Friday, January 13, 2012

Pie Safe

I recently completed this pie safe (cabinets for storing baked goods with tin panels that have small holes in a design so as to allow air movement while protecting the contents from insects).  They originated with Pennsylvania Germans in the nineteenth century.  Mine is based on plans and videos from Charles Neil here.  It's a highly functional project that we will enjoy for many years.

This project has special significance for me as a woodworker. A pie safe almost begs to be made with a table saw and a mortising machine.  Midway through the project, I sold my table saw.  I finished making it with hand tools.  Selling your table saw is a tipping point, important in itself and highly symbolic.  Coincident with this, I rearranged my shop to put the remaining power tools on the periphery and built a hand tool work bench.  A fundamental change.



  1. Impressive Andy! I like it. I did have some questions interrupt my thinking as I was reading and looking though. Will you be adding a second shelf just above the jars? Are there alternative leg design choices that would still make the overall piece look “right”? Did you punch the tin panel patterns? If not, are there pre-punched panels available? If so, it seems like punching all those holes would be a tedious process, especially having 6 panels to do. Lastly, I’m not sure at what point in the build you sold your table saw, but what was the most challenging part of the build to do with hand tools?

    Oh, and I really like that plant stand to the right of the pie safe.

    Thank you Andy.

    1. Thanks. I ran out of material so the second shelf is in progress. As for the legs, interesting thought. I'm sure there are any number of alternative leg designs, but this is traditional. It is a utilitarian piece. I wanted to, but didn't, punch the tins myself, due to time constraints. Twelve tins is a lot. The tins are widely available in a variety of materials and patterns; just search for "pie safe tins." I sold the table saw just after completing the basic framework. After that, I made rough cuts on the bandsaw and did the rest with hand tools. The doors, for example, were made with hand tools, except I cheated and used the drill press to rough out the mortises before finishing them with a chisel. Top,bottom, back and shelves were made by hand. My Bailey #7 and I got to be close friends. The plant stand is an antique from my wife's family. I like it too, but I don't know anything about it. The Navajo baskets and sculpture are also from my wife's parents. Since the pie safe was a gift to her, I chose to put these items, which mean a lot to her, with it.

  2. When I read 12 pie safe tins, I thought, huh? After looking at the top picture a second time, I see you put tins on the sides of the cabinet. Wow! I can see why you opted for pre-punched tins. Previously, the pies safes that I’ve seen only put the tins on the doors. I’m sure your wife was very please with the outcome.

  3. Very nice! I've been looking forward to seeing it since you first posted about it in one of your workbench posts. I have watched all the Charles Neil pie safe videos and really enjoyed them. The pie safe and also the shaker clock charles made a video about are both on my list of things I would like to build someday. How did you build the shelf supports? I know Charles made a few different shelf support designs, and was curious what you decided on.

  4. Thanks. I wanted my shelves in a fixed location so I didn't use one of Charles' methods. I thought his idea of making his own plywood for the supports was interesting though.

  5. Andy, that's a really nice pie safe, I am impressed. White oak?