Bubinga, Curly Maple, Ebony, Padauk, Rosewood Medicine Cabinet

A unique latch system keeps little ones out.

SHOP OWNER: Ellis Walentine
LOCATION: Springtown, PA

    This is a childproof medicine cabinet I built in 1977. It has a unique latch system that keeps little people out, but allows normal-sized adults to get in quickly and easily without using a key or a lock combination.
    The door is joined with mortise and tenon joinery. The center panel is a single piece of curly maple, floating in the frame opening on solid African padauk splines. The door attaches to the case with offset brass knife hinges that I made myself.
Inside View

    The inside of the box contains shelves and dividers for storing medicines and other things that you want to keep away from young children. The back is resawn bookmatched curly bubinga.
    The shelves in this cabinet are 3/8"-thick Birdseye maple with padauk nosings and morado feature strips. The vertical divider is dadoed into the shelves above and below, and the padauk nosing extends into V-grooves in the mating nosings.


Three Safety Latches

    The childproof opening system consists of three latches that must operate simultaneously in order for the cabinet to open. A separate ivory button activates each latch. The front button retracts a 1/4" diameter ivory strike and the side buttons release a brass catch with two barbs on it. Each side button releases one of the barbs.
Latch Operation

    To open the cabinet, you slide the button on the front of the cabinet to the left with your left thumb while simultaneously sliding the two side buttons toward each other with the thumb and middle finger of your right hand. The two side buttons are too far apart (5 1/2") for a child to span with one hand, yet they are within the reach of even small adult hands. So, unless the curious child has three hands (or an accomplice), he or she isn't going to be able to open all three latches simultaneously, and it only takes one to foil the intrusion.
Latch Mechanism Housed in an Indian Rosewood Block

    Housed in an Indian rosewood block, the mechanism itself attaches to the inside of the side panel with five polished brass screws. The buttons are embedded in ebony blocks with stepped tongues on the bottom that engage two overlapping L-shaped steel pieces that I made from an old flat file. I annealed the file and formed the bypassing catches with hacksaws, grinders, and files. The short sections of the Ls are spring loaded by two light-duty compression springs set into perpendicular cavities.
    When both latches are actuated, the two catches release the brass strike on the door; and, if the front latch is being operated at the same time, two turned, spring-loaded ebony dowels push the door open.

    The entire cabinet is finished with several wiped coats of Waterlox Transparent (now Waterlox Original Sealer). It hangs on the wall on three pan head screws that engage keyhole slots in the back of the cabinet.

. . . Ellis Walentine



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P.O. Box 493
Springtown, PA 18081