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A Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest part nine

Corner dovetail detail

Corner dovetail detail

March break. On the one hand it seemed to last forever and on the other- the wink of an eye. Mine ended with an ears, throat and nose bug to battle, but I’m back on the mend and have some more video edited for you.

The Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest, part nine. This video begins with a healthy rub of oil/varnish on all of the interior carcase panels. Someone commented on YouTube that they were looking forward to the finish and I’m sorry to disappoint. Finishing isn’t a climax at the end of the project but more, a slow and steady build-up as I near the finish line. No bells or whistles but a good dose of elbow grease and a natural shine.

Tried and True is applied prior to the glue up. It’s so much easier to do this before the panels, along with their dovetailed corners are forever fixed. The thing with Tried and True is you apply a thin coat, wait an hour and wipe off the excess. A hard rub between coats will build up a sheen and from there it’s time for glue.

Old Brown Glue- my favorite liquid hide glue is used on this type of joinery for the longer ‘open’ or ‘working’ time. The main carcase is assembled and after a good day to rest, the dovetails are planed flush. I used my small bevel-up smoother from Veritas. It’s basically an over sized block plane and ideal for trimming dovetails as it’s mostly end grain I’m removing.

From here it’ll be on to dimensioning the handle stock….some nice quarter sawn cherry I’ve been waiting to use.

’till next time~




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

Old Brown Glue

Tried and True Wood Finishes

Veritas Small Bevel-Up Smoothing Plane



  1. Posted by Brandon Avakian on Mar 20th, 2013

    Wonderful video. I was wondering what you were using in the video to apply the finish? Is there a specific type of applicator you prefer? Thanks.

  2. Posted by tom on Mar 20th, 2013

    excellent question- thanks!
    I use either shop towels or cotton cloth. They sell the cloth at most big box stores as shop rags. It’s a tight knit cotton and I use it for both applying oil/varnish as well as wrapping cheesecloth when applying shellac.


  3. Posted by Sarah on Mar 21st, 2013

    Thanks Tom, the videos are helpful. I can’t tell you how much I have learned about handwork from these and your book. You applied the finish before glue-up, does that make cleaning up the squeeze-out easier or do you do it to ensure the glue doesn’t effect the finish penetrating at the joints?

    Ps I glued up my doors for the sideboard and they fit AND slide. Yippee!

  4. Posted by tom on Mar 21st, 2013

    Hey Sarah,
    thanks for the comments and question. You got it, the finish is easier to apply before assembly but also makes glue-clean up easier and adds a bit of protection through the rest of the building process. I don’t worry too much about glue penetrating the finish as I only use hide glue and one big advantage of it is that it’s very ‘finish-friendly’.

    Great to hear the sideboard is coming along- pics when you get it done!
    ; D

    all the best

  5. Posted by Michael Corwin on Mar 21st, 2013

    Hi Tom – Great video series of your tool tote build. Your work is very inspirational, one day I hope to be able to accompolish the same kind of nuance and thoughtfullness in my work. Keep the videos coming!

  6. Posted by tom on Mar 21st, 2013

    Thanks for the comment Michael- all the best.

  7. Posted by stephen melhuish on Mar 21st, 2013

    Hey Tom,

    amazing how quickly these flat pack kits go together nowadays….Ha!!

    No seriously, it’s all lovely stuff….i noticed you were using a metal spatular type knife instead of a brush to apply and spread the glue…any preference on why one rather than the other?

    It’s such a satisfying moment when all that painstaking preparation works out and all the pieces lock together so beautifully, one of the great moments in woodworking…make yourself a cup of hot rum tea and take a rest to savour the moment!

  8. Posted by tom on Mar 21st, 2013

    Hey Steve,

    thanks for the comments and question. I do like the little spatula for spreading glue- I find it much easier to keep clean and with the rigidity of the blade, I find it easier to work into tight spaces. Glue brushes seem to fall apart after a bit of use whereas this thing has been in my shop for almost a decade.

    Speaking of hot rum tea, I certainly could have used it last week while battling the last of the winter bugs!

    stay warm-; )

  9. Posted by tom bergin on Mar 21st, 2013

    this video set has been great, thanks to much for your time.

    how many coats of tried and true do you use? do you apply all of them the same way?

  10. Posted by tom bergin on Mar 21st, 2013

    by the way, i downloaded your music though itunes and love it!

  11. Posted by tom on Mar 21st, 2013

    Thanks Tom,

    I applied three coats to the interior and five on the outside. They’re all applied in the same manner- lots of elbow grease…

    …and great to hear you’re enjoying the music !!
    ; )

  12. Posted by Tim on Apr 2nd, 2013

    Hi Tom, this is a great series, thank you for sharing. I’m sure editing these videos takes a lot of time. Two questions, one is what the benefit is of using the narrow scrap piece to tap together your dovetails compared to using one board covering the whole joint?

    The other question is you’re obviously very talented. How does someone at your talent level find ways to keep improving? It’s not like you can buy or read just about any tip out there anymore like a beginner can.

  13. Posted by tom on Apr 3rd, 2013

    thanks for the comment.
    Video editing is pretty simple on the Mac. iMovie is very intuitive and really doesn’t take too long. Yes, a few hours per clip, but hey, it’s all part of the job description.-; )
    The narrow scrap I used to tap home the dovetails was the first one I reached for on the offcut pile- no rhyme or reason. A wide piece would indeed straddle the width of the panel and sink all of the dovetails at once and probably being a safer bet. I dry fit this chest at least twice before hand so I was pretty confident that it was going to work out ok.
    And secondly, thanks for the compliment on talent ! But believe me, I learn something new everyday from the same place a beginner or an experienced artist learns it from- the doing. The improving happens in hand on the bench. Students is the other- teaching hand tool work takes up most of my time. I don’t write enough about it but it’s true. I learn from watching their mistakes, I learn from answering their questions, I learn from trying things new ways that they often introduce to me….it’s really a give and take.
    Back to the point, I improve by working.
    Thanks again for the great questions and comments !


  14. Posted by Petras on Nov 26th, 2013

    Hi Tom,
    I’ve noticed you don’t install the lid when gluing up the case but then later the lid is in. Is there enough clearance to put it in later? Best regards,

    – Petras

  15. Posted by tom on Nov 26th, 2013


    thanks for the question. The answer is yes, the lid goes on after the carcase is together and BEFORE the top rails ( frame ) are applied.

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