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ShopCam HiLites for 10/30/00
Twist and Glue

Monday morning starts by sanding the raises, which received their first finish coat on Saturday. Water-based poly doesn't need to dry that long - it's just the way it worked out.

The grit is 220 and the white dust is what it looks like when you sand it. Since the poly raises the grain, you can feel where you need to sand, more readily than you can see it.

After all the panels are sanded, the white dust is completely removed with compressed air - no tack cloths required.

In assembling the doors, drawer faces and fireplace panels, it seems best to advance at a leisurely pace. This means initially gluing two rails to only one stile, letting it set up, and then adding the panel and other stile later. I handle this on edge at the edge of the workbench, clamping the rail to the stile by applying pressure at the end of the upper tongue. (photo right)

I like proceeding this way as it gives me more control over how glue is applied and I'm not rushed to avoid having my glue set before I'm finished getting everything aligned. I'm also much less liable to glue the door out of square and it helps in avoiding accidentally gluing the panel securely to the frame. A definite no-no, doing so encourages failure when the panel adjusts to changes in humidity.

An engineer's square makes sure the rail is square to the stile and checks both pieces to make sure they are square to the workbench. The parts are tweaked into alignment by bumping the clamp pads in or out, or left or right, depending on which direction is needed for properly clamping the joint.

Once all the rails for an assembly are clamped, it's easy to sight down along the shoulders and cheeks to make sure there is no twist.

You might also notice there are more than two clamps in this picture. Here, we're gluing the four rails for two drawer faces to just one stile. There is a 1/4" space between the two faces and we'll separate them later on the tablesaw. Sound like fun? Stay tuned!

Spreading glue exactly is one of woodworking's most improbable goals to achieve. Too much and you have a mess. Too little and you have joint failure.

For the sub-assembly of two rails and one stile, I tend to apply the glue a little heavy with the knowledge I can clean up excess glue from within the panel groove before sliding in the panel.

The adhesive shown is Elmer's Carpenter Glue (yellow glue) applied with a mini acid brush. I also have Titebond on the shelf, so which glue you use is up to you.


When adhering the final stile, proper glue application is a bit more critical. With the panel in the groove, it's pretty easy to accidentally glue it to the frame. This is OK if your panel is plywood or MDF, but when it's solid wood, the panel needs to move. If a solid wood panel shrinks , it will crack, usually near the tongue where the panel is thin. If it expands, it can deform the door or split the stile at the bottom of the groove. Don't ask me how I know this...;)

You'll notice in the picture, there isn't any glue on the shoulder or cheek right next to the panel. Now do the rest of them this way, Jim!


This is the same door corner turned upside down and clamped to the bench. Clamping the stile against the bench assures that it will remain straight.

Another thing in this picture, the stiles are over length. They will be trimmed when the door is fitted to the carcase. For Mr. D's wall unit, we're going with inset doors which means the doors are in the same plane as the cabinet faceframe.

For inset doors, I generally size everything a bit larger so I have wiggle room during fitting. This is especially important since I haven't started the cabinets yet...;)

Once all the doors and drawer faces are assembled, it's time to work on the frame/panel section around the fireplace. This is what we're shooting for.

Assembly begins by gluing one end of each rail to one stile. As before, we're doing it in pieces to avoid mistakes. Though it might seem to take twice as long, in fact, it's about the same amount of work and avoiding mistakes can save lots of time down the road.

At right, the header over the fireplace is glued and clamped to the right stile. Glue is only applied to lower part of the joint to let the rest of the board move whenever it heats up during a fire. Notice the nice feather grain - Walnut is beautiful!

The other part is splined to the groove in the stile and butts up under the header with one biscuit joint.

Once the right side has set up, the panel is slid into the groove.

Before gluing on the left stile, I measure the diagonals to make sure the rails are parallel and the spacing is even from one side to the other. So far so good.

(I don't know why the color of the panel is different between this photo and the one previous.)

Unlike the doors, which were checked with a square referenced off the bench, horizontal assemblies are checked with a straightedge to make sure the joint is flat - very important!

At the end of this day, all the frames and panels are put together. The assembly over the fireplace hogs the workbench and the panel under the hearth (lower right) is occupying the tablesaw.

I don't usually remove excess glue with a wet rag. Instead, I prefer to razor it off with a sharp chisel after it sets up for a while; about 45 minutes to an hour. Waiting 'til the next day will make it much harder to remove. I have to come back and handle this chore before calling it a day.

Besides, tomorrow we want to start on the plywood cabinets and we don't want any solid wood work messing with our concentration. And maybe I'll tell you why I started with the doors before building the cabinets...if I can. :)

If you have any questions or comments about Mr. D's Walnut Wall Unit, please post them at the Info Exchange.

Jim Mattson

 Onward to the next Installment

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