How to Make a Curio Cabinet

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON: You know, I always wanted to visit Greece.  But I had no idea it was in upstate New York.  All these cars are turning the Lanzetella house into their garage. 

JOHN LANZETELLA: I’ve been collecting cars and car memorabilia for approximately 30 years and over 30 years time, I mean the collection just grows and grows and finally it gets out of hand.  And it is just impossible to dust these things, you know, and that’s why I am looking to build a wall curio or some kind of a display case so that they pretty much stay dust free.  Ron, this is the spot I was thinking of right here.  We are going to go to a big screen TV so we need it to be about probably a good five feet off the ground.  Nice oak cabinet.

RON HAZELTON: Okay, so what do you think, something that comes out maybe six inches like that, big enough for the cars.

JOHN LANZETELLA: Yeah, six inches, seven inches at the most.  Glass door with a nice wood frame. 

RON HAZELTON: All right, you got a place we can work, set up a shop?

JOHN LANZETELLA: Yeah, oh yeah, out in the garage. 

RON HAZELTON: Okay, John, I’ve got your drawing here, hey I love this, this is an old metal desk right?

JOHN LANZETELLA: Yeah, my wife picked it up at a garage sale for $25. 

RON HAZELTON: Perfect workbench, perfect, sturdy.  Okay, I’ve rough cut the lumber to the matchings here.  This is going to be 36 wide, 24 high right?  Now what is really important I am going to cut these down to their final lengths is that the two sides are exactly the same length and that the top and bottom is exactly the same length.  To make certain the cabinet is square, we must cut opposite sides to exactly the same length.  A simple jig attached to the saw’s miter gauge will do the trick. So John, what we are going to do now, is set this in here.  Like this, slide it very gently up to the block; push it into contact here.  Get a good grip on it.  And make our cut.  John and I cut all our frame pieces to length and then we rip each board to the same width.  Now when you cut with the grain, we call that a rip cut.  For the narrower cabinet doorframe, we use a push stick to feed the wood through the saw, this way our fingers stay well away from the blade.  This is called a rabbit joint right here, and this, so this is this side, and the top is going to set in, just like that.  And then we’ll glue, we’ll glue this in place.

JOHN LANZETELLA: Ron, couldn’t you just butt the two ends together without that?

RON HAZELTON: Yeah, we could do a butt joint, but the rabbit joint is stronger, it gives us 50 percent more glue surface because of the shoulder right here and it’ll help a lot in aligning these two pieces of lumber when we put this together.  We set the height of the blade so that it only cuts through half of the board.  Then it’s just a matter of making repeated passes through the saw until the notch is completely cut out.  Then on all four sides, we cut another rabbit, which will hold the mirror in the back.  Now to make sure that the rabbit that we cut in the back of this door frame is deep enough to accommodate this glass, I am going to test it here on a piece of scrap.  This, or something like this, we’ll use for a keeper and it’s just about the way I want it right there.  In order to make sure the holes that we drill for the adjustable shelf supports are properly aligned and evenly spaced, I am using a drilling guide that I made from a section of 2 x 3.  I am also using a stop block on the drill bit which will prevent the drill from penetrating too deeply into the cabinet side.  We’ve done what I call a dry pit here; we’ve assembled the sides and the top without any glue, just to see if our mirror back is going to fit.  This is the defining moment of our project right here because if this doesn’t fit, we go back to start.  Okay, we’ll drop this in.  Perfect.  All right. 


RON HAZELTON: Man.  All right.  Okay, we are just now marking this back for our cabinet; we’ll cut this to size before we glue this together.  Time to glue the case together now.  This is wood glue.  Carpenter’s glue, sometimes it’s called.  I put it on like this and I want to take a brush and really brush this thoroughly into the joint.  After applying glue to all four joints, we put the four pieces together.  A band clamp around the whole assembly will make sure that everything is flush.  Good and tight.  For strength, I asked John to put a couple of finish nails in each corner.  We begun work on our door frame right here.  We’re cutting miters on both ends of this.  One thing you’ll probably find interesting is the stop block up here I’ve cut on an angle so that it matches the angle on the end of the frame right here.  It gives us a nice positive stop.  So we’ll go ahead and cut the other end now.  Once again, we glued and clamped this like we did the case and we are going to now drop in our piece of glass, this is another defining moment here.  See if it fits, okay, very nice, very nice.  Now for a finish on this, we are using tunnel oil, very easy to apply, it’ll give the wood a nice soft luster.  If you’ll notice what I am using here to apply this is not a cloth, it’s very fine, wet or dry sandpaper.  What happens when you apply it with sandpaper like this you form a slur, very fine saw dust and oil and it helps fill up the pores and gives you an incredibly smooth satiny finish.  Now once we’ve applied oil to the entire piece using the sandpaper we want to wipe off any excess with a lint free rag.  The finish is on the cabinet.  Now it is time to drop in the mirror.  We have done this once before, before we glued it, so it should fit.  Reach under there John if you would, like that, okay. 


RON HAZELTON: Perfect, just perfect. 

JOHN LANZETELLA: There we go, very nice.  Very nice.

RON HAZELTON: Beautiful.  After securing the mirror and back with the glacier’s points, we give the door a finish sanding.  Fix the glass in place with those keeper strips.

JOHN LANZETELLA: Like a glove.

RON HAZELTON: Oh boy.  And chisel mortises for the hinges.  John, I think we are finished, my friend.  Let’s close this down and take her in and put her up on the wall. 

JOHN LANZETELLA: Okay. How’s that look?

MALE: Beautiful.

RON HAZELTON: Beautiful.


MALE: Beautiful piece.

JOHN LANZETELLA: Yeah, it is beautiful

RON HAZELTON: We did it, huh?

JOHN LANZETELLA: Yeah, thanks for the HouseCall.

This wall-mounted display case is ideal for exhibiting special collections and all kinds of decorative objects.

This is a great way to put the spotlight on memorabilia, artifacts and other special collectables while at the same time keeping them dust-free.  Made of solid oak, the case has a glass door and can easily be fitted with a lock for added security.
Since this project involves a variety of elementary cabinet making techniques, it’s a terrific way to build up some basic skills.  One of the biggest advantages of building it yourself is being able to make it whatever size and shape you wish.