I’ve been off work for the past week (using up some, but not all, of my outstanding holiday) and, last weekend, after buying a sheet of 18mm ply on the Friday, I decided I would try to make the most of these five-days with some time in the workshop, constructing the base cabinet for my table saw/router table station. At the time of writing this, I have most of the work done but, there’s still much to do and I feel that I could’ve organised my time and made better progress (ie. finishing the whole thing earlier in the week).
Working with two half-sheets (4ft x 4ft) was quite easy, especially once setup on my knock-down cutting table on my saw horses. I don’t know how I ever managed without one before! One the larger cuts were made (for the base and both sides), I could bring the leftovers in to the workshop and make the narrower rips on my table saw.
If we have a brief recap of the design for this unit:
…We can see that I’ve designed it so that the top, back and shelf are made up in a ‘frame-without-panel’ construction, which allows me to be more economical with my materials; meaning that I can get everything I need from this one sheet of plywood. Also, as I intend for the dust from both the saw and router to fall down in to a kind of hopper, this is less wasteful than cutting two large rectangles from a larger sheet to create the top.
So, I was left with nothing wider than 150mm/6in to rip on my table saw. Cutting with the grain is fine. Even with a 40t blade (I haven’t seen anything much finer, in 210mm diameter), there are no obvious signs of the face veneers splintering. Some of my initial offcuts had ‘short-grain’ though, where it runs across the shorter dimension of the board. Ripping this on my table saw (which doesn’t have a scoring blade and won’t easily allow you to fit a zero-clearance insert without prior modification) left some of my components with some quite horrendous signs of breakout or chipout, with severe splintering of the fibres:
It’s not the end of the world on a job like this (for the workshop) and, for the back and shelf, I could hide at least one edge inside a rebate or groove. For more important work, I would place a thin sheet of MDF on the table saw’s surface and feed it partially through the blade, which would effectively give that zero-clearance effect, where the fibres underneath your board cannot be severed, due to the additional support right up to the blade. At some point, I may even look at modifying my saw (the top is only aluminium) so that I can fit replaceable and disposable inserts around the blade – that would also prevent thin slices from falling down below the saw blade.
By the way – if you ever intend to cross-cut plywood on a sliding compound mitre saw (SCMS) then, you may be interested in watching this short video, which I uploaded last week.
As I was building this unit and completing the necessary glue-ups (of the front, shelf and back) leading up to the final assembly of the cabinet, I began to realise that this new unit probably wasn’t going to save me as much floor space as I had hoped… At least now though, I can see why people like table saws so much – on a machine where you can lower the blade below the top surface; by removing the crown guard, you have another space for assembly work! 😉
Each frame was reinforced with biscuits joints (No.20s) in all the right places. If I’d have invested in a pocket joint jig earlier this year (I was going to but, cannot now remember why I didn’t…) then, I may not have needed to use sash cramps here! 🙄
Both side panels were grooved to accept the shelf, which sits 100mm/4in below the top. I cut these grooves with my ½in router, stopping 25mm short of the front edge, so that the joint is concealed from view. Using the side fence in reference off the top edges works well as I know both components are identical, even if they were cut using a circular saw and home-made MDF guide… By stacking two sheets together and cutting them both at once, you know you’re going to end up with identical parts.
On a job like this (using plywood, in the workshop), I often like to reinforce all the corner joints with rebates, cut to one-third the depth of the material being used. I think it looks neater than a simple butt joint (although, there’s nothing wrong with using butt joints) and it has the added benefit of allowing you to align components so that they’re flush with relative ease. I used one of Wealden’s tenon cutters for this, which left the splinter-free cross-grain cuts that you can see above. 😎
All rebates and the two grooves were cut to the same preset depth. This is where I like to use a simple depth gauge to set my router up accurately. In my workshop, there’s nothing more convenient than an allen key (6mm, in this case), slipped in between the turret stop and threaded bar with the cutter ‘zeroed’ down so it is flush with the base.
Then, it was time to start assembling the main cabinet…
First of all, I glued the 100mm tall divider in to the upper side of the shelf. This was reinforced with biscuit joints (mainly for location, to keep the dividers central) and then held in place with screws from below. I don’t normally use glue on woodshop constructions like this. Screws are going to hold it all together and, should ever I feel the need to dismantle, alter or recycle this plywood in to something else, I should be able to do so without literally breaking things apart.
That shelf also had to be notched at the front corners, so that it would fit correctly in to the stopped grooves or housings I cut earlier.
With the divider fixed to the shelf, I could then attack the ends with screws. It was a snug fit in to the groove at each end but, this was only achievable by making each cut in two passes using a narrower bit (5/8in), as this plywood actually measures about 17.5mm in thickness, which is considerably less than my ¾in cutter, which is slightly over 19mm.
After that, the top dropped in to place:
Followed by the base on the opposite, with the back going in finally, to help to reassure and square things up:
I used drywall screws on this project, mainly because I still have thousands of the things, a good six-years after placing an order with Screwfix for that and nothing more… I blame Norm Abram for this! 😀 Which reminds…
Last week, I was surfing through the channels when I came across a program called Ace of Cakes, where they basically create amazing cakes with the occasional use of power tools and small woodworking machinery. On this particular episode, no one other than New Yankee Norm happened to pop in and present the team with a pocket hole jig!! 🙂
That was about as far as I got in the first couple of days (well, afternoons, really – it was my week off, after all! :-D). There’s more to come after this but, I’ll save that for the next part. If I can’t find the time to write than later on today or this evening then, I’ll certainly have it for you tomorrow.
Thanks for reading.