Laundry Cabinet, shelf housing joints done.

I like the British housing joint name, plus my my phone keeps trying to autocorrect dado. Maybe it knows something I don’t know. Here it is holding it self off the bench. Self supporting as Paul Says. After cutting all the ones for my bookshelf I think I’m getting pretty good. Here she is. I still have to glue up, but I’m pretty happy. This is the largest dovetailed case I’ve ever made.


Here’s my first dado/ housing joint in progress.

Started with the layout. Here’s the cabinet apart. I spent some time playing with cauls the other day after a suggestion by Matt McGran. I still need to figure out a good way to clamp up. I need to make better cauls that don’t interfere with the tails and pins while clamping.

Ok. Here’s the layout. I got turned around on what sides were up and down. I laid the marked end-board up to make sure then I laid the sides with the inside up with the back touching in the middle. That doesn’t sound like it makes sense, but I got the housing joints laid out correctly. The first picture is proof 😉

Took some time to be sure I was marking out the right faces

I think this is an important step. Layout the dados on the sides at the same time. This visually made me feel more confident to chop. I have known the new woodworker fear of destroying a piece of work. As I get better that fear is diminishing, but I’ve found that solid layout has been one of the factors in making my chopping and cutting more confident.  All I can say to new woodworkers is to try and become the best at layout that you can. Maybe that’s the first handtool skill to master. It will make you more confident with your hand tool chops and cuts later.

Ignore the dado on the end. This was a left over from my first attempt to make a top for the bookcase. Couldn’t throw it away. Now it will be a laundry cabinet

Then I used an actual shelf board to make pencils lines to get in the ball park as Paul says. I’ll only cut the bottom and then use the board again tight up against the edge to make a knife mark to accurately define the other side of the housing. This step is key to making sure it’s a tight fit and self supporting.

After squaring the lines across both boards I start by knifing in the bottom line.

Then I use my fancy new SYP french marking gauge to mark out a 1/4 inch depth line.

I almost forgot I had this. I was so excited to have a real need for it. Here I set it to a knat over 1/4.

Nail worked no problem. I love the rounded smaller top. It seems to fit my hand better and I don’t feel as clumsy when I pull the line.

Oops. Looks like this dog hole needs to be plugged. The hold fast hits the new vise. Your seeing me realised this for the first time. Oh well.

Moved to the other side. I still love my holddowns.

Start the dado with very shallow cuts into the knife line.

I use a technique where I use the knife to make 3 passes along the line to make the cut deeper and then I chisel in again. Rinse and repeat. Most folks use a series of vertical chisel cuts to do this, but I kept screwing up my edge wall. I accidentally discovered when making a bunch of shelves for my bookcase that running the knife every time is quick and easy and precise. I do every dado like this now.

Chop only one side down. This is Paul’s technique for getting self-supporting dados. Once you are down on one side you use the actual shelf to find the distance of the other side. Doing this process and having the joints come out really well has taught me that you don’t have to measure everything and that you can size pieces to fit. This has other positive side effects. I had no idea if the two shelves were the same thickness after planing and I didn’t care. I knew I’d fit each one to its joint and that they’d be tight. If, like when I was a table saw guy, I just setup the machine and ripped out all the dados I would be unhappy that the shelves were sloppy. I’d then think I needed a better table saw and think about how many more thousands of dollars I would need to get a better saw. I think I made these perfect self supporting joints with a 19 dollar chisel, a 6 dollar knife and a 3 dollar pencil. Cheap in comparison to the cost of a dado stack, much less a table saw.

Use the actual shelf to knife in the opposite dado wall. Tuck it as tight as you can into the recess you already cut and then try to reach under the opposite side with a knife. Don’t worry of you make the dado a little narrow. For one thing, I knew the pine would compress a little, actually I was counting on it, for another I could have planned a few thousandths off the ends where the fit into the dados.

After knifing a line for the opposite side, I chisel in a small amount. and then rinse and repeat. I’m trying to make a pyramid shape in the middle and be down to my gauge line on both sides.  Then I’ll use my rusty chisel bevel down to slice out the waste. Before you flame me, I do try to keep my chisels and planes rust free, but my unheated space in Florida just creates rust in a matter of hours. I have sanding sponges and specials oils and I clean and oil them after use, but I still gets rust. I have been reading alot lately on plane restoration and watching ‘the plane collector’ on youtube. He does an amazing job restoring planes, and he uses minwax paste wax for rust protection. This weekend I’m going to try waxing all my tools. Fingers crossed.

Dado after bevel down chisel cuts.

Clean it up with a router plane

Tahh Dahh! Self supporting Joint. Now do the other 3.


Fit and Finished!



Thanks for reading.


Take Care,




About senrabc

Hi, this is not really about anything. Just me testing the intertubes with my own random meanderings and thoughts. Ostensibly, big word, I’m using this site as my personal log of sorts. I’m a random guy with 4 kids and a beautiful wife living in sunny Florida. Pardon the gratuitous posts with pictures of cute kids. I have an iPhone and can’t help myself. My day job is working in the area of informatics at the University of Florida where I like the shell. Oh, yeah and incase you can’t tell I like woodworking with handtools. Goes along with my command line philosophy 😉 Thanks for reading. Christopher P. Barnes
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9 Responses to Laundry Cabinet, shelf housing joints done.

  1. Priest says:

    Nice, really nice 🙂 I appreciate the effort. It’s a great help to me on my own projects. You’re damned right about how the thickness of a board can change from one end of a plank to the other, that cost me one side of a shoe rack two weeks back, because I’d made some silly assumptions…

    • senrabc says:

      Thanks for the kind words. No I have to suck up the courage to make 2 frame and panels. One for the back and on for the door. I’ve never done it before, so you’ll get to watch me suffer through it, lol. Take Care, Chris

  2. sam says:

    wow.. great blog . i guess people that are interested in wood working will find the blog helpful . keep up the good work
    and i have a suggestion for all wood working lovers that want to create some products in wood .. more than 16000 are available if you are interested then click here and you wont be disappointed for sure . have fun

  3. Hi Chris,
    Roy Underhill made a clamping caul for the dovetails by making a raised ‘negative’ of them and using that to apply pressure to the joint. I don’t recall the episode and I’m sure my explanation is as clear as mud. I’ve tried it and it does work well. Albeit it usually only for the dovetail joinery at hand and isn’t reusable.

    • senrabc says:

      Thanks Ralph. Now that you mention it, I remember seeing that episode. I don’t remember how he made them. I’ll have to do some googling. Thanks for the tip.


  4. Matt McGrane says:

    Hey Chris. Good stuff. You’re so right about layout being so important. At first I thought of it as a chore, but now I’ve gotten to enjoy layout. As for the dovetail cauls, I found in an old post of mine where I used such cauls. You can find it at this link:;postID=904221556166887877;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=81;src=postname

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