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ShopCam HiLites for 10/21/00
The Weekend Off?

Some folks who have regular 9 - 5 jobs think us self-employed folks have it made. We can work when we want and take a day off when we want. Not so. You have to work when you can and it's usually the unexpected which gives you a day off here and there. I'm working Saturday.

When we left off, all the pieces had been milled out for size and it's come time for all the hard choices - which parts go where. This sorting of material, comparing grain, looking for defects, etc, can sometimes take me hours. Luckily, I was helped by Mr. D's desire to have the wall unit compare favorably with his walnut floor. His floor exhibits numerous "character enhancements" many of us wouldn't ordinarily include in our better projects. Tight knots and sapwood were OK...:)

Anyway, I got through it with several trips to the cutoff saw to remove snipe and any end checking, and to roughly get the parts to length. Then I selected the parts which held the raised panels - the doors, drawer faces, and fireplace frame - for machining. A real milestone for a start to this project would be getting the joints cut for the stiles and rails.

Because the doors are so narrow, we decided to skip the fancy cope and stick molding on the insides of the frames and go with a square edge. This lets us maximize the width of the panels giving them a bolder appearance. That suited me just fine - I could leave the router in the drawer and the ear muffs on the hook. We're cutting our joints with the stacked dado on the tablesaw and I get a break after days of listening to a whiny planer.

The first step is to run the grooves in the edges of the stiles and rails. Since all the parts are marked for placement, it's pretty easy to avoid mistakes. Still, I've included some extra in case I screw up.

The setup for accurate machining is pretty simple. I use a stiff oak board with a small rubber caster mounted to the end in lieu of a featherboard. It's anchored by a clamp to a corner of the tablesaw and another stick, similarly clamped, applies the pressure to the workpiece.

There are two other things in the picture at right you might find interesting. The auxiliary table which runs along the left side of my saw is really an outrigger which slides in an out. On the front, it's supported by a thick oak piece sized to move snuggly in and out of the Beisemeyer fence mounting tube. The rear is supported by a steel bar which moves along a groove let into the stretcher for the outfeed table. More about this later.

The second feature is a walnut stick which you can barely see stretching away from the backside of the fence. Most of it is under the pile of parts stacked on the saw. This stick has one purpose - to keep the end of the fence from flexing outward during these mission-critical joinery cuts. As much as I like the Beisemeyer, you can ever-so-slightly wiggle it's far end. Such movement transforms into joints which just don't line up right and need extra fudging to look flat - not good!

In practice, I set the fence where I want it, look for a stick the right length, slide one end up against the back of the fence end, and then clamp the other end of the stick to the outfeed table near the wall. I figure the minute or so it takes to implement my backup stick has saved me hours and hours over the years. Try it - you'll like it!

After the grooves are cut, it's time to trim the rails to finished length. I only do this now 'cause it leaves me fewer parts to deal with while grooving. Secondly, if I'm matching up rail ends across doors and drawers, I'm less likely to get any parts turned around and grooved along the wrong edge. And I have some scraps for setting up the next step - cutting the tenons.

My saw for this task is a Hammond Glider. It's a baby sliding tablesaw which fits in my small shop very well. It doesn't tilt and the crosscut fence is pinned and bolted to the sliding table - you really have to work to get an out-of-square cut.

Of course, a finely crafted sled will do the same thing on a tablesaw and a decent miter saw would work too. You don't need to have one of these saws in your shop. But if you see one for sale somewhere...:)

Oh yeah, one more thing: the guard was removed for clarity of description...;)

Back at the tablesaw, it's time to cut the tenons in the ends of the rails. To form the tenon, we clamp on a sacrificial fence and use a stacked dado sized to the length of the tenon (and the depth of the groove). Then 3/16" is removed from the bottom and 5/16" from the top.

Setting the depth of the dado is often problematic, requiring lots of trial and error. I use a trial pusher block to back up the cuts for the test pieces. When the depth is dialed in, I switch to a new pusher block so the trailing edge of the cut is properly backed-up.

In the photo at right, the part being cut is the rail from over the fireplace. Because it's 51" long, the outrigger is pulled out further to support the board.

A close look at the tenon cheeks reveal lateral lines from the stacked dado. Though they aren't as smooth as what you get from a router table, I like to think of these lines as extra anchors for the glue; something similar to what you find in biscuits.

In the end, you get a joint which is very strong, accurate and only needs light sanding after final assembly.

I have to go back onsite to finish a previous job. I'm hoping to be back in the shop working on Mr. D's wall unit by Friday. If you have any questions or suggestions about the Walnut Wall Unit, please post them at the Info Exchange.

Jim Mattson

Onward to the next Installment

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