Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Wall Cabinet Woes

With one-week left to go on my course at college, I’ve almost exhausted the allocated twenty-six hours allocated to work on this wall cabinet and yet, I’ve still got the doors to fit and hang. If all had gone as according to plan, I probably would’ve had it all finished by now, but for Thursday, which was a pretty horrendous day for making mistakes…

Just the doors left to hang...

During the week before, I managed to get the cabinet together and glued-up – all corners are joined with wedged through tenons and there’s a vertical divider (tenonned) in the middle. Earlier that week, I’d resawn an odd length of English oak in to 2.5mm thick veneers (on my Startrite saw), which would be wide enough to use as the door panels and would also allow me to do a bit of book-matching.

Bandsawn oak veneers (9in wide x 2.5mm thick).

Those were also glued to MDF substrates (using a veneer press) on Friday afternoon, ready for work on Thursday of this week. Having cut them so thick, my intention was to stick them through the wide-belt sander. Not so much to flatten them, but to thickness them down to a convenient size; while preparing the surface so it is (almost) ready for finishing, without the need for large amounts of scraping and hand-sanding (which, without due care, can lead to breaking through an otherwise thin layer of commercially-available veneer). I stared off at about 12mm thick, aiming to finish at around 7mm, having used sheets of 6mm MDF in between.

I gradually worked down to about 8.5mm, when I noticed this:


Yep, it had gone right through, in a couple places! Typically, I wasn’t able to cut around these patches, either. So, I’d have to go off to the racks in search of some of the very thin veneer (typically between 0.4~0.6mm thick), which I could’ve done initially, anyway.

I’m still not entirely sure why this happened as, from looking at the edges, you could still see a good, even 1.5mm of veneer left on both faces. Gary suggested that it could’ve been because the boards had cupped and the sander had removed the ‘high spots’ (although, they’d come out of the sander reasonably flat, by this stage). Not the best start to the penultimate week at college, first thing in the morning, as well! 😦

Things didn’t get much better from then on…

As disappointed as I was not be be able to use my own veneer (and, to have “wasted” that nice bit of oak!), the replacement panels went together well and they didn’t look too bad, once they were very carefully hand-sanded. With the timber already prepared for the door components (and, the top rails already shaped), my next step was to rout some grooves to take the panels, now that they were prepared to finished thickness. As the top rails were curved, I couldn’t really do this against the straight fence of a spindle moulder and, while I would’ve done this using a bearing-guided cutter on the router table at home, the college’s table-mounted  router (a DW625) died several months ago and hasn’t yet been replaced. So, I thought it would be best to try and use that bearing-guided cutter but in a hand-held router, the right way up… I stuck all my rails and stiles (using double-sided tape) to a sheet of 18mm MDF, which was clamped to the bench; setting them out so that each end butted up to the other and they also doubled up for width, to provide maximum support to the router (a DW621).

Well, this was the result:

I didn’t end the day any better than when I had started (although, cutting the mortise and tenon joints went well…). While I admit to letting the router tip on the shorter rail (I later repaired this, by splicing in some new wood), I’m still not entirely sure what happened with the others – but, it does seem that either the cutter moved up in the collet slightly or, that the depth stop somehow moved (when I checked the settings afterwards, something had definitely moved). I think part of the problem was that, with this slot-cutter fitted with a bearing to provide a 10mm depth of cut [a little OTT for components of this size,I agree – but, it’s what was available], I fear I was asking too much of this ¼in router to complete each cut to that depth in a single pass (hence, the apparent slippage of the cutter and/or depth stop). When I later prepared some more timber and re-cut the grooves using the same method later on that afternoon, I made each cut in three shallower passes and the results were all the better for it. Actually, during ‘attempt no.2‘, I used the spindle moulder to groove the stiles, as someone else had already set it up for their doors. It was still tricky getting the grooves to match up with the router but, it all went together with the glue on eventually, come Friday (yesterday).

Actually, after having planed and thicknessed two replacement stiles for the doors, I then went to then feed these lengths through the sander to remove all the machining marks. It was at this point that it looked like the machine was cutting 1mm under size (ie. I set it at 19mm yet, it was coming out at 18.1mm, as according to the callipers). Clive had a look and realised that someone had flipped this certain switch on the machine – it’s difficult to explain what it does but, it basically allows the bed of the machine to ‘tilt‘ so that, each time you feed something in, it will continue to remove a little more material (say, an extra 1mm…). Basically, whatever reading the depth gauge says has little relevance to the finished thickness of the boards coming out the other end – I appreciate that this may not make a lot of sense! Clive couldn’t really think of a ‘use’ for this feature and that it normally isn’t turned on – though, it could account for what happened to my panels, earlier in the morning!! 😯

So,the door were glued up and, regardless of how quickly the glue goes off at this time of year, I decided I would leave them until next week (with a clear head) before fitting and chopping in the hinges. I don’t believe in “luck“, good or bad. To me, it’s all in your mind. As human-beings, we’re all susceptible to the effects of negative thinking, where one bad thought can remain etched in the front of your mind. Despite what a small number of people may be thinking here, I don’t make these kind of mistakes that often. Even, when I do cock something up, it never has the same kind of effect that plagues me for the rest of the day. Then again, in this situation, my dad started very badly. Generally speaking, I’ll make other mistakes towards the end of a working day, when I’m feeling tired. By the next day, I’ll have had a chance to rest and sleep it off before starting again.

One thing I did forget to do in that first week (I was rushing) was to chamfer the ends of the through tenons before assembling the cabinet. This meant that I then had to do it afterwards with a shoulder plane, which will leave cross-grain scratches on the sides of a unit like this, if you’re not careful.

I quite like the way these have come out, although it still needs a bit of sanding and I should probably try and fill those minor gaps with wax or similar (these joints were hand-cut, after all).

And finally, for this week’s update, I made a simple MDF template to drill the holes for the adjustable shelves, which will sit on simple 5mm diameter lugs:

There was only one battery I could find for the angle drill and that was flat. So, I have to use one of those right-angle attachments in a standard cordless, which worked surprisingly well. This is why I left the hole-drilling until this stage – so I could make an MDF jig or template and rest it directly on the base of the unit for the best chance of producing accurate results. (the shelves are just short lengths of sapele).

Although I’m certainly going to exceed the time limit on this one, I’m confident that I won’t lose too many marks for otherwise doing a relatively tidy job of this. I like to think there may also be some points scored for the design? If only my day had started better on Thursday… I truly believe I would have finished in time.

I’ve still got to decided how I’m going to hang it on the wall, as well. While I did buy some 14mm wide keyhole plates from Isaac Lord, I don’t have enough room to recess them properly and so, I really should come up with an alternate solution (otherwise, it won’t sit flat against a wall and it will just look odd). I don’t believe that cutting a groove for the back panel (instead of a rebate) would’ve helped matters here, either. At least, not without sacrificing more of the depth inside the unit to provide extra space and clearance for the screw thread. I know I have a keyhole router cutter somewhere, which will probably just work, depending on the dimensions of the one I own. Otherwise, I may have to buy another! 🙄

Thanks for reading. Can’t believe there’s just one week left to go!!


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