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Building a Cherry TV Cabinet with Hand Tools - Part I

comments (6) January 10th, 2012 in blogs

Jay_Speetjens Jay Speetjens, Contributor
thumbs up 13 users recommend

The completed cabinet under the tree a day or two before Christmas. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

The completed cabinet "under the tree" a day or two before Christmas.


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Understanding Japanese Chisels What makes them different from the western variety



 READ Part II of Building a Cherry TV Cabinet with Hand Tools

Project Overview

This little curly cherry TV cabinet presented good opportunities to use hand tools. The hand planed surfaces, half blind dovetail case construction and the fitting of the sliding doors are a few of the main areas that hand tools were not only more enjoyable to use but also better suited than power tools or sandpaper. As with any project there are always multiple ways to achieve the same results. The techniques described here have as much to do with the tools at hand as they have to to with any sense of being definitive. 

The design is simple enough, a rectilinear box 43"w x 20"h x 16"d. The box consists of a top joined to the side panels by half-blind dovetails. The bottom and center partition are fitted with sliding dovetails. An arched toe board supports the bottom panel at the front. The case is enclosed in the front with a pair of sliding doors. The lefthand compartment has back panels, while the righthand compartment is left open in the rear to allow for AV wiring. The piece is constructed from 5/4 deeply figured cherry which ended up 15/16" thick.

The primary panels were milled and joined in standard fashion using typical machinery, leaving components an extra 1/8" wide and 1" long. After glue-up I thicknessed the panels to a nominal 1" on a drum sander.

Panel Preparation

At this point the real fun began. I sharpened two hira kanna, Japanese smoothing planes, a 55 mm Ishihisa and an old 65 mm kanna that I picked up on eBay. In the first video below you will see me planing both faces of the panels with the 55 mm kanna. My main objectives are to clear away all  the sanding scratches and get a good feel for grain direction. Most surfaces required three medium passes to achieve this.

Planing with Hira Kanna - Part 1 


Once the grain direction was established and the surfaces planed clean of sanding or other signs of machining I switched to a 65 mm smoothing plane tuned up for finishing work. The sole of the dai is virtually flat with only a couple of thousandths of concavity and the cutting edge is predominately straight along its edge with only a slight easing at the ears to allow for smooth transitions between cuts. I shoot for making full length passes that cut the full width of the blade, taking as light of a cut as I can, working progressively from one edge of the panel to the other. I keep the surface clear of shavings while checking for ridges left by prior cuts. 

Planing with Hira Kanna - Part 2

Ideally the grain direction is consistent over the entire surface but this is rarely the case. Figured woods can be particularly deceiving as to the correct planing direction but this material by and large planed quite well. Only the top panel had to be turned around and partially planed from the opposite direction. At this point the Intereor surfaces were done and the the exterior was ready for final clean up after assembly.

Next Post

The case construction consists of half blind dovetails where the sides meet the top. In this post I cover fabricating the dovetails in full detail with ample photos and discussion of the process from laying out to sawing, chiseling and final fitting.



Jay Speetjens' Two Pines Trading Co. specializes in Japanese hand tool instructional videos, classes and more.

posted in: blogs, how to, handplane, japanese hand tools, japanese handplanes

Comments (6)

thetree3 thetree3 writes: Saying that figured woods can be "deceiving" when smoothing with a handplane is an understatement. I run into this a lot on walnut and oak. How do you keep from getting a slightly "faceted" look when you turn a board around to plane a section in a different direction? I always sight down the board with a light reflecting on it when I am finished with my smoother. On a well planed board with a single direction the finish is like glass but if I have to reverse somewhere due to curly figure, knots or change of direction on a glue seam, I end up with visible facets. They can be sanded out but I simply have never managed to get the same fine finish sanding as I can with a smoother. Is this just something you live with and chalk it up to "hand-made character" or do you sand them out? Thanks in Advance - Dan
Posted: 2:10 pm on March 8th

Jay_Speetjens Jay_Speetjens writes: Good Point on the title, I do build using a combinations of machines and hand tools. However in this posting I am only covering the hand tool processes.


I don't worry about grit from my drum sander. I by a good grade of belts and after a little use they don't seem to leave much behind. Besides after the initial planing passes the wood is cleaned up.
Posted: 10:45 pm on January 26th

nair_000 nair_000 writes: nice work - good planing
Posted: 7:22 am on January 16th

Raschall Raschall writes: Boreing
Posted: 7:25 pm on January 14th

cahudson42 cahudson42 writes: Hi Jay,

Neat project! And what sweet planing sound!

I believe I read you sanded the panels, then hand planed.

Of course, we have all read in FWW 50 times you never do this or your 'blade will be instantly dulled' :>)

To keep the edge on the planes, did you do anything to try to remove any sanding residue? Or, is the old advice - like so much stuff - simply an 'old wive's tale'?


Posted: 1:40 am on January 14th

jdgoodwin jdgoodwin writes: Beautiful cabinet, deceptive title. Perhaps a more fitting title would have been: "Building a Cherry TV Cabinet using some Hand Tools". Nice though. I look forward to Part 2.
Posted: 12:21 pm on January 12th

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