Canadian Woodworking

Buffet & hutch

Author: Danny Proulx
Photos: Ray Pilon
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: June July 2005

This is the third project of a three part series for your dining room.

This is the third project of a three part series for your dining room. In Issue #34 of Canadian Woodworking we showed you how to build the dining room table, and in Issue #35 we detailed the step-by-step construction of the chairs. We now complete this dining room set with a buffet and hutch.

Once again we are using solid oak and oak veneer plywood for the project. You can use a different wood species and make changes to the dimensions of the buffet and hutch to suit the overall style of your dining room.

The carcase requires the most attention because it’s assembled using dadoes and rabbets. The face frame is assembled using pocket hole screws and the doors using mortise and tenon joinery. The lower doors have a solid oak raised panel and the upper doors have 3mm glass inserts. We finished this project with three coats of oil-based polyurethane, sanding with 200-grit paper between each coat.

Cut a rabbet on the side panels

Cut a dado in the center of the bottom shelf

Cut a groove on the long edge of the inside frame

Cut a dado for the dividers

Install cleats for drawer slides

Rout the center raised panel

Install the base skirt 

Draw the arc on the bottom rail 

Attach feet to the hutch

Plunge cut the hutch door stiles

Mark the hutch door arches

Cut the arches on the bandsaw

Building the Buffet

Begin by cutting two side panels (A) and mark them left and right. Then cut a ¼” x ⅜” rabbet on the inside back of each panel. Next cut 3 dadoes, ¾” x ⅜” on the inside faces of the panels. Follow the illustration for the cut locations on all the other parts. There is always a slight difference in thickness of veneer ply core, set the dado accordingly for a tight fit.

Cut the bottom shelf (B) and make a ¾” x ¼” dado in the center. You need to build a pair of inside frames (C, D and E) to match the size of bottom shelf (B). Cut a ⅜” x ⅜” groove on the long edge of (C). Cut matching ⅜” x ⅜” tongues at both ends of the 6 rails (D and E). Assemble the frame with glue brad nail.

Cut a dado ¾” x ¼” in the center of the top inside frame and the middle inside frame to fit the dividers (F and G). Cut parts (F) and (G) to size and dry fit all the parts of the carcase and clamp in place. Re-measure the dimensions for the backboard (H) and cut the backboard accurately as it will hold the carcase square when installed.

This is where an extra hand is useful. Glue all the parts, making sure they are flush at the front. Raise the clamp to provide enough space to slide in the backboard and tack it in place.

Buffet Face Frame

The face frame is made of ¾” solid oak. Cut the parts for the face frame (J, K, L and M). At this point it is a good idea to re-measure your carcase to ensure that the face frame will fit accurately.

Assemble and glue the parts using dowels or pocket hole screws. I prefer pocket hole screws for this part. Use the center stiles (K and L) as spacers when screwing the rails to the stiles. Glue the face frame onto the carcase and secure with 2 ½” finishing nails. Set the nails with a nail punch and fill all the nail holes with coloured putty to match your finish.

Buffet Top

The overall size for the top is 17 ¾” x 64 ½”, which will give you a 1″ overhang at the front and sides. Cut 4 lengths of 1 ¼” thick material (N). Put them side-byside and try to alternate the growth rings. Then number the boards and square the edges on the jointer. As we did for the table top in Issue #34, use biscuits to align the boards during glue-up. Make sure you alternate the clamps on the top and bottom every foot or so: this will help keep the top flat.

Round off the 2 front corners with a belt sander to eliminate sharp corners. Then round over the top and bottom, front and side edges, with a ⅜” round over bit in a router. To avoid splinters make several passes with the router. To attach the top to the carcase, drill a series of expanded holes on the top of the inside frame. The holes should be oriented front to back to allow the solid wood top to move when it expands and contracts with humidity changes.

Sand the top on all sides before you attach it to the carcase. The final sanding can be done later. Drill a pilot hole in the center of the expended frame hole and attach the top with 1 ½” screws with a slotted washer. Don’t over tighten; it should just be snug.

The Drawer Box

The drawer box is made from ½” Baltic birch. Use16″ full extension drawer glides to allow full access to the inside of the drawer. To calculate the drawer size, measure the opening width and height of the face frame and subtract 1″ from each measurement. From the depth measurement subtract ½”. For this project the drawer opening is 6″ high, 28 ¾” wide and 16 ½” deep, so the finished drawer box size will be 5″ high, 27 ¾” wide and 16″ deep.

Cut two sides (P) and two fronts and backs (Q), and assemble them with glue and brad nails. Cut the bottom board (R) to size and glue it to the assembly. Then, drill pilot holes into the bottom and fasten it to the drawer box frame with 1 ¼” # 8 screws.

Attaching Drawer Slides

Because the drawers are only 16″ deep, I used full extension drawer slides for full access. Cut and install wood cleats straight back and flush to the side of face frame. Use leftover wood for the cleats, cutting them to fit your project. Glue and fasten with 1″ screws. Drill a pilot hole and countersink.

Making the Buffet Doors

To calculate the door size when using hidden hinges, add 1″ to the height and the width of the door opening and divide the width by two. Our opening is 28 ¾” x 21 ¾” so our two doors will be 14 ⅞” x 22 ¾”. Cut the stiles and rails to length. Cut a ¼” x ½” groove on one edge of both stiles and rails. Each rail needs a tenon ¼” x ½” on both ends. Use the table saw to cut the center tenons.

You can make the center raised panel using a panel-raising bit on a router table or with a table saw. Glue enough ¾” boards together to form a 11 ¼” x 19 ⅛” panel. Rout the face edges of the solid wood panel so that they are ¼” thick. Make slow, small cuts to avoid tear out and rough cuts. Sand the center panel and assemble the door. Use small strips of foam in the grooves to avoid rattling. Be sure the center panel is free to move as it will expand and contract with humidity. Glue the tenon and groove joints only, not the panel. Clamp securely making sure the door is square. Use ⅝” brad nail to secure the joint. Finally, round over the 4 sides of the door face with a ⅜” round over router bit.

Install the Base Skirt

Cut and install the base skirt on the front and both sides. The three boards are joined at the corner with 45º mitres. Use glue and 1 ¼” screws from the inside of the cabinets to secure the boards. The top edge of the 3″ skirt is decorated with a cove router bit to match existing furniture.

Building the Hutch

Just like the buffet, the hutch is constructed of ¾” oak plywood, with solid oak face frames, so the assembly steps are similar.

Cut the 2 sides (AA) to size, then cut a ¼” x ⅜” rabbet on the inside back. Next, cut a ¾” x ⅜” rabbet at the top of each side and a ¾” x ⅜” dado at 34″ from the top of each of the sides. Then cut the top and bottom shelves (BB) to size. Finally, cut the ¼” back panel (CC) to size. Glue the assembly (AA and BB) together, then square it off by gluing and brad nailing the back panel to the assembly.

Cut the five pieces of the face frame, 2 stiles, 1 centre stile and 2 rails. To create the arch in the bottom rail, mark points that are 2″ in from the end of the board, and another point that is 1 ¼” from the bottom and 12″ from the end. Bend a thin strip of wood and draw the arc.

Assemble the face frame using dowels or pocket hole joinery with matching oak plugs to hide the screw holes. Glue the face frame on the carcase using biscuit joinery every 6 to 8 inches. Cut 2 pieces of oak 2″ x 13″ x 1 ¼” for the feet (GG) and round over the top and front edges. Center the 2 feet with the front face frame and secure with 2″ screws from underneath the base unit.

The Hutch Doors

The arched mortise and tenon glass doors are made like the square buffet doors. The top rail is wider in order to create the arch. Begin by cutting the stiles 2″ x 31 ¾”. The rail length will be the width of the door, less the stiles widths, plus the tenons. So our bottom rails will be x 2″ x 11 ⅞” and the top rail 4″ x 11 ⅞”.

Each stile and rail needs a ¼” x ½” groove, centered on the edge. Create a ½” rabbet by cutting the back side of the bottom rail. Keep the small sticks that are created, as they will be used to secure the glass in the door. The stiles are cut the same way, except that we will need to plunge them into the saw blade leaving 1 ½” of the groove uncut at both ends. This will leave a 1 ½” mortise at each end of the stile for the rail tenon. To form the arch on the 4″ top rail, I used an adjustable yardstick compass. The arc has a 6 ½” radius. This leaves 2″ of wood at the top and around ¾” on each side of the rail.

Before cutting the top rail arc, form the tenons on both ends. Then, cut the back face to form a rabbet ½” deep x 2 ½” wide. That way, we can use a square piece of glass.

Cut the arch on the band saw, then assemble the door with glue and brad nails. To install the door we used euro hinges with face frame plates. This requires you to drill a 35 mm hole in the frame. Follow the manufacturer specifications for your installation measurements. We used 3mm glass and secured it with the rounded over oak strips we put aside earlier. You can drill the holes for the doorknobs freehand, build a template out of plywood, or use a commercially available drilling guide.

The Crown Moulding

For the top moulding we used a commercial profile available at most lumberyards. One 8′ length of moulding will be enough to trim the top. Glue and brad nail the moulding in place. Once the feet and crown moulding are installed we rounded over the outside edge of the stiles with a ⅜” round over bit. The router plate will define the cut distance at the top and bottom.

Construction Notes

You can use either wood or glass for the shelves. We used two 6mm tempered glass shelves for the hutch. We also put a 2 ½” shelf rail at the back with a ⅜” groove for plates. The rail is rabbeted ¼” x ¼” to allow the glass shelf to sit flush with the wood rail. It can be fastened from the back of the hutch or with angle brackets.

The final colour, your décor, and the type of wood that you used will determine your finish. We finished the cabinet with 3 coats of oil-based polyurethane and sanded with 220 grit paper between each coat.

Illuminate the cabinet interior with a fluorescent light or any lighting fixture available through hardware stores. We used 3 mm clear glass for the door, but glass with an etched pattern, frosted or even coloured glass can add a nice touch.

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