This classic cabinet became popular in the mid-1800s, when heartland homesteaders, far from town centers, needed a handy spot to stockpile preserves. Sometimes you'll see more ornate, antique versions in oak or cherry, but most are painted pine, like this handsome example. If you want to build one, we recommend working with edge-glued panels. They give you enough width to get the face frame and door out of a single piece, and, unlike plywood, the cut edges are smooth and feel finished when painted. If you prefer to spend your time canning, you can certainly buy a cupboard. Typically, the more you pay, the more weathered the finish. But whether you build or buy, don't think you have to keep this versatile accent piece in the kitchen—or stocked with jelly, for that matter.
Shown: Colonial Primitive Jelly Cabinet, Michelle's Pretty Prims, about $95; etsy.com
Overview to Build a Jelly Cupboard
For a cabinet 14¾ inches wide by 9½ inches deep by 36 inches tall with a cap 15¾ inches wide by 10 inches deep
¾-inch by 18-inch edge-glued-pine front panel, to make the face frame and door: one @ 36 inches ripped to 14¾ inches wide
¾-inch by 18-inch edge-glued-pine sides: two @ 36 inches, ripped to 8½ inches wide
¼-inch pine plywood back: one @ 32 inches, ripped to 14½ inches wide
¾-inch by 18-inch edge-glued-pine cap: one @ 15¾ inches, ripped to 10 inches wide
¾-inch by 18-inch edge-glued-pine shelves and top: four @ 8 ½ inches, ripped to 13 ¼ inches wide
¾-inch by 18-inch edge-glued-pine latch: one @ 2½ inches, ripped to 1½ inches wide
Build the Box
Use a circular saw to cut the pieces according to the cut list. Sandwich the top and shelves between the sides, with the shelves installed 10½, 21, and 32½ inches below the top. Apply glue to the edges of the sandwiched pieces, and nail into them through the outside of the cabinet, using a pneumatic nailer and 1¼-inch brads. Glue and nail the back panel in place, flush at the top and inset ⅛ inch at each side. Nail the cap onto the cabinet, flush at the back but overhanging the front and sides equally.
Make the Face Frame
To create the feet on the front panel, measure and mark a rectangle, 3¼ by 11 inches, centered at one end. Trace the curve of a 1-quart paint can to round off the corners, then cut the line with a jigsaw. At the opposite end, draw a straight line across the panel 2 inches down from the top. Mark spots 4⅜ inches in from each side on that line and 1½ inches above the line's midpoint. Use the curved edge of a 1-gallon paint can to connect the marks and trace the curve above the line. Follow the curved line with a jigsaw to cut out the top piece of the face frame. Then use a straightedge and a circular saw to rip 2⅝-inch strips off both sides of the remaining piece, creating the sides of the face frame and the cabinet door.
Install the Front
Lay the box on its back, and glue and nail the top and sides of the face frame to the front. Use cardboard or shims to center the door. Install the hinges and knob. To install the latch, use a ⅛-inch combination countersink bit to drill through the latch and into the face frame, then loosely screw the piece in place with a 1¼-inch wood screw. Fill any nail holes with wood filler and smooth rough spots with 220-grit sandpaper before painting the cupboard.