The Slightly Confused Woodworker

Home » Shaker Enfield Cupboard » Enfield day one.

Enfield day one.


I had a choice to make this afternoon. I could either watch football, then go to the gym so I can look like Captain America, or I could watch football and spend a little time woodworking. Because I usually go to the gym during the week anyway, and because we had a surprise visit from my dad and niece, woodworking became the easy choice.

Back in the summer I had picked up some Poplar that I had planned on using to build an Shaker Enfield cupboard. That lumber sat unused in my garage for many months, and now that the weather has gotten colder I felt that it was now or never. I have the plans for the original cupboard, and I am basically going to stick to them, but, I did alter the dimensions very slightly, making the cupboard two inches shorter and 3/4 of an inch shallower than the original design, all of this in order to maximize my lumber.

I started by ripping the side panels to width, 12 3/8″, then squaring them to 48 1/4″ tall. I then crosscut the shelves to size. Speaking of the shelves, I made both the top and bottom shelves the same width as the side panels, but the two middle shelves I made 3/4 of an inch shallower. I did that so the back panels will set in between them, eliminating the end grain as well as creating a false dado for them to set in. I realize that the back will only be nailed into two spots, but I plan to reinforce the joint later. I also realize that the panels will need to be sawn very precisely to length in order for them to fit without showing any gaps on the interior, but that is why we woodwork, isn’t it? Besides, I don’t believe that too many people will bother with looking at the back of the interior of a cupboard, in particular a cupboard that has a door. So I’m not all that worried about it.

The tricky part was laying out and sawing the dados. Luckily I had a bit of help as that was the time my dad showed up. Cutting dados accurately on a long board using a table saw isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, I very nearly did it by hand. However, doing it by hand would have taken far longer, and I was hoping very much to have the basic outline of the case finished today, which would give me more time next weekend to fuss around with the face frame and decorative arches on the case sides. So I installed the dado stack, did a test cut, and in around thirty minutes I had the dados cut. I’ll say one more thing, I firmly believe that sawing dados by hand is more accurate than using a table saw, at least on the equipment that I’m using. But, the table saw was accurate enough, and once the dados are cleaned up they will work just fine.

Before I put the table saw away I ripped the boards to width for the rail and stiles. The last job of the day was doing a dry test-fit. Happily, everything fit together snugly, and remarkably square considering that the dado bottoms are not fully cleaned out and the only thing holding the case together is friction. Next weekend I will saw out the arches and build the face frame, and if all goes well I will glue up the case. I also need to drill the standards for a middle shelf, which I plan to make adjustable. I’m still on the fence over constructing the door. Some recommend building the door and face frame simultaneously, and some say make the frame first and build the door to fit it after it’s already installed. Currently I don’t have enough wood to build the door anyway, so this may all be a moot point. In any event, I got off to a decent start.

Cupboard case started.

Cupboard case started.



  1. gman3555 says:

    Glad to see you are finally getting to build this cabinet. It looks like your off to great start. Its been several years since I’ve cut a dado with a table saw. Hand cut is a little slower but much easier to get a good fit. IMHO

    Looking forward to watching your progress.

    • billlattpa says:

      You’re absolutely correct, sawing dados is much easier by hand, and if I hadn’t gotten such a late start I probably would have gone that route. Still, I have my dado stack dialed in pretty good, and I can get a nice fit much of the time with just one or two trials. I just hate setting it up, and I hate the mess it makes.
      I’m hoping to have the face frame completed as well as the sawing of the arches on the case sides. If all goes well I will even do some glue up and it will actually start to look like a piece of furniture. I’m just glad I got the boring part out of the way.

  2. Hi Bill

    I know is a little soon to ask, but did you already decided the finish for this project?

    Have fun building it!

    • billlattpa says:

      I would like to paint it, which is why I chose Poplar for the wood. To be honest, I’m not sure which color as of yet. I would like to go for a traditional, Colonial color, such as blue, red, or even brown. I’m still undecided, so I’m hoping that my wife has some input on the choice and comes up with a few suggestions of her own. I will definitely keep you posted. Thanks.

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November 2014
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