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A Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest part four

DSCN3418I thought I’d start the week with another installment of the Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest.  I decided to slow the pace a little and feature some of the basics in this next video. Making the lid is pretty much like it sounds. The lid is made from a single piece of solid cherry that is dimensioned and sized using hand tools. (of course)

As you watch the clip, you’ll notice some movement in my work bench during a few shots. The floor in the basement shop is far from flat so when I work across the grain it sometimes pushes the bench around and into an unbalanced area of the floor. I’m always pushing, shoving and sliding the bench back to a level location but felt it worth noting. I keep telling myself that a new bench is in the works and one of these days I’ll get my arse in gear and build one! But for now, I work with what I have.

These steps, highlighted in the video, are the fundamentals skills I use on every piece of wood, in every piece of furniture, that comes out of my shop.

Master these basics and you’ll soon find the grey vale of furniture construction starting to lift.

Starting with a face, the Jack plane is used to flatten and smooth the surface.  I begin with diagonal passes across the work surface- the wood structure is much weaker across the grain and the board is easier to flatten this way. Once I get close to ‘flat’, I begin working along the grain, as per normal with a hand plane, and start smoothing the surface. This first, flat surface is known as ‘the reference face’.

Winding sticks are used along the way to check the board for flat and/or, to show me if the board has any twist over its surface. You’ll notice I pivot a single winding stick along the length of the work to determine if the surface is slightly convex. If a slight hump is detected, I’ll continue along, using a series of ‘stopped shavings’ trying my best to slightly hollow the surface. This ‘hollow’ may sound a little misleading,  this hollow or dish, I’m trying to create, is VERY slight and almost undetectable by eye.

Once the first reference face is established, I move on to an edge and square it to this first face. This new edge is called the reference edge and throughout the rest of the dimensioning process, as well as the rest of the project, anytime I need to measure or mark off of this board, it will be done so from one of these two surfaces. The reference face and the reference edge.

After the first edge is square and smooth, I use my Lie Nielsen panel gauge to scribe a line around the work, marking the final width of the lid. I find I get better a more accurate scribe line using a few light passes instead of one heavy pass with the panel gauge. From there, I carefully plane down to the scribe lines, using a pencil to mark any high areas as I go.

Once complete, one end is squared on the shooting board and the final length is measured, cross cut and again refined on the shooting board to the perfect length. Six sides, square and smooth.

These are all very basic steps but I thought it worth slowing things down a little and highlighting some of these fundamental skills.

Until next time-





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

Veritas Low-Angle Jack Plane

4″ Precision Double Square

Striking Knife


  1. Posted by stephen melhuish on Feb 4th, 2013

    simply bliss, from beginning to end……at a slight tangent just briefly i thought i’d just put in bold the importance of the written word too with these little gems of films, it helps to better place where this work is going and the why’s and wherefores.

    Question here: that’s a monster of a marking knife, unless of course you’ve shrunk Tom, where’s it from?

    A constant lovely touch too is the haunting presence of the smaller kid brother/ sister toolchest in the background the whole time….that’s a good point is there such a thing as male and female in cabinet making….she’s a wonderful cabinet, or he’s a marvelous toolchest….does anyone know the answer to this……also are there any females out there writing into Toms blog…..what’s the percentage of male to female in woodworking?….why I’m asking that i don’t know…..maybe because i listened to Womans hour on Radio 4 in the UK today. Just some scrambled thoughts.

    Tom a few simply wedge shims under your bench legs ….rock ‘n’ roll maaaan!
    Steve…..the badger patrol…know what i mean?

  2. Posted by Anthony Wilson on Feb 4th, 2013

    Hi Tom,

    Appreciate the 6 side exercise – helps to double-check the basics.

    That Veritas low-angle Jack is a beast, eh!

    Keep on doing your thing…


  3. Posted by tom on Feb 4th, 2013

    thanks for the comments. The marking knife I’m using is/was made by Veritas. I purchased it back in 2007 I think. I like the large handle and have used it daily since. You’ll find a link just below the video above. Strange that it no longer carries the Veritas name but is now manufactured by Utilitas. Not sure when they changed but it looks like the same design.
    As for female readers, that’s a good question. I’d be curious to see just how many are out there. If it’s any indication, out of my last 20 wood classes, 8 of them have been women.
    Perhaps that same percentage rings true here on the blog?

  4. Posted by tom on Feb 4th, 2013

    Anthony- thanks for the comments.
    It’s always good to get back to the basics now and again. As for the Jack plane, it’s the work horse of my wood shop and probably used for 90% of my work.
    I highly recommend it.

    all the best and thanks again


  5. Posted by Sam Powers on Feb 4th, 2013

    I too, go through the same exact process, on every piece I build. The only slight difference is I use wooden planes, and usually finish the reference face with a toothing plane.

    Good concise video Tom.

    As always… Cheers!


  6. Posted by tom on Feb 4th, 2013

    thanks for the comments Sam-

  7. Posted by Sarah on Feb 4th, 2013

    Not sure of the number of women in furniture making but we are definitely out here. I got started in a women’s woodworking class and as a beginner bought your book. Great book by the way, love your writing style and the DVD was really helpful. At that point I think I had one veritas apron plane and their dovetail saws and a set of chisels. I was living off grid on a tiny island and was inspired by what you had done. I am working on the “Where the Hunters Heal” and am really excited. I have made and learned from many mistakes and had some power shop time but much of it I have done by hand. I will send you a picture when it is done. I just have the doors and the back to do.

    Oh,and I am so glad Lie Neilson only comes to Vancouver Island once a year! Other wise I would be in the poorhouse!


    Ps – I changed the doors so I didn’t have to put them in when glueing up the carcass.

  8. Posted by David Gendron on Feb 4th, 2013

    Hey tom, a new bench won’t make the floor even/level….lol

  9. Posted by tom on Feb 5th, 2013


    thanks for the comments! Great to hear you’re making the sideboard and yes, do send a finished pic when complete.

  10. Posted by tom on Feb 5th, 2013

    David- good point~; )
    I think a new/heavier bench may stay put a little better down here. Maybe a new shop to go with it!
    thanks for the comments.

  11. Posted by Jim B on Feb 5th, 2013

    Another fine video! I have been using my LN 62 (low angle jack) plane more and more and find I like it! Even better than my LN 5 1/2! Use that for my shooter now.
    Can I ask what angle are you sharpening your plane blade at for this type of work?


  12. Posted by tom on Feb 5th, 2013

    thanks for the comments and question.
    I use the same set up for almost all of my cutting tools and that is as follows.
    The 25 degree factory bevel is shaped on a 1000 grit water stone at an angle of 33 degrees. From there I polish on an 8000 grit to finish off at 35.
    I find this works for about 90% of my work. When dealing with heavy grains or something like curly maple, I switch my iron out for a 55 degree. If that doesn’t do it I go to either my scraping plane or card scrapers.
    hope that helps-

  13. Posted by Jim B on Feb 5th, 2013

    so a micro micro bevel! ;) are you using the Veritas jig to accomplish that?


  14. Posted by tom on Feb 5th, 2013


    I actually use the inexpensive vise-type honing guide. I like the single wheel as it allows me to create a camber in my irons. It’s basically the Charlesworth method of sharpening- the iron is projected to 35mm on the coarse stone to establish the secondary bevel at about 32 degrees. It’s then retracted to 32mm for the final polish on the 8000 grit stone. This 32mm projection gives me the 35 degree polish at the business end.
    Here’s a link to the style guide I use:,43072,43078&ap=1

  15. Posted by Sue on Feb 8th, 2013

    Just to say I am really inspired by the Unplugged Workshop blog and can’t wait for the new book. I have sold all the machines in my workshop and have replaced them with some superb hand tools – my workshop is now a great place to be, I have a greater sense of pleasure in my work and have actually found that I am completing many more projects to a higher standard than I did before!! – so thanks Tom.

  16. Posted by tom on Feb 8th, 2013

    Thanks for the comments Sue-; )
    all the best.

  17. Posted by stephen melhuish on Feb 8th, 2013

    Hi there the women, good to see some writing in….woodworking is for all, i just wasn’t sure of the numbers out there.

  18. Posted by Dana Caffrey on Feb 9th, 2013

    This is a very great tutorial, form beginning to end. It’s very detailed and the steps are discussed thoroughly. Thanks for sharing this. Keep coming for more!

  19. Posted by Eben on Feb 18th, 2013

    Hey Tom, greetings from New Zealand.

    2 questions

    What is the reason you wiggle the winding sticks from side to side ?

    What make is the panel gauge you are using in part 4 ?

    Tx, Eben

  20. Posted by tom on Feb 19th, 2013

    thanks for the questions. First, the winding sticks are wiggled from side to side to see if there are any ‘humps’ or small ‘hills’ in the work piece. When I ‘wiggle’ them I’m looking to see were they’re pivoting on the work piece. My goal is to have the work ‘slightly hollow’ over the surface and the winding sticks should pivot at either end if I’m careful.
    Second, the panel gauge is made by Lie Nielsen in Main. I’ve had it for years and find it useful marking anything over 6-in. in width.

    thanks for the questions and happy shavings!


  21. Posted by Barry Oborne (pen name is Deenanath) on Aug 18th, 2013

    Great stuff. Really worth watching again and again. Here at the ashram my teacher is trying to implement job training for women. She has a women plumbing program in place and is attempting to create a carpenters program. Unfortunately the results I have seen are task oriented and not skill oriented, which to my mind is not really empowering the women with self assured fundamental skills. I would love to show the course designer this video, she is a good carpenter her self. It might help their direction. I’m an old hand at this wood working business but recognized that there were still fundamentals -like the ones covered in this video- that I did not know. I called it the” glue up then cross your fingers syndrome”. With your help I’m working out of that and man does it feel good. Great great stuff here, wish I would have seen it twenty years ago. But it never too late. Thanks again and keep going with the slowing down part. Its worth it.
    devotee, Barry

  22. Posted by tom on Aug 20th, 2013

    you’re absolutely right- it’s never too late to start doing what makes you happy!
    all the best,

  23. Posted by Legman688 on Aug 24th, 2014

    What are you using to lube the plane sole at 0:33?

  24. Posted by tom on Aug 24th, 2014

    That’s a bit of Paraffin wax- I also use old candles and bees wax. Never had an issue with it showing up in my finish.
    Thanks for the comments and all the best !

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