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A Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest part five


Tool till end detail.

Back again with another installment of the Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest project. Sorry for the delay, but I haven’t had a lot of time in the shop this month other than wood working classes.

The till for the toolchest is a dovetailed box using through dovetails. The problem when using through dovetail joinery is you’re left with the drawer bottom grooves showing in the ends of the tail boards unless you stop the grooves before exiting.  Stopped grooves can be time consuming so I get around this problem by using a little trick I first saw Roy Underhill use in one of his tool chest builds some time ago. You begin by plowing out the box bottom grooves on all four sides of the till. Then, you basically rip the tail boards down in thickness, essentially cutting off the groove you just established. You’re left with thinner cheeks to lay out the dovetails on the end boards and you don’t have to worry about the grooves showing in the finished till.

Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. If you still have any questions, I recommend you pick up a copy of Made by Hand- Furniture Projects from the Unplugged Woodshop.  My first book published in 2009 via F&W Media. This toolchest is the first project from the book and I cover this through dovetail detail in the chapter.

Once the dovetails are laid out it’s smooth sailing from there. Sawing the tails, removing the waste with a fret saw and then cleaning up with some chisel work. I wasn’t able to get the entire till build in this video so I’m calling this ‘part A’ and will finish it off in the next one.

‘Till then… (pun intended)



Here are some links to a few of the products used in this video:

Veritas Low-Angle Jack Plane

Veritas Small Plow Plane

4″ Precision Double Square

Striking Knife

Lee Valley Dividers

Veritas Sliding Bevel Gauge




  1. Posted by Matt on Feb 18th, 2013

    Loving this video series!

    What scroll saw/blades are you using here? It looks heavy duty.
    Looking forward to the next post.

  2. Posted by stephen melhuish on Feb 18th, 2013

    Cracking stuff Gromit !

    All in a good days work and the important of the plough plane comes shining right through.

    Your bench Tom….what with all your teaching and students of woodwork and all these fast and furious new projects for the book, the humble bench is taking a walloping, “scar face, the return of the bench” at an unplugged woodshop near you soon.

    I bet you’d love to get a new one up and running asap, has the old trusty one proved it’s worth and what type of bench will you go for next if you made one of your own design?…..he says running back to a Maguire Workhorse.
    The birds are singing here, Spring is not far away now.

  3. Posted by Sarah on Feb 18th, 2013

    Thanks Tom, you make it look so easy :-). I just purchased the small plow plane and used it to do a few dados for drawer bottoms. Works great. Can you tell me how you would do a double stopped dado? I am working on the door panels for your ” where the Hunters heel” and trying to put the grooves in the top and bottom rails. Maybe what I am trying to do is a mortise? I would have done a rabbit but want a shallow reveal and thought I wouldn’t be leaving enough wood for strength. Any advice?


  4. Posted by tom on Feb 19th, 2013

    Hey Matt,
    thanks for the comments and question. I’m using a skip tooth pattern, 14 tpi, 5-in. fret saw blade. They work really well. You can find them here:,42884,42904


  5. Posted by tom on Feb 19th, 2013

    Hey Steve,
    you over there with the Maguire work bench! you’re right, I am still thinking about building a new bench and will probably stay close to the from you’re using. The traditional form appeals to me. Basically a beefed up version of what I have with the only real difference being the apron/front leg area. I’ll keep the legs flush with the apron and utilize the ‘new’ quick release vises from Veritas on the front face and the shoulder. Spring is coming- I can feel it!


  6. Posted by tom on Feb 19th, 2013


    good to hear from you again. Stopped grooves eh? The hand tool shop nemesis! ; )
    just kidding…I treat them like an over-sized mortise. A little brace and bit work to clear the bulk of the material and then fine tune the side walls with some chisel work. That process is repeated at both ends of the work piece until I have enough room for the plow plane in between to create the rest of the stopped groove/dado etc…
    I find sometimes a chisel and a mallet are your best friends in the wood shop. Clear, crisp knife lines to work to and then remove the waste between. Sounds easy but it’s so true in all our joinery practices. If you can work down to the scribe lines then life is good!
    all the best and thanks again for the comments and question.

  7. Posted by djmueller on Feb 19th, 2013

    Hey, Tom –

    Working on the tool box from your book. Can’t say it looks the same, or up-to-par, but I’m trying, with three of my children intensely observing the ordeal! Watching the build of the box step-by-step is excellent instruction. Art can be envisioned, but its physical presence is golden.

    Music credit for the piano accompaniment?


  8. Posted by tom on Feb 19th, 2013

    Hey Don,
    thanks for the comments.It’s good to hear the videos are helping. The best part of making a toolbox or any ‘work shop furniture’ is the opportunity to practice your skills. If dovetails are ‘gappy’ or finishes a little flawed then so be it. They’re work shop pieces and perfect for getting your chops in check! ; )

    as for the piano line – it’s a sample straight out of the MacBook I looped, edited and messed with to accompany the rest of ‘the background noise’.


  9. Posted by John Hippe on Feb 19th, 2013

    Hey Tom,

    I have to say that I truely enjoy watching your videos and listening to the music. Reading about woodworking techinuques is one thing but seeing someone actually do techniques really brings them to life. Thanks for your outstanding work and thanks for sharing your skills and passion with all of us.

  10. Posted by Chris P on Feb 19th, 2013

    Hey Tom,
    Another awesome video, this one actually cleared up the method you explained in your book to hide the groove in your through dovetails. I know you posted which saw blades you use in your fret saw but which fret saw do you use? I’m looking for a decent one but don’t have the money (or the need really) to drop on a saw like the New Concepts saw. Thanks!

  11. Posted by tom on Feb 19th, 2013

    Thanks John- great to hear !


  12. Posted by tom on Feb 19th, 2013

    Hey Chris, thanks for the comments and questions. Good to hear the video’s are clearing up that step. Some techniques/methods are difficult to write about so being able to demonstrate the steps in a video is a great opportunity. As for the fret saw- it’s an inexpensive Groz I picked up for about $5. dollars at a Princess Auto store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia back in 2006! Just goes to show- you don’t need the best tools to do quality work sometimes. The saw blades are the best I could find and I think they really make the difference.

  13. Posted by Drew on Apr 25th, 2013

    Hey Tom, love the videos. You may have touched on this saw in another video but I can’t be sure; which Bad Axe saw is that you’re cutting the dovetails with,? You used what looked like a larger saw, and slayed those small, detailed dovetails. I’m wondering if it works as well with larger stock. I’m looking for an all-around saw and didn’t want to get multiple if that Bad Axe will suit all my dovetail needs. Thanks!

  14. Posted by tom on Apr 26th, 2013

    Hey Drew,
    thanks for the comments and questions. This is my go-to dovetail saw for everything from fine dovetails in 1/4-in. stock up to large aprons in the 2-in. range.
    It’s the 12-in. dovetail/small tenon saw Bade Axe came out with a couple of years ago. When Mark was designing his dovetail saws, he asked me specifically what I liked and dis-liked about the current choices of dovetail saws on the market and the plate length was at the top of my list. I never understood why dovetail saws were always made in the 8 to 10-in. range? Undersized for larger applications, in my book. I asked him to make a 12-in. model and this is it.
    If you only want one saw for ALL of your dovetail needs- this could very well be the one!

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