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ShopCam HiLites for 11/14/00
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If you guessed we were getting ready to biscuit our upper case joints, you were right! Todays work involved fairly basic biscuit joinery and we won't get too involved in the process. I like biscuit joinery for just this reason - it simplifies the construction process so I can spend less time fidgeting.

A short piece of scrap plywood was positioned on end a hair over the solid wood edging. Then the vertical was brought up to the scrap and clamped in place. This makes the inside corner of the joint the reference point for the base of the biscuit machine, insuring proper alignment.

All the biscuit joints cut today were done without the fence. I always plunge the biscuit machine vertically first (the slots in the top). If I cut the horizontal slots first, there is a risk the vertical will shift from the force of the plunging action, requiring that I start over in laying out the slots.

When the far end is slotted, a short scrap, with biscuits installed, anchors that end in finding the placement of the other two verticals. You might notice there are a couple familiar parts in this photo. The lower cabinet shelves, which made their debut in helping to assemble both lower cabinets, have returned for an encore. As it turns out, the distance between uprights in the lower cabinets is precisely the same for the upper cabinets. I love it when a plan comes together! :)

I'm only putting two biscuits in each joint. As with the lower cabinets, screws will perform the clamping duties. With the two biscuits will be three screws - two on the outside and one in the middle.

To get my biscuits far enough from the edge to leave room for a screw, I reference their lateral position using the edge of the biscuit machine. One slot is cut using the front edge of the plywood and one slot is cut using the back. Other than a couple marks I put on the two lower cabinet shelves, I didn't even need to get out my pencil to mark any of the joints, leaving my freshly sanded veneer un-marred.

After the biscuits are cut, I drill the three clearance holes for the screws. The two outer holes are located at the end of the biscuit slots. The one in the middle needs a layout line to keep it positioned so the screw enters the middle of the plywood edge.

I get a singular benefit from drilling these holes now: using the slots for aligning the clearance holes, I know the screws will go in the middle of the plywood and will less likely go off course. There is no chance for a layout mistake.

As done with the lower cabinets, the lower shelves serve double-duty in the assembly process. After gluing and screwing the top center joint, the shelves are slipped against the parts and used for clamping that joint square.
From here, it's just a matter of spreading glue and drilling screw holes - one joint at a time.

Following around the cabinet, eventually all the joints are screwed together. I didn't glue the joints at the lower cabinet top thinking I might want to disassemble it later during finishing or installation.

With the plywood assembled, it's time for the fitting and gluing the faceframe. The cabinet on the bench is the upper right cabinet and only it's left (far) outside stile needs to be flush. The other is wider and the faceframe runs wide to act as a scribe.

Again, all the faceframe parts are biscuited without the fence, using the bottom of the machine as the front-to-back reference plane. The arched rails which define the top of the frame are six inches wide. My Virutex machine has two red marks at each end of a #20 biscuit slot. I use these marks, aligned to the edge of the arch, to locate the slot - no pencil marking!

Since we aren't trying to be as precise with the upper frames (remember the templates in the lower frames?) I've decided to assemble the pieces to each other and the plywood carcass at the same time. Still, there are a couple subassemblies which might help to avoid a real race against drying glue.

In the photo at right, an arch is glued and clamped to one of the stiles.

While the faceframe sub-assemblies are drying, it's time to remove excess glue from the insides of the upper cabinet. My favorite tool for this is a crank-necked chisel that lays flat against the plywood and is lightly shoved into the corner to sever the glue blobs. It works pretty good.

I've known a couple other cabinetmakers who hardly ever have any glue to clean up. They may not get their joints as strong as possible but I can't ever remember them having problems with joint failure. I figure they're better at applying glue than I am. And though I could get better and save some time, those little blobs of glue bubbling out of a joint really let me sleep well at night.

The center stile was a bit hard to reach from outside the unit, so I hopped inside. The tops of the workbench are split to let me get clamps onto the back edge of the center vertical. If your bench doesn't split, you can prop the unit on 2x4s to get room for clamping underneath.

Because there are no biscuits between the frame parts and carcass, I just guess where the frame goes and clamp it down.

The above statement isn't true - I was just checking to see if you were really reading or just looking at the pictures. In truth, I ripped some spacer blocks which I fit under the frame to locate the lateral position of the stiles when clamping them to the plywood. ;)

While the glue is drying on the frame (background of photo), let's get the drawer faces hung. Before they will lay flat against the drawers, the backs need to be sanded. Then I center the panel in the frame and drop a couple blobs of hotmelt adhesive at the center of each end. Otherwise, the panel might slip to the bottom of the frame and look awkward.

Mounting the drawer faces is much simpler than hanging doors. Thankfully the top is off so I can reach inside the cabinet to drive screws. I do the bottom drawer first and then shim the upper face onto that for doing the upper drawer.

Incidentally, it's getting colder and drier and the walnut faces have shrunk slightly. I can now fit two purples into the perimeter gaps. Come summer time, that gap might be down to one purple. Isn't working with wood fun?! :)

Once I get the face shimmed into position, I run in the two middle screws. Then I pull the shims and extract the drawer to see if I got it right. if not, a couple bangs with a deadblow mallet make the corrections.

Then I clamp it and run in the other screws.

Here's the cabinet with drawers mounted. When I get around to sanding and finishing, I might fine-tune the fit a little, but for now, it looks good
By now, the faceframes are dry so I "de-clamp" the unit and slide it on top of the base cabinet. Then I cut down the back and sponge it wet to raise the grain. I like to screw upper backs onto their units while the unit is sitting on it's base. They seem to rest better that way.

Before attaching the back, I want to accurately space the verticals. This means making sure the center divider is really in the center when the back is screwed on. I decide to cut some shelves similar to the shelves from the lower cabinet - full width without the clearance needed for removing them when the cabinet is finished.

A prime candidate for this application is the vertical which was culled out of the project yesterday. With all those shelf holes drilled into it, usefulness as a template is about the most it's good for.

When crosscutting it to length, I went through the spot which was sanded through. You can see lodged in the core a strip of veneer, causing the bulge that created the problem. At a $100 per sheet, you'd think you could get a little more care from the fabricators. Oh well...

In this photo, the spacers are clamped in the upper unit and I'm using the marking gauge for determining screw position.
The first step in attaching the back is to get a few screws into it just to hold it on.

Then I check it for square in the front, and if it's OK, I put in some more screws. As was done with the base units, I don't put in all the screws - just enough to hold it tight. The back will be removed for spraying.

You should also notice the back extends about an inch above the plywood top. I'm hoping before I install the crown molding, there will be enough room to screw the unit at the top through this back extension. If not, I'll have to screw the cabinet to the wall from the inside. Cross your fingers!

What can I say? One down and one to go...:)

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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