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Guest Room Closet

author-gravatar blucz Jul 26, 2016

A built-in cabinet, closet rods, and shelving for our guest room.

I built this cabinet for the closet in our guest room. It comes with 3 closet rods and an additional shelf. 

It's built out of Walnut ply + solid Walnut for the trim and drawer fronts.

If I could do it again, I'd probably make the cabinet 21" deep instead of 24". Oh well.

I hate under-powered closet rods. I can hang my 200lb self from these like monkey bars and they don't sag.

On the left, we did a double rod. This will be used for storing some lesser used shorter items.

The dovetails are kind of over-the-top for a guest room closet that will be rarely used, but they still add something.

The hardware is from the "Undercut" series from Lee Valley. Pretty happy with it.

Nice deep full-extension drawer.

When I was first starting to get into woodworking, I bought a bunch of Festool gear because in the end, the goal was to do a bunch of work on the house, and that stuff really shines for that kind of work. Then I fell in love with hand tools and hardwoods, and wasn't really using the Festool stuff as much. Finally, I'm doing a project where it can really get a workout.

Which brings me to an embarrassing admission. See this little plastic coupler thingy? This thing is the difference between "The MFT is a POS that can't make repeatable cuts" and "The MFT is a great crosscutting tool". From a design standpoint, it feels like a bit of an afterthought, but it's 100% necessary to make the fence rigid enough to stand up to actual use. I trusted the MFT a lot more once I figured this out.        

Once I broke down the cabinet parts out in the garage, I went inside and routed grooves for the back panel. Not sure back-panel-in-groove was the best choice, but more on that later.    

I need some 7' long pieces of edge banding and my shop is only 14' wide. This should be fun. 

This is the rough stock that I'll use to edgeband the plywood.    

A light bulb went off in my head and I realized that I have the *perfect* tool for this sort of thing: Hot Hide Glue and a Veneer Hammer.

So I applied 40-50ft of edging the 17th century way. 10/10 would do again.

Once it had all dried, I went back and trimmed it flush to the plywood with the help of my favorite little router.

Now it's time to domino for a while.

For some of the tricky sections where things really needed to match up, I used scrap to make story sticks. Here, I'm modeling out the size of two shelves that need to fit correctly against the vertical center divider.

I realized after cutting the domino holes that they all went straight through the divider. Instead of trying to use two dominoes on each and dealing with them falling all over the place during the assembly, I decided to make some super-long floating tenons that can pierce both shelves and the center divider.

Cutting my custom tenons to length.        

And test fitting. Nice.

I think the tracksaw track slipped while I was cutting the back panel, because it ended up 1/16" out of square, so I'm using my block plane to trim it back to a line.

I will never build something this large in my tiny shop again. This took like an hour to get together, with a lot of profanity. But it looks like all of the joinery lines up. It's going to be a cabinet!

Before that, there' a few more details to take care of. First, I need to make some shelf pin holes. Thankfully, there's a jig for that.

Then I'm going to pre-finish the interior. 3 coats of WOCA oil, 24 hours apart. It's a really nice, easy, low-stress finish for stuff like this, and it doesn't stink. Prior to the glue-up, I also waxed these surfaces, to make it extra easy to remove any squeeze-out later.

Now, the glue-up. No fun at all. Big, heavy, and squirrelly. I used OBG because it's the only thing I had that would give me enough time to get everything together.    

Slipping in the back panel is no fun..I should have just nailed it into a rabbet.

Once everything was right, I tipped it 90 degrees and got it into the clamps. 

Once the glue had dried, I shot nails through the back panel into the fixed shelves and dividers, to keep it tight to the inside of the case.

I built these tiny soft sawhorses because I couldn't imagine trying to sand and finish a 36" wide case on top of a 30" high table. The only mistake here was using the cheapest moving blanket for the pads on top. By the end they were all torn up. I'll replace them with something sturdier.

With the cabinet at a comfortable height, I prepped it for finish.

Then stood it up and put some finish on.

Now it's time to make some drawers. I started with some 5/4 hard maple, roughly crosscut, and jointed/planed two sides.

That got resawn on the bandsaw. I was shooting for 1/2", but in the end I ended up at 7/16". I thought this might cause stiffness issues, but it didn't. Hard maple is way above average in terms of stiffness and these drawers are about 10" deep, so there's a lot of meat there to keep things in line.

After resawing, I let the pieces chill out for a bit.

Then I did 12 panel glue-ups. These had to be done in rounds because I ran out of clamps.

Then the drawer sides got planed to final thickness and sanded smooth. I didn't finish the drawer boxes, so this is it.

Routing a groove for the bottom. It will be 1/2" plywood, and glued in, which should also help make the drawers extremely stiff.

Time for some dovetails! I was originally intending to domino the drawers, but once the material crept down to the <1/2" range I started to get queasy about strength. 

This project was a great opportunity to work on my efficiency. In the end, I did all 3 drawers in a little bit under 6 hours. I treated it like an assembly line: one operation at a time for all of the drawers, then moving to the next. 

Nice fit!

Why I love cutting dovetails in hard maple. Nothing funny happens. Nothing crumbles. Nothing chips or snaps. Details are held perfectly. It's like cutting really dense styrofoam (or a really soft piece of fine-textured stone). 

On the flip side, it's totally unforgiving if you don't cut to your lines. But it's worth it.        

More OBG, gluing drawers together. Trying really hard to keep the insides clean since these will be unfinished and I hate cleaning up inside corners.

One corner of twelve. All cleaned up. Really happy with how these turned out.

Now, to install the drawers. I used my favorite Blum undermount hardware. This requires knocking out two notches in the back, but is otherwise a very quick process.

The worst part of which is crawling around in the cabinet putting the slides in. These mini-drills are a new addition to my shop, and they all of the installing type work soooo much easier. Much nicer on the wrists, and you can keep different tools set up for different tasks and avoid spending a bunch of time switching bits. These two drills + their batteries and charger cost less than half what I paid for my big 18V Bosch drill. I should have gone small first. 90% of the time, the small one is a better fit for what I'm doing.

Oh look, more panel glue-ups. This time for the drawer front.

Cleaning up the drawer fronts with a smoothing plane. This one had a bunch of figure, and the 55deg frog did its job.

Onwards to the installation. I spent about a full day installing the cabinet and building all of the little odds and ends needed to finish the closet. These are some simple closet rod holders that I made out of 5/4 Walnut scraps.

The cabinet is hung from two french cleats.

Moving it from the garage to the room was not pleasant. It's heavy, unwieldy, and doesn't reliably clear door openings. Blah.

After hanging it on the wall, I realized that the wall wasn't really that flat, so the cabinet wasn't quite as secure feeling as I wanted it to be. So I built this 1 3/4" square cleat, bolted it into the studs with a couple of 5" lags, and drove some screws up into the bottom of the case. Now it feels like part of the house.

Lots of stupid little trim carpentry details. The install was a long, sweaty day of doing one thing after another and walking back and forth between the shop and the room where I was installing. I used double-stick tape extensively to hold things while screwing them down. These non-countersunk Torx screws also worked really well. No funny business, no worries about countersinking, and they look pretty nice.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment

Wow, that is really nice! This inspires me to want to do the same to my closet. Thanks for sharing here on SimpleCove!

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