Mission Cabinet

by Dan Phalen
Mission cabinet doubles as photographer's easel and supplies storage

Here's a custom cabinet designed to fulfill a specific need, but you can build it from my plans to suit your own purpose. While I built this Mission style cabinet to double as an easel for photographing china pieces, it could just as easily find a place in your home. The frame and panel design is easy to build and makes for a sturdy structure.

Studio Model


Home Model


You can build one just like it for your own purpose...if you like Mission style.


Build your own Mission Cabinet just like this one using my PDF plans document. They're free!

Before and After

Here's what wifey was using. Pathetic, no? To the right was a small table for her printer and whatnot I hacked together years ago before I had a shop and good tools. That old table got replaced as well.


The replacement cabinet had to have certain things:

  • Mission (Arts & Crafts) design
  • 34-inch height
  • Single drawer
  • Storage for the stuff in that gray tub
  • Top large enough to prop china for photo shoots (as shown above)
  • Match the other furnishings in the room

Today - So here's how the cabinet looks in place, with the matching table.


Plan B - Use Sketchup

 This is the first time I've started a project by actually creating detailed scale drawings.

Using Sketchup 7 was the smartest thing I could have done. Saved oodles of mistakes by making them on the drawing board first and fixing them there instead of in the shop.

The details are complete, even down to the mortises, tenons, and apron cleats to support the bottom.

For my own use, I also created dimensioned components, which are hidden in the project as shown left.

Having started this way I won't go back. "Building" it on paper got me so comfortable with Sketchup that switching between tools and views with hotkeys is now automatic

I am indebted to Rob Cameron for his Sketchup For Woodworkers tutorials. Excellent detail and a thorough job.

Wood Selection

Since it would have to match the other furniture I made for her room, I went with solid maple for the legs and drawer front, and maple plywood for the top and sides.

Mortise & Tenon Joinery

First I routed the mortises with a jig I built from an idea inspired by Shopnotes mag. Building it consumed a couple of days in the shop with no progress on the cabinet, but the jig was worth doing. I LOVE this thing!


Once the leg mortises were routed, I squared the mortise ends with chisels and then trimmed the tenons to fit, using a new purchase from Lee Valley. All the gurus say no shop is complete without a shoulder plane, and I agree.


Here is the first trial fit after hogging out the mortises and fitting the tenons.


Side Panel Cutting and Assembly

The 3/4" ply sides are thicker than I needed, but I already had the stuff and couldn't see buying a whole sheet of half-inch.

Taper Jig

Only the outside edges of the legs are tapered, but I needed a jig for the job anyway, so I made my own from MDF, easy-peasy. Just drew a line from the wide foot corner a few inches from one end of the MDF to the narrower top corner at the other end. Cut it using the saber saw running against a clamped guide piece. (Below right, the jig in action.)


Top Crosspiece

Tying the side panels together at the top is a dovetailed maple crosspiece with a haunched tenon to hold the front together and create a top frame reference for the drawer.



Drawer & Door

Drawer box is red oak with hard maple front, box joints for solid integrity. The handles were selected to match the other furniture in the room.

pc4.jpg pc3.jpg

Plenty of storage below. Pivot hinges keep clean lines, smooth operation with no marks on inner leg surface.

pc5.jpg pc9.jpg


The finish is one coat BLO to bring out the figure, one coat Zinsser dewaxed shellac to fill, and two coats Varathane clear satin applied with a folded paper shop towel. Sanded with 320 grit between coats.

blo.png shellac.png  varathane.png shoptowel.png


The new cabinet turned out pretty nice, and I think the table is a good match.


Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoyed your visit.



EB Cover

Before the age of kings,
 when God was a woman...

Sumer, 3,200 BC. Under the watchful eye of a deadly cobra, Nippur’s empath queen Uruna risks her life and mankind’s future to foresee an alternative to war. Torn between her longing for love and her pledge as bride to a nation, she defies a power-mad priest and his insurgent army. But her gamble demands a personal cost more shattering than her worst nightmare. Read more...

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