Stand for an old Cabinet

This old cabinet once hung on our kitchen wall - now a store for odds and ends

An old wall cabinet that once adorned our kitchen has been sitting in a corner gathering dust and all kinds of useless stuff. The cabinet is rather nice but there is no wall space in our kitchen so I thought it might get another lease of useful life if I placed it on a stand which would make it easier to access. It also needed a bit of re-finishing and a new glass for one of its shutters.

I had some old Saal wood lying around which isn't terribly good for furniture but would be good enough for a simple, utilitarian stand.

Saal pieces for the stand - Saal is a hard dense wood, great for door frames but not ideal for furniture

This would also get me some much needed practice in cutting tenons by hand. Cutting tenons remain a challenge as I rarely seem to get the cheeks dead parallel and invariably have to pare them with a shoulder plane or rasp to fit.

It is also difficult to ensure that the tenon cheeks and the mortise walls are parallel to each other. If either is slightly skewed, then the tenon too would be skewed. At any rate, nothing like getting on with it and not worrying overly about the end result.

The stock had been roughly milled and I only had to a little work getting the sides square and clean.

Saal is an exceedingly hard wood and easily blunts planes and chisels. Since there were sixteen mortises and tenons to be cut, I decided routing the mortises would be faster and spare my chisels.

Router with two edge guides attached

Mortises can be cut pretty accurately with a router fitted with two edge guides. The stock sits snug between the two guides and the router can be slid up and down without veering off course.

A little care has to be taken to rout the end mortises as the router is liable to tip. This can be prevented by placing a piece of wood as high and wide as the stock being mortised at the end.

Cutting tenons by hand remains a challenge

The tenons were cut with a regular Japanese saw. Inaccuracies arise if the markings are not spot on. I have found that a mortise gauge is liable to skid slightly at times while marking along the grain in extremely hard wood like Saal. Problems also arise if the pieces have not been milled accurately and squared.

The tenons turned out alright but required a bit of planning with a shoulder plane for a good fit.

I was pleased by the alignment of the joints; they were not out of kilter as in the case of some of my previous attempts.

One of the sides of the stand after glue up and quite a bit of planing

The assembly went together well without any twist or stress.

The stand is plain without any ornamentation - I had thought of running a bead along the leg edges but gave up the idea as I wanted this to be quick weekend no frills project.
I had got enough practice cutting tenons by hand and that was it.

I finished off by using a water based putty (widely available these days) which harden quickly and provide a good base for paint. This putty obviates the need for making chalk powder-paint mixture for the base.

After two coats of primer and one coat of paint

A couple of coats of wood primer followed by two coats of black paint did the job.

Stand looks a little small but is stable - now for touching up the old cabinet

The old cabinet looks pretty decent on the stand; hopefully its improved accessibility will translate into better use. But before that I need to change the glass and re-do the polish.

Indranil Banerjie
8 May 2016

Anish Basu
Post Script: Indian Banker Launches Online Hand Tools Store in Japan

An Indian investment banker living in Tokyo, Japan, has just launched an online tools store and is urging me to publicise it.

This I will do with pleasure. For, when it comes to hand tools I favour the Japanese kind. They just seem so much easier to use and so accurate too. This is especially true of the saws and marking gauges I regularly use. I must admit though that I haven't tried any Japanese chisels (mainly because of their prohibitive price) or anything but the most basic Japanese plane.

I get many queries about my Japanese tools and most people seem intimidated by them. There is really no reason to be.

There are enough Youtube videos available explaining the use and care of Japanese hand tools. Besides, they can be purchased easily and cheaply from a number of websites, including the recent JPYTools set up by Anish Basu at

Anish has been living in Tokyo for the last 10 years. He is married to a Japanese lady and has two children. He is an investment banker by profession and says he has started this tools website "more out of an eagerness to do something completely different and also because of the Indian market potential."

Well, best of luck to him. Do check out his site; his prices are the best and his site offers a lot of shipping options.


  1. I think Krenov would approve this. It looks good and I like that it has a second life.

  2. I have given up using hand tools on saal wood (except planes) - it's simply too much hard work !
    But saal is the most easily found wood here in the suburb where I live, with roadside shops selling it by the kilo and price varying between Rs 35-45 depending on the thickness and length.

    1. Yes, I too think Saal is a bad idea for furniture. Didn't know they sell it by the weight.


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