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ShopCam HiLites for 11/3/00
Shim For Success

This morning was rough getting started. Usually I wake up well before the alarm clock. Not today. And on days when it wakes me up, roaring into the shop for eight hours of intense concentration and dancing around sharp tools is the last thing on my mind...groan.

Yesterday, the questions was whether I had enough clamps. Today, it's whether I can drill shelf holes in my sleep? Pictures don't lie!

Luckily that second cup of coffee started to kick in and stuff started falling into place. After doing the shelf holes, it came time to screw on the backs and use one of my favorite tools. It's a marking gauge from Bridge Ctiy Tools and contrary to popular belief, you can actually use their tools for actual woodworking; they don't have to remain on display.

For this job, it's used to mark the location of the screws for mounting the backs to the cases.

The ingenious aspect of the BC tool is it's beveled wheel. Think of it as a circular razor blade which works well with or across the grain. When it dulls, simply rotate the cutter to a fresh edge on the wheel.
Once the lines are marked in the back, we're using a coarse drywall screw again, 2" #7, and though I drill all the pilot holes, I only put in enough screws to hold the cabinet tight during the rest of construction. After all, it's getting removed later for spraying.
Now that the backs are on, and I'm almost fully awake, it's time for one last chore before getting to the tricky stuff. I let the fraceframe run long on the top and I need to flush it out to the plywood stretcher.

Here's a good picture of the half-biscuits showing through atop the drawer carcass.

Shall we fit some drawers and doors?

You might remember we're relying on the template used to size the faceframes to accurately rout to size our doors and drawer faces. Since I left the stiles long for both the drawer faces and doors, it's advantageous to trim them flush - a lot less routing to do.

In the photo right, I'm crosscutting the drawer stiles flush with the rails. Facilitating this is a spacer block which fits in between the stub ends of the stiles. The tablesaw fence is set so the spacer's left edge is aligned with the left side of the blade. When you run this combo along the fence into the saw, the stile is trimmed flush without damaging the rail.

If you try this technique, a word of caution, make sure your spacer block is wide enough so offcuts can't possibly twist and bind between the sawblade and fence. If not, you'll be buying a new blade if the Emergency Room doesn't take all your cash. Not good!

After the ends are flush, the drawer panels are split on the tablesaw and then the middle edges, where the drawers meet together, are cleaned up on the jointer. While we're here, we joint the intervening edges for the doors too. When we flush-trim the panels to the template, these edges need to be already finished.

Because we left the stiles long on the doors, we want to trim them too before using our template to rout them to final size. The trick used on the tablesaw won't work as well since the rails on the doors are too short to feed accurately along the fence. It's back to the Glider.

To get both stiles flush to a rail, I slide the rail up against the stopped blade. Then I lower the blade, slide the table back, raise the blade, start the saw and feed it through.

As I've mentioned before, you don't need an expensive sliding table saw for such antics. A good tablesaw sled will work just as well...well, almost...;)

Ok, let's recap, shall we? At this point, all the stile stubs have been trimmed off and the middle edges, the ones between each pair of doors and drawers, have been straightened and smoothed.

Before we go on to routing, there are a couple spots on the templates which fit tighter than others. I fuss with them for a few minutes so they fit more evenly inside the frames. A little sanding here, a little sanding there. In the end they're ready for their real job - saving me hours of fussing with the doors and drawers in getting them fitted to their frames. In the end, I'll trade a little fussing for a lot of fussing any day! big should our gap be betwen all our parts? A convenient spacing is the thickness of one standard piece of laminate (purple, thick) and one vertical grade piece of laminate (black, thin). The combined thickness for the two is about 5/64". (Please don't ask me why I have purple laminate in my shop, OK?...:)

To get the gap adjusted to our template, we need to set our fence exactly to the width of the template. Then we slip two purples and two blacks in between the template and fence and run the whole group through the saw at once. By having the laminate in this position, we diminish the width of the template exactly the needed thickness for two gaps - one on the right of each opening and one on the left.

then we rotate the template 90 degrees and cut that edge to account for the top and bottom gaps.

 Then I clamp a pair of drawer faces upsidedown together, with a black and purple shim in between, and screw the template to the backs of the faces. I centered the template as best as I could so all the frame parts look even.

We don't care about screw holes here since I'll be making several more holes for mounting the faces to the drawers and mounting the drawer pulls.

With two edges hanging off the bench, and using a top-bearing flush-trim bit, I size both drawer faces to the template.
After routing, I slip the faces into their faceframe opening to check for fit. Around the perimeter are tucked a bunch of purple and black combos to even the gaps. I'll take it! Let's break for lunch.

After lunch, I treat the other two drawer faces the same and turn my attention to the doors. Since Mr. D. probably doesn't want any screw holes in the backs of his doors, holding the templates becomes a bit more problematic.

As it turns out, no special jigs were necessary (drat!) and I could get the job done by scooting a bunch of clamps around the edges while I routed the exposed areas.

There isn't much more we can do to the drawer faces since we don't have the drawers made yet, so we turn to the doors. We still have our jig from the other day and it's time to rout the mortises for the hinges.

The procedure is simple as long as we understand one thing - hinges sag. With that in mind, I slip two purples under the door (the thick laminate) and butt the edge up to the faceframe. Then using a sharp little skew chisel, I put a tick mark in the door edge at the top and bottom of each mortise.

In the jig, I align the tick marks to the previously routed recesses. They're kinda small but the accuracy is far better than you can get using a pencil.

It should also be noted I have re-adjusted the depth of the mortising bit using a scrap piece to get the exact depth to create a gap equal to one black and one purple.

After about 45 minutes of cutting test pieces and fidgeting with the jig, it only takes about five minutes to rout the mortises.

At this stage of the project, we aren't that concerned about getting the doors hung perfectly. All we need to know now is if they fit well and if I "CAN" get them to fit perfectly later, after sanding and finishing. As it turns out, the template technique worked great and, like the drawer faces, the doors looked really good in the openings.

I think this is the third or fourth time I've tried this technique and I really like it. Before, I used to go back and fourth to the jointer, taking a taper cut here or a plane swipe there, slowly whittling a pergect gap around the pieces. With the template method, almost all guesswork is removed and getting a great fit is pretty easy.

BTW, for preliminary hanging of doors, I go with the finished hinges but use steel screws instead of the soft brass. And I only use two of the six holes in each hinge - the middle ones, leaving me four holes for later tweaking the hinge side-to-side for removing any hanging twist or aligning the doors flush with the faceframe.

When drilling the screw holes for the hinges, I started with one of my Vix bits. It seemed no matter how hard I held the hinge in the mortise, it would scoot out of place when I started drilling. I do this every time yet I keep trying to use this tool without any luck. Someday I'll either figure it out or remember not to even pick it up...


After fudging a couple holes, I reverted to my old standby method of penciling a circle around the hole, removing the hinge, and then using a regular drill bit for the pilot hole.

Bullseye!!! :)

By 4 o'clock, all the doors are hung and the gaps around the edges are better than expected. I'm also feeling pretty satisfied for what's been accomplished this week and that warm, fuzzy, woodworker's glow is following me around the shop.

Hey, don't laugh! It's why we do this, remember!

I have to go onsite for a couple days so the ShopCam won't return until Tuesday. I hope everyone in the US remembers to vote. You can't complain if you don't vote - so... do you really want to limit yourself that way? ;)


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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