain piece.

In my shop, I try to build cabinets, etc. with as much care as I would take building a commission. When clients visit me in the workshop, I want to make sure my craftsmanship shows.

Posted: 2:33 pm on October 20th

JamesMichaelFurniture JamesMichaelFurniture writes: Look wonderful friend! Even if it gets dented and chipped just add a different coat of paint or something and build the layers up. Shoot who knows it may end up as a treasured piece that your family owns down the road. Great..Great..Great.. once stored his woodworking tools in this. Just as in life you never know how things end, and what you may think insignificant may become some ones treasure.
Posted: 2:46 pm on October 19th

MKenney MKenney writes: You're right that it might get dinged up, but that won't bother me. I seriously doubt that I'll ever refinish the paint. And though it took a bit more time than just hanging a bare cabinet, it was time well spent. I was able to test out some ideas on a piece of furniture that I could afford to mess up.

Posted: 2:45 pm on October 18th

JJerman JJerman writes: Yes it does look nice.
I also agree that bare edges on multi-ply does look good or does have a acceptable look to it. I would not have painted the shop cabinet. Over time I'm sure it will get bumped and scraped and the paint will need to be refinished. I just don't have the time to paint and then refinish shop cabinets. I would rather spend my time more effectively like building more projects or spending more time with my family.
Posted: 2:37 pm on October 18th

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