Building on Scant Evidence


Behind the recently released Popular Woodworking video Build a Turn-of-the-Century Baker’s Cabinet lies some research and synthesis in which I had an opportunity to collaborate with the client, “T,” who had commissioned the cabinet. Most of my commissions involve a degree of collaboration with clients, at least in the design phase, since this back-and-forth of ideas is essential to genuinely custom work. But this time I was piecing together a barely discernible image of a cabinet with an archaeologist whose specialty is recreating medieval pots unearthed in Georgia and Armenia from literal shards: a fun exercise.

T chose this particular cabinet–the one barely visible under the left window in the far wall–for her kitchen because it was used by her great-grandmother in domestic science classes at college in Oregon, where this photo was taken around 1906.


Of course we planned the new cabinet with T’s own kitchen in mind; it had to fit the available space and function as a practical kitchen cabinet. But as someone who takes period detail seriously, T said no when I pointed out that we could incorporate such contemporary ergonomic features as under-mount full-extension slides for the drawer and flour bin. She wanted wooden runners and kickers for the drawer, an old-fashioned tip-out design for the bin (even though this meant utilizing less of the available cabinet depth), non-adjustable butt hinges, and salvaged hardware.

Video cover

There’s a lot more traditional joinery in this sturdy little cabinet than you’ll find in most kitchen cabinetry built today. While the video provides step-by-step guidance in building this very cabinet, you could certainly modify the cabinet’s design to suit your own needs. The video includes instruction in

  • lapped dovetail joinery
  • mortise and tenon joints
  • wooden runners and kickers
  • how to plan and build a tip-out bin
  • making frame-and-panel cabinet sides and backs
  • attaching a solid wood top, and more.


In case you buy the video, please keep the following erratum and addendum in mind:

  • The haunched tenon is the one with a bit of tenon left to fill the groove at the top of the panel. The tenon that’s cut off at the top of the rail level with the shoulders is not “haunched.” Don’t ask me why I called it that when the cameras were pointed at me, or why the chief video dude, who grew up in a family cabinetmaking business, did not correct me (not that I’m blaming him for not correcting me; I own this).
  • A few shots of me cutting parts at the table saw appear to show the cuff of my shirt sleeve dangerously close to the saw blade. In reality, the cuff was a safe distance from the blade, but the camera angles (from the side and back of the saw) distort this distance. Had I known that the cuff would appear this way, I would have rolled it up. Be sure you roll yours up, or button them, depending on the temperature.

See more of the kitchen where this baker’s cabinet now resides at “My Kind of Job”.

3 responses to “Building on Scant Evidence

  1. Pingback: Highlights of 2015 | Making Things Work

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