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ShopCam HiLites for 11/2/00
'Nough Clamps?

As it turned out, the melamine panels came out without much trouble. They left a few fibers behind where glue squeezed from the joints. And to think I tossed and turned all night long for nothing...:)

I did make a mistake by not removing the excess glue, so by this morning, it was pretty hard. At that point, it's too risky slicing it off with a chisel as it can chip and take some walnut with it - I had to carefully sand it off.

Before going on to assemble the other faceframe, I wanted to mortise for the hinges. There are eight of them and cutting their recesses would be a real pain after the unit was assembled.

I measured the flap on the hinge, it's barrel and considered the gap I wanted for around the doors - between 1/16" and 3/32". I also wanted to make a jig which would cut two mortises at once in each of the faceframe stiles AND, use the same jig for mortising the doors. By cutting two at once, there would be no guesswork or fidgeting with their spacing.

The jig is pretty simple and I make one for each job, then toss it. I hate spending half a day making a jig which won't ever be used again, so this has to be quick!

Basically, the jig is two pieces of scrap walnut (stile rejects), which flank the workpiece, and spanned by four router stops screwed to their edges (two for each end of the mortise). During assembly, the two flankers are spaced by clamping a stile in the middle along with an end stop for locating the stile.

Before going forward, I need to pick a bit and set up a router. For a mortise bit, I poked around in my bit drawer for one which was reasonably sharp and had a flat bottom. You get cleaner mortises that way.

Then I zeroed the bit to the bottom by letting it down 'til it just grazed the benchtop. It's much easier to locate the jig stops when the bit is as low as it can go.

Incidently, PC routers have this great little indexing ring around their middle for precisely adjusting bit depth. I set mine on zero. Let's build a jig!
First, the two outer router stops are screwed perpendicular to the scrap edges (photo right). These locate the top of the top hinge mortise and the bottom of the bottom hinge mortise. Their position is determined by setting the router on the layout lines, scooting the stop block up to the router base, clamping it and checking for square. When you have it square and where you want it, four screws, (two into each scrap piece) hold it secure.

From there, the two inner stops are clamped in place a little shy of the layout lines, which leaves me a too-small mortise. I go ahead and set the router bit to 1/16" deep and make a cut. I know it's gonna be too small and after the first cut, I know by how much.

After loosening the clamps and bumping the stops inward, I try again, doing this until I get the hinge to fit both mortises.

I don't try to get it too tight. Afterall, there is a finish going on and we need to leave room for that.
Once the jig is made, routing the eight mortises takes about five minutes. Here's a good picture of the jig as I swing it off the bench to swap in another stile for mortising.
From here, the second frame is biscuited and assembled like the first. Now it's time to attach the first frame to it's respective cabinet and answer the age-old question, "Do I have enough clamps?" :)

I wish I could say my frames came out perfectly flat but it just ain't so. There were a couple deviations from plane so it was necessary to do a little shaving here, some sanding there - you get the idea.

Real professional shops will run their frames through a wide-belt sanding machine to get them flat. Maybe someday...

In locating the frame on the cabinet, there are a couple main goals. We want the the one end to be flush with the cabinet so we put some biscuits in there. We also want the kickplates to be flush with the bottom so we put some bscuits in there (photo right).

Aside from that, the rest of the frame is just butt-glued to the plywood edges of the cabinet. As it says on my bottle of yellow glue, this joint is stronger than the wood itself!

When I'm only using biscuits for alignment purposes, it isn't necessary to go whole-hog on the glue-spreading. That said, we don't want the biscuit sliding off-center in the slot, and preventing the parts from joining completely. To that end, just a blob is sufficient to hold it steady.

The procedure goes like this: clamp the cabinet to the bench so the top is flat, spread glue on the plywood edges with a roller and then clamp the faceframe to the cabinet.

And yes, we have enough clamps - barely!

 While the first assembly dries, it's time to remove the other frame from it's clamps and extract the white melamine templates. This has to be done carefully since the glue is only a couple hours old and the frame won't be fully hardened until tomorrow.

The second frame is flattened and biscuited like the first and it's time to adhere it to it's cabinet. There is one twist with this assembly (plot twist, that is), this cabinet is the one on the left, the door cabinet, and it has the 3/16" thick scribe hanging off the back which won't be very strong in resisting the clamp pressure.

To the rescue is a spring clamp and wood strip which rests in the rabbet and takes the pressure off the scribe. The bar clamp pad hangs a little off the edge towards the scribe, to keep the pressure centered, which prevents the wood strip from rotating out of the rabbet.

OK, we're making progress!

While the glue sets on the second frame/cabinet marriage, it's time to attend to a few things needed doing, while the cabinet is still open in the back. For the first cabinet, which gets four file drawers, we need to pad out the sides so the drawer slides will clear the faceframe when Mr. D. pulls open the drawer.

As you can see in the picture, I chose walnut for this blocking. I know, I know, it's a waste of precious hardood and a couple 2x4s would have worked fine. I asked Mr. D. if he wanted to pay extra for walnut file drawers, instead of my usual poplar. He said yes so we're going whole hog here. Besides, hardwood holds screws better - right!?

Also in the photo is a plywood spacer atop the lower pad. It only needs to stay there for a few minutes 'til the glue grabs.

Another thing you can see are what I call "jamsticks" applying the pressure to the center of the blocking. Ideally, these are hardwood, about 5/16" thick and about 1/4" longer than the distance betwen the parts.

I also use jamsticks for setting the backsplash for kitchen counters, jamming them in between the top edge of the splash and the upper cabinets. But that's a horse of a different project. Should we call that the "OnSiteCam"? ;)

Finally, we take the second cabinet out of it's clamps, clean up some glue and turn it upright on the far side of the bench. I re-insert the frame templates with the idea the glue is still somewhat pliable and hopefully the frame will harden in reasonably perfect shape overnight.

I think I did well today, and without any minor set-backs. The next steps are to drill the shelf holes in the door cabinet and then screw on the backs. After that, there should be enough time to start fitting doors and drawers. It would be great to get all that done before the weekend. Will I make it?

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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