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Cut One, Curl Two

Something amazing happened today - I started work early - more than an hour earlier than I usually do. Don't ask me why this is such a rare event...;)

The task for the day was making all 20 shelves for Mr. D.'s wall unit. Many of the needed parts were scraps from building the cabinets. Still, I had to rip into my last sheet of walnut plywood. At this stage, everything is oversized in width and length and I'm using the Glider to cut one truly square corner.

A pencil laid over acutely will leave a nice shallow mark (easy to sand off) for identifying that square corner later in the process.

Back at the tablesaw, I run the square end against the fence to crosscut the shelves. As you can see from the photo, there is more to this story.

On a good day, when the Freud LU85 blade on the Glider is sharp, I might do all the crosscutting there, and skip going back to the tablesaw. Other than melamine, veneer-core plywood is the worst material for getting a clean crosscut and the bottom edges off the Glider don't indicate a good day - too much tearout!

So, at the tablesaw, I drop the blade down to a little over half the thickness and make two passes for each cut - one from each side of the panel. With a sharp ATB blade and a low attack angle in the cut, the resulting edge is the cleanest you can get short of a scoring saw or CNC router. And compared to filling in chips with wood putty, double-cutting is a real time saver!

Before I forget, guard removed for clarity of description.

Of course, now that it's nearing the end of the construction phase, I would have to run out of glue. Fortunately, I have a little in another bottle so I decide to mix the two. Call it "Equal Opportunity Adhesion". :)

The shelves for the door base cabinet don't need anything special for an edging - a 3/4" x 3/4" strip of walnut is fine. For the upper shelves, I want something with more visual authority so the plan calls for a stiffener glued to the front edge. Dimensions= 1 1/2" x 3/4".

I made some stiffeners in the beginning of the project with the idea that other scraps would fill in later when it came time to assemble the shelves. There were a couple pieces left over from the faceframes and in this photo, they're getting edge-planed to the same 1 1/2" width.

After crosscutting to rough overlength, the walnut edges are laid on the bench, glue is rolled on the plywood edge and the plywood is clamped down to the walnut using three clamps. As during assembly of the doors and drawer faces, I start at one corner of the bench and work my way around until I run out of clamps. Then it's time to start over.

No biscuits here - the edging is clamped so the wood overhangs the face about 1/64". We'll flush it to the plywood later.

Midway through the process, when one shelf comes out of the clamps, the excess glue is scraped off and the parts are stacked so the edges are exposed to to help the glue set faster.

OK, it's after lunch and it's time to flush the overlong wood to the right-hand shelf ends. I set up a short fence and carefully feed the end into the sawblade. Except I made a mistake and left the ends either too long or too short, if you know what I mean.

The ends are too short to have enough mass to prevent them from moving when they are severed from the shelf. They get caught up in the blade's air stream and slide forward enough to risk getting bound against the short fence and thrown - real fast! It they were shorter, so I was only removing less than a kerf, it would have been much better. I'll remember next time.

Oh yeah, that guard thing again.

Anyway, the situation had my warning bells clanging so I went back to the Glider to trim those long ends. I set up a stop block to locate the crosscut, and a backer block behind the wood eliminates any chipping.

Then it's back at the tablesaw running the clean end against the fence to trim the opposite end. Again, the backer block is used to prevent chipping.

This procedure didn't scare me since the offcuts couldn't get bound against anything to go flying. And normally, when the Glider blade is in better shape, I would have cut the plywood and edging to length at the same time. I guess I better get it sharpened, huh? ;)

Now would be a good time to say something about safety. Using the tablesaw fence to crosscut narrow shelves can be really dangerous. If your fence isn't smooth and properly aligned, or the shelf is too much longer than the width, there can be a real tendency for the shelf to twist in the cut, causing a kickback. Keep your blade as low as it can go and still give yourself a clean cut, and be careful!

In the end, after all these acrobatics, the shelves are cut and slip easily into the upper cabinets. The shelf supports are the spoon type and you can fit the shelves pretty tight with this kind of support. For this project, with lots of finish to apply, I leave about 1/32" of space all the way around
The four shelves for the base cabinet are flush-trimmed with a router. The bit has been sharpened once so it doesn't cut perfectly flush. That's OK, I need a workout.

Here, the overhanging edge is clamped in the tail vise, resulting in a solid platform for scraping the solid wood flush with the plywood. Just like hand planing, this is real work - and I enjoy it a lot!

If you never use your scraper for anything else, this one application is worth it's purchase. Sharpening a cabinet scraper can be tricky, but in the end, it's highly worth it. There is no grain tearout and only a few swipes are needed for each piece.

The ends are still a hair long so I use a hard sanding block to bring them in line with the plywood end.
When I'm done, the curls of walnut are gathered for display. What do you think? A walnut Shirley Temple wig for next Halloween?

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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