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AW Extra 7/10/14 – Making Curved Doors

Making Curved Doors

Kerfkore flexible panels handle curves with ease.

By Brad Holden


Curved doors and panels add elegance to any project, especially kitchen cabinets. Making these complicated parts requires careful planning and building. The task can be made much easier by using a flexible panel product called Kerfkore (see photo, right, top). It follows the same principle that cabinetmakers use when they saw multiple kerfs on the back of a piece of plywood to make it flexible. A disadvantage to this saw-kerfing method is the risk of the face veneer cracking or kinking at the kerfs, spoiling the curve’s smooth surface. Kerfcore’s advantage is that that the kerfing is done for you. Its flexible paper backing provides a smooth surface to attach your veneer.

There are several important tricks and techniques to working with Kerfkore but it’s a surprisingly easy material to work with. I’ll walk you through the main steps of making a curved door with Kerfkore from layout to final trimming. Information on using Kerfkore in other applications can be found at the Web site www.kerfkore.com.

 

What is Kerfkore?

Kerfkore is a very flexible panel made of 3/8-in.-wide ribs spaced 1/8 in. apart on a paper backer sheet. The spaces between the ribs allows the board to flex. The flexible backer sheet provides a smooth surface for veneering. The ribs in different Kerfkore products are made of particleboard, luan plywood, poplar plywood, MDF, fire-rated treated particleboard or lightweight styrene foam. These different cores have different weights, strengths and screw-holding characteristics. The particleboard core works well for generalpurpose doors, such as those for kitchen cabinets.

Kerfkore with paper backer on both sides is also available. This makes the material more rigid and somewhat easier to handle and enables you to create a curve that turns into a straight run. To make the twosided variety bend, you cut the backer on one side with a utility knife where you need the bend to occur.

Kerfkore comes in 4-ft. by 8-ft. sheets in 1/4-in., 3/8-in., 1/2-in., 5/8-in. and 3/4-in. thicknesses and costs between $40 and $125 per sheet (see Sources, below).

Click any image to view a larger version.

Kerfkore flexes easily in both directions.


Doors made with Kerfkore have a smooth, even curve.



Pick your veneer

1. Your three main veneer choices are two-ply wood veneer (shown here), phenolic-backed (plastic-laminate) wood veneer or vertical-grade plastic laminate. The twoply veneer is the most flexible of the three and is easily cut with a utility knife or scissors. The phenolic-backed veneer and plastic laminate must be sawn or scored and snapped. The cut edge of the two-ply veneer leaves a dark line that may show on your finished door, depending on the wood species and the finish you apply. The phenolicbacked veneer and plastic laminate both leave a black edge line.



Make a full-size drawing

2. Use a top-view drawing to determine the size of the Kerfkore panel and the angles at the edges. The width of the Kerfkore should be the outer circumference of the curve minus 1-1/2 in. to 2 in. for the solid-wood edges. The measurement is easy to take using a flexible curve. Calculate the angles of the edges by drawing a line tangent to the front curve at the corner of the door and then measure the angle with a protractor.



Apply the front veneer first

3. Use contact cement and work flat when applying the first sheet of veneer. Working flat may seem odd, but when you do so, the contact cement remains flexible and a good bond is ensured. The panel will gain a bit of stiffness but will remain flexible enough to form to its final shape later on.



Add solid-wood edges for strength, appearance

4. Solid-wood strips provide durable finished edges when the door is done. Each strip can be up to 1 in. wide. Leave a 1/8-in. gap between the solid-wood strip and the adjacent rib to maintain maximum flexibility. Attach the strip with contact cement. After the edge strips are attached, use a small router and a shopmade edge guide (Photo 8) to trim the veneer flush around the entire panel.



Cut the edges to the required angle

5. It’s easier and safer to cut the angles on the panel while it’s flat, rather than after it has been curved. Cut at the angles you measured on the full-size drawing (Photo 2). The panel is sufficiently stiff at this stage that it saws much like a normal piece of plywood.



Attach the back veneer with yellow wood glue

6. Yellow glue dries stiff and helps the curved door hold its shape. The folks at Kerfkore recommend yellow glue for both two-ply and phenolic-backed veneer. The grain on the back of two-ply veneer runs 90 degrees to its face side and adds stiffness to the door when the glue dries.



Attach the back veneer with a vacuum press

7. A curved form—made from two curved ribs and a spare piece of Kerfkore covered with plastic laminate—provide the shape. A vacuum bag provides clamping pressure. Mark centerlines on the form and on the ends of the door. Line up the marks prior to clamping to ensure the curved door ends up straight after the glue dries. With the whole assembly in a vacuum bag (see Sources, below), pump the air out. Netting in the bag prevents air pockets from forming. Let the glue dry completely before you remove the door.



Trim the curved edges

8. This shop-made edge guide (see photos, right) simplifies routing the veneer on the curved edges. The guide fence has an angled opening and clearance slot that allow it to trim around the curved overhanging veneer. It works equally well on the convex and the concave sides of the door. You can use either ball-bearing guided straight bit or a standard straight bit with this guide. The edge guide is slotted so its fence can be adjusted flush with the edge of the router bit.



Veneer the ends and trim flush

9. Apply veneer to the end with contact cement or yellow glue and trim flush. When all edges and veneers are trimmed, the doors can be installed. Hanging a curved door is not difficult. Butt hinges go on the same way as they do with a flat door. For European-style hinges, support the door on the drill-press table so the hinge-hole drill bit drills square to the surface of the door. If the hinge-cup screws land in a gap between the wood ribs, squeeze in some epoxy glue as a filler and anchor.




Sources

Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Kerfkore Co., kerfkore.com, 800-637-3539, Kerfkore, 3/4 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. single-sided; 3/4 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. doublesided.

Roarockit, roarockit.com, 416-938-4588, Thin Air Press kit vacuum press, #01301.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2006, issue #123.

September 2006, issue #123

Purchase this back issue.

 

 

AW Extra 7/10/14 – Making Curved Doors

Making Curved Doors

Kerfkore flexible panels handle curves with ease.

By Brad Holden


Curved doors and panels add elegance to any project, especially kitchen cabinets. Making these complicated parts requires careful planning and building. The task can be made much easier by using a flexible panel product called Kerfkore (see photo, right, top). It follows the same principle that cabinetmakers use when they saw multiple kerfs on the back of a piece of plywood to make it flexible. A disadvantage to this saw-kerfing method is the risk of the face veneer cracking or kinking at the kerfs, spoiling the curve’s smooth surface. Kerfcore’s advantage is that that the kerfing is done for you. Its flexible paper backing provides a smooth surface to attach your veneer.

There are several important tricks and techniques to working with Kerfkore but it’s a surprisingly easy material to work with. I’ll walk you through the main steps of making a curved door with Kerfkore from layout to final trimming. Information on using Kerfkore in other applications can be found at the Web site www.kerfkore.com.

 

What is Kerfkore?

Kerfkore is a very flexible panel made of 3/8-in.-wide ribs spaced 1/8 in. apart on a paper backer sheet. The spaces between the ribs allows the board to flex. The flexible backer sheet provides a smooth surface for veneering. The ribs in different Kerfkore products are made of particleboard, luan plywood, poplar plywood, MDF, fire-rated treated particleboard or lightweight styrene foam. These different cores have different weights, strengths and screw-holding characteristics. The particleboard core works well for generalpurpose doors, such as those for kitchen cabinets.

Kerfkore with paper backer on both sides is also available. This makes the material more rigid and somewhat easier to handle and enables you to create a curve that turns into a straight run. To make the twosided variety bend, you cut the backer on one side with a utility knife where you need the bend to occur.

Kerfkore comes in 4-ft. by 8-ft. sheets in 1/4-in., 3/8-in., 1/2-in., 5/8-in. and 3/4-in. thicknesses and costs between $40 and $125 per sheet (see Sources, below).

Click any image to view a larger version.

Kerfkore flexes easily in both directions.


Doors made with Kerfkore have a smooth, even curve.



Pick your veneer

1. Your three main veneer choices are two-ply wood veneer (shown here), phenolic-backed (plastic-laminate) wood veneer or vertical-grade plastic laminate. The twoply veneer is the most flexible of the three and is easily cut with a utility knife or scissors. The phenolic-backed veneer and plastic laminate must be sawn or scored and snapped. The cut edge of the two-ply veneer leaves a dark line that may show on your finished door, depending on the wood species and the finish you apply. The phenolicbacked veneer and plastic laminate both leave a black edge line.



Make a full-size drawing

2. Use a top-view drawing to determine the size of the Kerfkore panel and the angles at the edges. The width of the Kerfkore should be the outer circumference of the curve minus 1-1/2 in. to 2 in. for the solid-wood edges. The measurement is easy to take using a flexible curve. Calculate the angles of the edges by drawing a line tangent to the front curve at the corner of the door and then measure the angle with a protractor.



Apply the front veneer first

3. Use contact cement and work flat when applying the first sheet of veneer. Working flat may seem odd, but when you do so, the contact cement remains flexible and a good bond is ensured. The panel will gain a bit of stiffness but will remain flexible enough to form to its final shape later on.



Add solid-wood edges for strength, appearance

4. Solid-wood strips provide durable finished edges when the door is done. Each strip can be up to 1 in. wide. Leave a 1/8-in. gap between the solid-wood strip and the adjacent rib to maintain maximum flexibility. Attach the strip with contact cement. After the edge strips are attached, use a small router and a shopmade edge guide (Photo 8) to trim the veneer flush around the entire panel.



Cut the edges to the required angle

5. It’s easier and safer to cut the angles on the panel while it’s flat, rather than after it has been curved. Cut at the angles you measured on the full-size drawing (Photo 2). The panel is sufficiently stiff at this stage that it saws much like a normal piece of plywood.



Attach the back veneer with yellow wood glue

6. Yellow glue dries stiff and helps the curved door hold its shape. The folks at Kerfkore recommend yellow glue for both two-ply and phenolic-backed veneer. The grain on the back of two-ply veneer runs 90 degrees to its face side and adds stiffness to the door when the glue dries.



Attach the back veneer with a vacuum press

7. A curved form—made from two curved ribs and a spare piece of Kerfkore covered with plastic laminate—provide the shape. A vacuum bag provides clamping pressure. Mark centerlines on the form and on the ends of the door. Line up the marks prior to clamping to ensure the curved door ends up straight after the glue dries. With the whole assembly in a vacuum bag (see Sources, below), pump the air out. Netting in the bag prevents air pockets from forming. Let the glue dry completely before you remove the door.



Trim the curved edges

8. This shop-made edge guide (see photos, right) simplifies routing the veneer on the curved edges. The guide fence has an angled opening and clearance slot that allow it to trim around the curved overhanging veneer. It works equally well on the convex and the concave sides of the door. You can use either ball-bearing guided straight bit or a standard straight bit with this guide. The edge guide is slotted so its fence can be adjusted flush with the edge of the router bit.



Veneer the ends and trim flush

9. Apply veneer to the end with contact cement or yellow glue and trim flush. When all edges and veneers are trimmed, the doors can be installed. Hanging a curved door is not difficult. Butt hinges go on the same way as they do with a flat door. For European-style hinges, support the door on the drill-press table so the hinge-hole drill bit drills square to the surface of the door. If the hinge-cup screws land in a gap between the wood ribs, squeeze in some epoxy glue as a filler and anchor.




Sources

Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Kerfkore Co., kerfkore.com, 800-637-3539, Kerfkore, 3/4 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. single-sided; 3/4 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. doublesided.

Roarockit, roarockit.com, 416-938-4588, Thin Air Press kit vacuum press, #01301.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2006, issue #123.

September 2006, issue #123

Purchase this back issue.

 

 

Reading Grain Direction

Reading Grain Direction

“Going against the grain” is a familiar phrase. It means doing something the wrong way.When you’re talking about wood, you always want to go with the grain—cutting or planing a board in a way that follows the natural structure of the tree (Photo 1). The result is a smooth surface.

How do you figure out which way the grain goes? Some folks use the coin-toss method.They’ll joint or plane one side in an arbitrary direction and observe the results.After all, you’ve got a 50-50 chance of being right! When you’re wrong,however,you can be really wrong (Photo 2) and you’ll get tear-out.Whether it’s shallow or deep, tear-out means extra work in planing, scraping or sanding a board.

Tear-out will rarely be a problem for you after we show you how to read the fibers inside a board.Most woodworkers think that the ovals or lines on the surface of a board are the key to grain direction, but this type of “grain” is not completely reliable for predicting fiber direction (Photo 3, page 84). Going with the grain really means going with the fibers. In the pages to follow,we’ll show you other clues that are more dependable in predicting the fiber direction in hardwoods.


1. Wood is composed of long fibers that typically run at an angle to the surface of a board. Splitting a board reveals the direction of the fibers, but we’ll show you less destructive methods of reading grain direction on the following pages.

Click any image to view a larger version.



2. Nasty tear-out is often the result of planing a board against the grain.The better you get at reading grain direction, the less time you’ll spend sanding out a mess like this.



3. Grain direction can fool you. Normally we call patterns of ovals and lines made by the growth rings the “grain” of the wood.We assume that the fiber direction runs the same way.The split-off piece of red oak at right shows that this “grain” and the fiber direction don’t necessarily go the same way. Small cells called rays are the true indicators of fiber direction in plainsawn oak. (Plainsawn boards are also commonly called flatsawn boards. See below for more information on rays and plainsawn boards.)



4. Feel the fuzz on rough lumber. No kidding, you can tell which way to plane rough lumber merely by running your hand over it! The direction that the fibers go feels smooth, while the opposite direction feels rough and jagged.That’s because many individual fibers actually stick out above the surface of rough lumber.You’re feeling their sharp ends.



5. Know where to look. On smooth lumber, the clues to fiber direction are on the surface of the wood.

You can’t read fiber direction just by looking at the surface you want to plane, however. The clues to look for are on the edge adjacent to the surface you’ll plane. To plane the top (1), look at the side (2). To plane the side, look at the top.



6. Rays are the best clues to fiber direction in hardwoods. The general angle of the rays on the plainsawn face of a board invariably point in the same direction as the wood’s fibers.This typical piece of red oak is easy to read because oak’s rays are quite prominent. Beech and sycamore also have large rays. Cherry, maple and many other woods have rays that are paler and much smaller, but you can find them if you look closely. Some hardwoods, such as ash and walnut, have rays that are too small to see.



7. Look for vessels to indicate fiber direction when you can’t see rays.Vessels are cells that look like long, dark dashes.They’re easy to spot on this piece of walnut once you know what you’re looking for. Mahogany, butternut and birch also have clearly visible vessel cells, as do many other woods.



8. Figure is a last resort. If you can’t see rays or vessels, go with the angle of the dark lines that most woodworkers call the “grain” of a board. (“Figure” is the more accurate term.) We’re all familiar with the concentric growth rings on the end of a board (Photo 9). If you follow those rings around to the face or edge, they become the lines and ovals that lend each board a distinctive figure.



9. Fiber direction can often run two ways. Tearout may be inevitable no matter which way you plane this board, but you can minimize it using the clues to fiber direction given here. In this piece of ash, the figure made by the growth rings is the only obvious clue to follow.The angle of this figure is steeper at one end of the board than the other.Always use the steeper end to decide which way to plane.



10. Mark fiber direction on the end of the board.This mark means “begin planing the top surface here.” It can’t be accidentally removed as you mill the faces or edges of your lumber.



What are Rays?

Ray cells radiate from the center of a tree.These long, thin ribbons show different faces depending on how the board is cut from the tree.

You can clearly see the wide side of the rays when the surface of a board runs at a right angle to the growth rings.This surface is called a quartersawn or radial face, and the ray’s wide sides are called ray fleck.

When the surface of a board runs more or less parallel to the growth rings, you only see the narrow ends of the rays.This is how most boards are sawn, and this surface is called a plainsawn, flatsawn or tangential face.




This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2003, issue #102.

Purchase this back issue.

 



 

AW Extra 7/3/14 – Perfect Edge Joints

Perfect Edge Joints

A 6-step tune-up sets your jointer straight.

By Dave Munkittrick

 

Jointers are simple machines with few moving parts, but the two beds, the fence and the cutterhead all have to be in alignment for a jointer to function properly. Few things are more frustrating or more common than problems with jointers. This is especially true when you’re trying to get straight, square edges on your boards. I’ve come up with a six-step tune-up that should set your jointer straight. It’s easy to do and will only take an hour or two, depending on how many problems you unearth.

Jointers are supposed to cut straight, square edges, but all too often, they leave a sniped or a bowed edge (see “Common Problems,” page 2). Snipe results whenever the top of the outfeed table dips below the knife’s top cutting arc. A bow cut results whenever the outfeed table rises above the cutting arc. A cutterhead that’s not parallel to the outfeed table, or tables that are not parallel to each other, will make it impossible to get the table height set just right for all fence settings.

 

Common Problems

Our tune-up will help you identify and correct four common jointer problems:

Problem #1: A table surface that’s not flat.


Problem #2: Tables that are not parallel to each other across their widths.


Problem #3: Tables that are not parallel to each other along their lengths.


Problem #4: A cutterhead that’s not set parallel to the tables.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Common jointer problems result in a sniped or bowed edge. Adjusting the outfeed table height usually cures the problem. However, if both tables and the cutterhead are not in perfect alignment, the problem will return when you move the fence. This tune-up procedure takes care of all the possible misalignments that can cause jointer problems.

 

 

The Right Stuff

You will need a few tools to perform this tune-up: A good straightedge, a set of feeler gauges and machinist’s metal shims are must-haves for this job. For some steps, a dial indicator is easier to use than a straightedge.

The straightedge, shims and feeler gauge run about $105 total. The optional dial indicator with a magnetic base and extension arms adds another $40 and is well worth the cost. All these tools can also be used to set and tune-up other shop equipment and to check your own work for flatness (see Sources, below).

 

A precision straightedge is essential. You can perform all the tune-up steps using this 50" precision straightedge that costs $79. Unlike inexpensive straightedges, this one has a precisionground edge with a tolerance of .003" along its entire length. Such a good straightedge is not cheap, but it’s a good investment for your shop.

 

A dial indicator with magnetic base and arm can’t be beat for tool setups. A number of these six tune-up procedures are best done using a dial indicator. Like the straightedge, this tool is also useful for other machine setups.

 

A feeler gauge set is used in tandem with a straightedge to measure very small gaps. If the straightedge reveals a gap, you can measure that gap by finding the feeler gauge that fits under the straightedge.

 

Metal shims align jointer parts. Variety packs are convenient and easy to use. A strip of aluminum cut from a soda can is a quick substitute for a .005" shim. That coupled with some .001" shim stock should cover all your tune-up needs. Shims can be stacked to create any desired thickness.

 

 

Fine Tuning Your Jointer



Step 1: Check For Flat Tables and Fence

Check each table and the fence for flatness (Photo 1). The accuracy of later measurements depends on flat tables. Measure for dips or a droop using the straightedge held parallel to the table bed. Then, hold the straightedge diagonally across the table to check for twist. The good news is that finding twist or dips in the table is highly unlikely. The bad news is that if you do find things out of whack, you can’t do much about it. In extreme cases, a messed-up fence or table may be reground at a machine shop. You’ll have to weigh the cost in time and money against simply buying a new jointer. If your jointer is under warranty, talk to the manufacturer.


Step 2: Align Tables

It’s not unusual for the two tables to be out of parallel across their widths (Photo 2). It’s easiest to check the tables for parallelism with a dial indicator (Photo 3). You can also do the check with a straightedge. Hold the straightedge down on the middle of the infeed table so it extends over the outfeed table. Set the infeed table to the exact same height as the outfeed table. Slide the straightedge over to the fence side of the table and use feeler gauges to check for gaps. Repeat with the straightedge on the user side of the table.

Align your tables by shimming the outfeed table. Loosen the outfeed table’s gib nuts and lift the table so you can insert metal shims on the side of the table that’s low (Photo 4). Shim the outfeed table only because it is moved very little and the shims are less likely to shift during table adjustments.

Recheck the tables and make any necessary shim adjustments until the tables measure in exact alignment.


Step 3: Fix Sagging Tables

Tables can also be out of alignment along their lengths (Photo 5). Use the straightedge to see whether the table end dips below the infeed table (Photo 6). Correct a dip by adding shims to the top or bottom of both gib ways on the outfeed table (Photo 7). Retighten the gib nuts and check the tables again. Make any necessary adjustments until the tables lie in the exact same plane.


Step 4: Level the Cutterhead with the Tables

Now that the tables are parallel to each other along their lengths and widths, it’s time to make sure the cutterhead is parallel to the tables. If the cutterhead is not level with the tables, your cut will be heavier on one side of the table than on the other. Jackscrew cutterheads allow you to set the knives to compensate for this; spring-loaded knives or a segmented carbide insert cutterhead do not. The fix for this problem is so simple that I recommend leveling your cutterhead no matter what type of knife holder you have.

Use a dial indicator or straightedge to check cutterhead alignment (Photo 8). If the cutterhead is off, measure the exact amount on the low side. This equals the size of shim you’ll need to raise the cutterhead (Photos 9 and 10).

 

Step 5: Set Proper Knife Height

To minimize kickback hazards, jointer knives should not project more than .020" from the cutterhead. (Owners of spring-loaded cutterheads have a knife-setting gauge that automatically sets the proper knife projection.) A potential hazard exists with knives set parallel to the outfeed table: It’s easy to unintentionally set the knives so they project too far.

A dial indicator is the best instrument for checking knife projection (Photo 11), but you can make do with a straightedge and feeler gauge.


Step 6: Set Proper Outfeed Table Height

Your knives should be set so that the very top of the cutting arc, also referred to as top dead center, is the same height as your outfeed table. We used the straightedge to accomplish this task (Photo 12), but a dial indicator is another option. To do this, set the dial indicator on the outfeed table and zero it. Then set the plunger over the cutterhead with the body of the indicator on the outfeed table. Rock the cutterhead back and forth; the indicator should hit zero as its highest mark. Check this at several points along the width of the table. Repeat for all three sets of knives. straightedge no gaps outfeed table knife at top dead center

Edge-joint a couple of boards to test your jointer (Photos 13 and 14). In practice, it often takes a little tweaking of the outfeed table height to get it just right. Often the table ends up set .001 or .002" below the cutterhead. Now your jointer is ready to go and should create perfect edge joints every time.

1. To start your tune-up, check each table for flatness. Lay the straightedge on a table and use the feeler gauge to check for gaps. A gap of .003" or less is acceptable.


2. Infeed and outfeed tables that are not in the same plane across their widths need to be made coplanar. (With any luck, your tables aren’t this bad.)


3. Check the tables for parallelism across their widths. Bridge the dial indicator from the center of the infeed table to the center of the outfeed table and zero it. Slide the indicator across the width of the table to measure any difference in height.


4. Bring the tables into alignment by inserting metal shims on the low side of the outfeed table. Choose a shim thickness equal to the amount your table was off. Loosen the gib nuts and lift the table while you insert the shim or shims. Then retighten the gib nuts.


5. Tables can be out of parallel along their lengths. Typically, the tables sag on the ends. This is especially true on older jointers that have worn gib ways.


6. Check for table sag by holding a straightedge tight against the infeed table. Set the infeed table height so the straightedge just contacts the outfeed table. Then use a feeler gauge to determine the amount of dip or rise in your outfeed table.


7. Correct a sagging table by shimming the bottom end of the two dovetailed gib ways on the outfeed table. A table that dips toward the cutterhead would be shimmed at the top end of the gib ways.

 

8. Check that the cutterhead is parallel with the tables. Rotate the cutterhead so the knives are below the table. Clamp a guide board parallel to the cutterhead. Set the dial indicator against the guide board so the plunger contacts the cutterhead. Zero your dial indicator; then slide it back and forth.


9. I removed the cutterhead here to illustrate how it is mounted. Two threaded rods attached to pillow blocks run through holes in the base and are held in place by a nut and a washer. Place shims between the pillow block and the jointer bed casting.


10. The cutterhead is easy to shim. Remove the drive belt and loosen the bolts that hold the cutterhead in place. Lift the low end of the cutterhead and insert shims under the pillow block. Then retighten the bolts.


11. Proper knife projection increases jointer safety by limiting the cut’s aggressiveness. Use a dial indicator set to zero on the cutterhead. With your hand on the pulley, rotate the cutterhead backward. As the knife rides under the dial indicator, it should read no more than .020".

12. To set the outfeed table height, place a straightedge on the outfeed table so it projects over the cutterhead. Rotate the cutterhead backward and raise or lower the table until the knife barely kisses the straightedge when it’s at top dead center.


13. Fine-tune the outfeed table height by edge-jointing a couple of boards that are narrower than the fence height and no longer than the infeed table.


14. Put the newly jointed edges together and hold the joint up to a light source. No light leaks indicate a jointer that’s perfectly tuned. If you are getting a snipe at the end of your cut, raise the outfeed table a bit. If the jointer puts a concave edge on your board, lower the table. Repeat the process with the fence set at the far edges of the table. The results should be the same, and that should put a smile on your face.

 

 

 

 

 

Source

Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Lee Valley Tools, leevalley.com, 800-871-8158, 50" aluminum straightedge, #05N63.05; Dial indicator and magnetic base and arm, 88N31.20; Feeler gauges, #86K99.01; Brass sampler, 6-1/2" x 6", .001 to .010 thickness, #27K07.50.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August 2006, issue #123.

Purchase this back issue.

 

 

2 Ways to Cut a 3-Way Miter

2 Ways to Cut a 3-Way Miter

Create this impressive joint by hand or with power tools.

By Garrett Glaser

 

Admiring the complex 3-way mitered joint between the leg and aprons in an antique Chinese table is natural. But the thought of cutting and fitting this interlocking joint by hand is enough to make most woodworkers run up a white flag. Fortunately, the same joint appears in contemporary designs, which means there’s also a modern (easier) way to complete it. In this story I’ll demonstrate both methods and provide all the information you need to build a table with 3-way miters. Whether you love the challenge of using hand tools or love the reliability and predictability of modern power tools, there’s a straightforward way to fashion this elegant, versatile and time-tested joint.

 

 

Machine-Cut 3-Way Miter Joint

 

Simplicity defines this joint, because the cuts on all three parts are identical. Each part has two miters and two slots for loose tenons. Only two setups are required, one for mitering and one for routing. This method is based on a miter saw, but a tablesaw can also be used. A simple shopmade jig is used for routing.

The miters must be precise, so a saw that cuts accurately is a must. Set up the saw to make a perfectly plumb 45˚ cut. Don’t rely on the saw’s scales—if the miters are off by even a tiny amount, the joints won’t close tightly. Make test cuts on scrap stock to ensure accuracy.

Start with straight, square stock. Crosscut both ends at 90˚, about 1" longer than final dimension. Mark the final length on each piece; mark both ends of the apron blanks. Set aside a 12" length of the same stock for layout. Mark a registration line on the layout piece about 4" from one end. Clamp this piece to the saw and cut a 45˚ miter. Without moving the layout piece, transfer the registration line to the saw’s fence (Photo 1). Remove the layout piece and position it next to a leg blank so the tip of its miter aligns with the final length mark (Photo 2). Transfer the registration line to the leg and continue it around all four sides. Mark every blank this way—mark both ends of the apron blanks.

Cut miters on two adjacent faces of each blank. Align the registration lines on the blank and the saw before making each cut (Photo 3). To minimize tearout, orient the blank so that the second miter is always made with the first miter facing up. If the cuts don’t meet exactly at a point on the inside corner, something is awry—check the saw’s setup. When mitering the aprons, make sure that the pointed ends of the miters are on the same edge!

Loose tenons reinforce all the miters. Rout mortises for the loose tenons using a 3/8" straight bit, a 1/2" guide bushing and a simple jig (Fig. A, below). Use one end of the jig to rout the left facet of each joint and the other end to rout the right facet (Photo 4). Square the end of the mortises with a chisel. Then make loose tenons to fit the slots.

As all of the joints are interrelated, it’s best to check the way they fit with the table assembled. A positioning jig and a band clamp stabilize the pieces during this process (Photo 5). The jig positions the legs and keeps them plumb; the clamp equalizes pressure on the joints. To make the jig, cut a piece of MDF to match the table’s footprint (it’s defined by the lengths of the short and long aprons). Position the legs flush with the corners. Press corner blocks against both inside edges of each leg. Then fasten the blocks to the MDF.

With the table assembled, examine the joints and mark surfaces that need finessing. Then true each joint in stages, round-robin-style, using a rabbeting plane, a chisel or even a sanding block. Keep a couple of bar clamps handy to strategically apply additional clamping pressure. If you need to apply downward pressure on the aprons, raise the jig on blocks to provide a clamping lip.

When the joints fit satisfactorily, disassemble the table. Apply glue to the legs and short aprons and install the appropriate loose tenons. Assemble the ends and clamp them in the positioning jig. Apply glue to the remaining joint surfaces and install the remaining tenons. Spread the end assemblies to install the long aprons. Then install the band clamp and any necessary “tweaking” clamps.


Fig. A: Routing Jig

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Use a scrap piece marked with a registration line to set up the saw. Clamp the piece to the saw and miter the end. Then without moving the piece, transfer the registration line to the saw.


2. Use the mitered scrap piece to mark all the blanks. Align the tip of its miter with a line drawn on the blank to indicate its final length. Then transfer the registration line.


3. Align the registration lines to cut miters on adjacent faces of all the leg and apron blanks. To minimize tearout, always cut the second miter with the first miter facing up.


4. Rout slots for loose tenons with a straight bit, a guide bushing and a simple jig. Square the slot ends by hand. Then cut loose tenons to fit.


5. Assemble the table using a jig to keep the legs in position. Install the short aprons and tenons. Spread the ends to install the long aprons. Then use a band clamp to draw the joints tight.

 

 

Hand-Cut 3-Way Miter Joint

 

Most traditional Chinese 3-way miter joints consist of three (or more) interlocking pieces, each with their own configuration of tenons and mortises. I’ve created a simplified version that requires only two pieces, the leg and two identical but mirror-image aprons. My joint won’t win awards for authentic traditional joinery, but it’s a good jumping-off point. Mastering this joint develops skills that will allow you to tackle more complex versions. A good place to start looking for authentic examples is Gustav Ecke’s excellent book Chinese Domestic Furniture (see Source, below).

Creating a 3-way miter by hand requires three skills: precise layout, sawing straight lines (see “Using a Pull Saw,” below) and accurately removing waste. No single step is especially difficult, but there are a good number of them. The order in which you complete the steps is the key to success. A fourth requirement isn’t so much a skill as a personality trait: patience. Mastering this process takes practice.

Start by milling the stock. Use light-colored wood at first, so your layout lines will be easy to see and imperfections will show clearly as dark crevices in the assembled joints. In 3-way miters, the aprons and legs are squared to the same dimensions. Every piece must be straight. If one piece has a twist or bend, it won’t matter how masterfully you cut and chisel—the joint will never close tightly.

Cut the aprons and legs to final length—the aprons on opposite sides must be identical (or all four aprons, if the table is square). Lay out all of the cuts on the top and all four faces of each leg (Fig. B). Use an accurate square and a sharp pencil or a knife to create the lines.

 

The Leg Joint

The first cuts on each leg are diagonal and stopped (Photo 1 and Fig. C). The two diagonal cuts on the outside faces are the most visible of all the cuts you will make, so use a metal straightedge to ensure clean, straight cuts. Position the straightedge so the blade will split the layout line. Hold the saw against the straightedge and flat on the workpiece. Then saw a groove just deep enough to keep the saw from jumping out as you complete the cut. Remove the straightedge. Keep the blade in the groove while using its heel to make a perpendicular cut down the adjacent side to the first stop line. Then slowly angle the blade forward and use its toe to cut down to the stop line on the opposite side.

The second cuts run across the leg’s two inside faces (Photo 2 and Fig. D). They’re the only cuts that aren’t perpendicular to the surface. Use one of the diagonal cuts you just made to position your saw at the correct angle, then saw back across the face to the diagonal cut on the opposite side.

The third cuts form a tic-tac-toe grid across the top (Photo 3 and Fig. E). Although most of these cuts will be removed later, making them now ensures square tenons, because it’s much harder to cut a perfectly true short line than a long one. These stopped cuts also act as a guide for waste removal.

The fourth cuts create shoulders for the miter joints (Photo 4 and Fig. F). Establish a straight, shallow groove and then saw diagonally until you reach the outside edge of the top and the bottom edge of the miter on the adjacent face. If the triangular waste piece doesn’t come loose, make sure the diagonal cut was sawed to a uniform depth—rocking the saw from heel to toe sometimes leaves a high spot in the middle.

The fifth cuts remove waste and reveal angled shoulders on the inside faces (Photo 5 and Fig. G). Make a pair of deep stopped cuts that run across the top and down both adjacent faces. Be careful not to cut into the mitered shoulders on the outside faces, as doing so will leave a visible mark when the joint is assembled.

The final cut establishes the flat shoulder at the base of the tenons (Photo 6 and Fig. H). Start by marking guide lines on both inside faces, 5/16" down from the top and running from the inside corner to the saw kerf that defines the tenon cheek. Use the lines to cut diagonally to the kerfs—be sure to stop before you saw into the tenons!

Use a 1/4" Forstner bit to remove as much of the waste as you can (Photo 7). Then switch to a chisel (Photo 8). The shoulder’s surface must be absolutely flat, so finish by paring across the grain. Be sure to remove any ragged fibers left in the corners.

 

The Apron Joint

Mark the aprons for cutting and mortising (Fig. J). The first cuts create miters on the top and outside faces (Photo 9). These diagonal cuts are just as visible as those on the leg, so start them the same way, using a straightedge. Use the heel of the blade to saw the line on the adjacent face and finish the cut by sawing at a 45˚ angle.

Cut the mortise in the top face. (Each apron joint houses one of the leg tenons.) Drill a 3/8" deep hole with a 1/4" Forstner bit and then square the corners with a chisel (Photo 10).

Draw guide lines on the two mitered faces on the inside of the joint (Fig. J). One line is located 5/16" from the outside edge and the other 5/16" from the bottom of the miter—these lines align with the mortise on two sides.

When removing the waste, use one line to guide the side of the chisel and the other to establish the depth (Photo 11). Barely tap the chisel for the first cuts—the grain is so short at the front that it’s easy to remove too much. You should be left with one relatively clean end-grain shoulder and two fairly ragged long-grain shoulders. Make sure the end-grain shoulder is absolutely flat. Pare the long-grain shoulders to exactly 5/16" thickness (Photo 12).

 

True the fit

When you first assemble a leg and apron, don’t be alarmed if the pieces don’t even go together. Truing the fit requires patience and thoughtful sleuthing. Look carefully to determine what might be gumming up the works (Photo 13). Make sure the mortise fits the tenon without binding—if this joint is too tight it can keep the other parts of the joint from fitting. Once the mortise and tenon fit properly, check the other joint surfaces for irregularities.

Don’t spend too much time fitting an apron and leg before adding the second apron. After all, this is a three-piece joint, and having all three parts together shows much more than two parts can show. You’ll quickly learn how a small adjustment on one piece can affect the way the other two pieces fit.

In fact, because all the joints are interrelated, the best strategy is to assemble the legs and aprons as soon as possible and true each joint in stages, roundrobin- style, using a rabbet plane and a chisel (Photo 14). Use the positioning jig shown earlier to keep the legs plumb while you finesse the joints. Temporarily shimming the mortises during this process can help to identify problem areas. Once all the joints have been fit, you’ll probably have to permanently shim some of the mortises. That’s OK; the shims will be virtually invisible after they’re glued and sanded flush.

Use the assembly jig and the band clamp for glueup. If you need to apply downward pressure on the aprons, raise the jig on blocks to provide a clamping lip.


Fig. B: Leg Layout


Fig. C: First Cuts


Fig. D: Second Cuts


Fig. E: Third Cuts


Fig. F: Fourth Cuts


Fig. G: Fifth Cuts


Fig. H: Final Cut


Fig. J: Apron Layout

1. Start by sawing four diagonals on each leg, one on each face. Use a straightedge to guide the saw. Attach sandpaper to the back of the straightedge so it won’t slip.


2. Saw the bottom edge of the miter on the two inside faces. Use the diagonal kerf from the previous step to establish the 45˚ slope. Then work back to the diagonal kerf on the opposite edge.


3. Create the tic-tac-toe grid on the top by making four straight cuts. Saw to the upper layout lines on the adjacent faces.


4. Create square shoulders on the two outside miters by sawing diagonally across the top and one adjacent face. Waste removal begins with these cuts.


5. Make deep stopped cuts across both inside faces to reveal the angled inside shoulders. You’ll have to re-mark some of the layout lines in order to make these cuts.


6. Complete each leg joint by removing the waste from around the two tenons. Sawing across the inside corner to the tenon kerfs creates a flat shoulder at the base of the tenons.


7. Remove the bulk of the waste that remains between the tenons by drilling through the tic-tac-toe blocks.


8. Complete the joint by paring across the grain to create a flat shoulder beneath the tenons.


9. Start each apron corner by making two through diagonal cuts, one on the top and one on the outside face.


10. Square the mortise after drilling a stopped hole to remove most of the waste.


11. Hollow the inside of the joint after marking the shoulders on both mitered faces. Remove the waste with a series of shallow chisel cuts, working from front to back.


12. Pare to the guide lines and square the end-grain shoulder. Removing the waste reveals the mortise—it’s flush with the corner formed by the end-grain and long-grain shoulders.


13. Fitting the joints takes time. Make sure that the shoulders of each joint are the same thickness, that all of the mating surfaces are absolutely flat and that the mortises aren’t too small.


14. All of the joints are interrelated, so assemble the table as soon as you can. Then work a little on each joint in rotation. Here, a temporary shim shows high spots that require further work.

 

 

Using a Pull Saw

The art of sawing straight and square with a pull saw isn’t as mysterious as you might think. I use a fine-tooth flush-cut pull saw to cut 3-way miters. (The teeth on a flush-cut saw have no set, which means they don’t flare beyond the body of the blade). You can spend a lot of money for this type of saw, but I get great results using a $10 version from a home improvement store—and I don’t have to worry about the replacement cost if I kink the blade or break a tooth.

When you saw, the goal is to split the layout line. Don’t worry—it’s easier than it sounds. Just make sure that the outside edge of the blade follows the center of the line, so half of the line remains on the workpiece and the other half becomes sawdust.

To make a through cut, you follow two adjacent lines, one across the top of the piece and one continuing down the side that faces you. Focus first on the top line. Hold the blade nearly parallel to the surface, but with the heel (the end closest to the handle) raised slightly, and saw lightly along the line from the far side to the near side until you’ve made a shallow groove across the top. Keep the saw in the groove and switch your focus to the vertical line on the side. Using the heel of the blade, saw your way down the line until the teeth of your saw meet the ends of both lines. If you are cutting square stock, this puts your saw at a 45˚angle. Keep your saw at this angle to complete the cut. The kerf you’ve created keeps the saw square and plumb for the rest of the cut.

To make a stopped cut you need three lines—the line across the top and stopped lines on the opposite adjacent faces. Begin the cut as you would a through cut, creating a groove across the top and then cutting with the heel to the bottom of the first stopped line. But instead of putting pressure on the heel to continue the cut, make the toe of the saw do all the work, cutting down the line on the opposite face, slowly leveling the blade so that the teeth connect the two points where the cut should stop.

 

Build a Table with 3-Way Miter Joints

The legs and aprons of tables joined with 3-way miters form an open frame whose dimensions are determined by the lengths of the three components. Adding a top can be as simple as attaching cleats inside the aprons and cutting a piece to fit.

 

Cutting List

 

Source

Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Tools for Working Wood, toolsforworkingwood.com, 800-426-4613; Gustav Ecke, Chinese Domestic Furniture, Mineola: Dover Publications, 1986, AQ-1037.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December/January 2011, issue #151.

 

 

 

AW Extra 6/19/14 – Soup Up Your Router Table

Soup Up Your Router Table

By Dave Munkittrick

Your router table will really sing with these great accessories. Like all good tools, our accessories will increase safety and improve results. Even though we designed them specifically for the Best Buy Router Table on page 39, they’re easily adapted to use on almost any router-table system.

 

Stop Blocks

A stop block is indispensable for cuts that don’t go the entire length of the board. Ours mounts on the fence T-track for quick settings that won’t budge.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Cut hardwood runners (V) wide enough to just fit into the T-track slot, but not as deep. Glue the strips on the blocks, and drill out for the 1-1/4-in.1/4-20 hex bolt.

 

 

Featherboards

Featherboards make routing safer and better. Safer because they hold the work against the table and fence instead of your hands. Better because the constant pressure holds the piece on both sides of the bit for smooth, washboard-free profiles.

The featherboards are made from clear, solid-wood stock like pine or poplar. There are two sizes (see Cutting List, page 45). The longer ones are mounted on the table and the shorter ones on the fence. Cut the 45-degree angles first. The 1/4-in. slots can be cut on the router table and the feathers are cut using a bandsaw.

 

 

Freehand Guard

A freehand guard and a starting pin are a must for routing curved profiles, such as this arch-topped door panel. Dust collection isn’t perfect, but it keeps the bit area clear.

Assemble the base (parts B, C and D) with glue and screws. Then build the hood (parts E through H, N, P and W). Slip the hood over the base and glue the two 1/4-in. guide dowels into the base. The winged bolts allow you to adjust the height of the hood. Drill two 1/4-in. holes at the back of the base for the hold-down knobs.

 

 

Router-Table Sled

A router-table sled replaces the miter slot found on many commercial tables. It allows you to safely perform end-grain cutting, such as the cope cut on this rail, without having to set your fence perfectly parallel to a miter slot.

The only tricky part to making this accessory is getting the holes for the bolts just right. Simply hold the completed jig up to the fence with the base on the table and mark the T-track opening. Then, drill your holes in the center of the marked opening. UHMW T-track slides guide the sled along the fence.

 

 

Tall Fence

A tall fence makes vertical routing safe and accurate. It provides plenty of support for work that must be stood on end to rout, such as drawer joints, lock-miter joints and vertical panel raising.

The tall fence fits between the two outside supports of the main fence. Build the two supports (U and T) and attach them to the main fence. Use a square to align the top (S) with the face of the main fence and secure with screws or winged bolts.

 

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker March 2003, issue #99.

Purchase this back issue.

 

 

AW Extra 6/12/14 – Restore a Chest of Drawers

Restore a Chest of Drawers

Make broken-down drawers fit and work like new

By Tim Johnson

 

At first glance, the broken-down chest of drawers looks like a lost cause—a wreck even by garage-sale standards. After all, it’s been sitting out in Uncle Ed’s garage forever, and the drawers haven’t budged for years.

Surprise! A closer look indicates that this chest is a perfect candidate for rescue. Its solid wood case is sound.The joints are still tight and there’s no sign of dry rot. The top isn’t badly warped or split. It needs cosmetic repairs, but more than anything, the drawers need rebuilding,and you can do that.

 

Wooden Drawers Wear Out

Lots of great old dressers are available at reduced prices, just because the drawers don’t work. Knowing how to make repairs makes it possible for you to get a fantastic piece at a bargain price.

Although they may look quite a bit different than the dresser shown here,most old chests of drawers share similar simple construction on the inside. All of the parts (drawer sides, runners, guides and stops) are wood.

On 19th-century American pieces, these hidden parts are usually made from woods chosen for economy or workability, rather than durability. Even when the cases are made of hardwoods like walnut and cherry, the secondary woods are almost always pine, poplar or basswood—lightweight woods that wear down with use.

 

Rebuilding Drawers is Satisfying

Rebuilding four worn-out drawers is a time-consuming project. But making those cantankerous old drawers open and close effortlessly is highly satisfying. So is rescuing an heirloom-quality piece of furniture.

Drawer-rebuilding and problem-solving go hand in hand. Be prepared to do things a bit differently than we show, depending on how your chest of drawers is constructed. First, we’ll rebuild the inside of the chest (Photos 1 through 7). Next, we’ll repair the drawers (Photos 8 through 13). Finally,we’ll fit the repaired drawers into the rebuilt chest (Photos 14 through 20).

We’ll use a combination of hand and power tools to do the job, including a tablesaw and a Japanese-style pull saw, a plunge router, a hand plane and sharp chisels.A carpenter’s square, a try square and a sliding-bevel square are necessary for layout. Our replacement pieces are made from straight-grained hard maple, so they’ll last much longer than the original components.

 

First, Remove the Top and Back

Repairing the drawer runners and guides is much easier when the chest’s top and back are removed. Tops are usually fastened with screws through the chest’s top rails (front and back). You may also find screws pocket-holed through the sides. If nails have been added, you’ll have to pry the top loose after you’ve removed the screws. Once you’ve gotten the top off, pull the nails out through its bottom side. Don’t try to back them out through the top. Their heads are likely to blow out the surrounding wood.

Opening the back of the chest can be as easy as knocking off nailed-on boards. Be sure to mark them first, for reassembly.

If the back is glued to the sides, the joints may not break cleanly. Gently pry each joint apart, while soaking it with hot water to soften the glue. Take your time.

 

Remove Worn Interior Parts

Many old pieces are made with simple internal joinery that’s fairly easy to knock apart. Most often the rail is glued at the front and nailed at the back (Photo 1). It may help to remove the drawer guide that sits atop the runner first. Make repairs if the tongue-and-groove joint doesn’t break cleanly.

Next, remove the old support blocks. You can usually knock them off with a hammer, but if they’re firmly attached, it’s better to saw them off. Once they’re gone, remove the glue and flatten the surface by planing or sanding.

 

Repair the Drawer Dividers

The drawer dividers take a beating from use, which shows as worn-in grooves.A new,more durable wear surface is a must. Hard maple is the best choice for longevity, even if your chest is made of cherry, walnut or mahogany. However, when you apply finish, you’ll have to disguise the maple by adding color.

With a square, mark the divider for a dado that’s wider than the groove, and as wide as your chisel (usually 3/4 in. to 1 in.). Saw the inner shoulder while holding the blade flush against a clamped-on guide block (Photo 2). Hold the blade against the face frame as you cut the outer shoulder. Here, the unbacked portion of your Japanese saw works best.

Once the shoulders are cut, create the dado with a sharp chisel (Photo 3). Then, glue in a hard-maple patch, cut so its grain direction matches the divider. After the glue has dried, pare the patch flush (Photo 4).

 

Rebuild and Install the Runners

Examine the runners to decide whether to repair or replace them. If the wear isn’t severe, the runner can be repaired (Photo 5). However, if the wear on the runner’s top extends below the tongue on its front, the runner needs to be replaced. When making new runners, cut the tongues on the tablesaw, using a miter gauge and a stop block.

Fabricate, locate and fasten new support blocks for the runners inside the chest (Photo 6). Thick blocks are best—just make sure they don’t interfere with the drawer opening. Once the support blocks are in place, install the new or repaired runners (Photo 7).

 

Repair the Drawer Sides

Breakage often occurs at the drawer-bottom dado,because it creates a weak spot in the drawer side. The best repair reinforces the drawer side with stronger wood on both sides of this dado.

Rout a clean, straight edge,parallel to the top of the drawer side and at least 3/8-in. above the drawer-bottom dado. Set the router’s plunge depth to match the thickness of the drawer side and rout to full depth in several shallow passes (Photo 8).

Cut your hard-maple replacement pieces extra wide and mill them slightly thicker than the drawer sides. They’ll be cut down and planed flush after installation. If you’re restoring a handmade drawer, check the thickness of every side. They’ll probably vary.

Before marking each replacement piece (Photo 9), orient it so the grain runs from front to back on the outer face and also on the bottom edge. This makes final hand planing easier and safer. Planing from front-to-back (with the grain), you won’t risk blowing out the drawer front.

Cut and dry-fit the replacement piece. Then, from inside the drawer,mark the location of the drawer-bottom dado (Photo 10). Remove the replacement piece and extend the marks indicating the dado to its front and back edges. Use these marks to set the tablesaw fence. At the back, the top of the dado aligns with the notch. Your reference lines may not be parallel to the edge of the replacement piece. If they aren’t, use a shim to align the dado correctly before cutting (Photo 11).

Handmade drawer bottoms may be different thicknesses, so don’t use your dado set to cut the dado. Instead,use a regular blade and cut the top edge of the dado first. Then reset the fence and make additional passes to widen it, using the drawer bottom itself to test the width.

After gluing on the replacement pieces (Photo 12), plane them flush (Photo 13).

 

Level the Chest

It’s common for an old chest to sit crooked, because its feet have worn down unevenly. For the drawers to operate smoothly, the chest has to sit level. Before fitting the drawers, set your chest on a flat surface. Gluing shims under the worn feet is the easiest way to level it.

 

Fit the Drawers

Cut the drawer sides down in width so they’ll just fit inside their openings (Photo 14). Leaving the sides a bit wide has two advantages. First, it lifts the drawer front off the divider, for smoother operation. Second, it allows finetuning of the drawer’s position in the opening, so you can reduce the gap at the top. (Old drawers, especially wide ones, often have shrunk, leaving an unsightly space.)

 

Add Drawer Guides and Stop Blocks

Clamp a couple boards across the drawer opening, one at each end. Install the drawer and mark the runner (Photo 15). Remove the drawer and draw a line from your mark to the edge of the face frame. Use this line to locate the guide (Photo 16).

You’ll find drawer stops in different places on old chests, but usually they’re mounted on the divider, behind the drawer fronts.

Make sure your replacement stops are thin enough for the drawer bottoms to clear. Don’t try to clamp right away—clamp pressure will cause the stop to skate around on the wet glue. A “rub” joint is better. Apply glue and seat the block, rubbing it side-to-side a couple of times, while holding it snug against the back of the drawer front (Photo 17). Let it sit for about five minutes (until the glue tacks) and then add a clamp. Check again to make sure there hasn’t been any movement.


Extend the Drawer Bottoms

Widening the shrunken drawer bottoms is easy (Photo 18). Use screws to fasten the bottom to the drawer back, so it’s easy to remove. The tongue-and-groove joint at the front allows the bottom to expand and contract. It’s best to do your final fitting with the drawer bottoms installed,but not fastened, so they’re still easy to remove.

 

Final Fitting

First,make adjustments so the drawer fronts fit well in their openings. If you live where there are seasonal changes in humidity, plan to leave at least a 3/32-in. gap at the top, for expansion. Super-wide drawers may need more space.You may also have to make this top gap wider to balance the gap at the bottom. If these situations require additional tablesaw cuts, you’ll have to remove the drawer bottoms.

Next, check from the back of the chest to see if both sides of the drawers (with the bottoms installed) rest on the runners. If all the drawers are off by similar amounts, the chest is probably the culprit, so re-level it. If only one or two drawers are off, they’re probably a bit twisted. Hand planing solves the problem (Photo 19).

When the drawers fit well, smooth the drawer-side bottoms with a hand plane or by sanding. Chamfer the sharp edges and put a big chamfer on the back ends, so it’s easier to slip the drawers in the chest.

Finally, shellac and wax all of the runners, guides and drawer-side bottoms (Photo 20).

 

Get Rid of that Musty Smell

The sour smell that often accompanies an old chest of drawers is enough to make one hesitate to use it for clothes. But you needn’t worry—there’s a simple fix.

That bad odor isn’t anything inherently nasty, like mold or mildew. It’s the smell of basswood, which was frequently used for drawer parts 100 years ago.

To get rid of the smell, brush a coat of shellac on the drawers, inside and out, including both sides of the drawer bottoms. The shellac will seal the basswood and eliminate the odor. Check the cabinet back, too, and give it a good shellacking if it’s made of the same smelly stuff.

 

The New Finish

The paint adorning Uncle Ed’s chest of drawers wasn’t worth saving. The topcoats were latex paint, neither old, nor patinated; just crummy. A little sleuthing indicated that the chest is made of pine and that original finish, an opaque brown color hidden underneath the paint, was also badly deteriorated. Clearly, the best course of action was to remove the paint so we could apply a fresh finish. Because the lower paint layers almost certainly contained lead, we took this chest to a professional for stripping.

After stripping, we let the chest dry completely before making repairs.We re-glued a couple of minor cracks and replaced a couple of broken-off pieces, including the broken escutcheons (key hole covers). We also bought pine replacement knobs. We chipped all the old white putty (which doesn’t stain well) from the nail holes. Then we filled all the holes and crevices with pine-colored plastic wood filler.

We sanded everything thoroughly with a random-orbit sander, starting with 80-grit paper and working up to 180 grit. Then we sanded by hand with 150 grit, to remove any machine-made sanding marks. Sanding lightened the pine noticeably.

Our “professional’s secret” finish is nothing more than a couple coats of Zar “Provincial” oil-based wood stain (it’s pigmented, just like glaze), applied over a coat of Zinsser’s SealCoat universal sealer (which is de-waxed shellac).

This off-the-shelf shellac-and-glaze method is foolproof. The stain goes on evenly, and you can blend areas that don’t match. If something goes wrong, you can remove the stain with mineral spirits and try again.

After sanding the SealCoat with 280-grit paper,we applied the first coat of stain, wiped it off uniformly and let it dry overnight. We applied the second coat of stain judiciously, using a combination of wiping, stippling and dry-brushing, to blend uneven spots, including our new-wood repairs and replacement pieces.

After the stain was thoroughly dry, we brushed-on two coats of Zar’s antique flat oil-based polyurethane. We sanded the first coat with 280-grit paper before applying the final coat.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Before they were worn out, wooden runners bore the weight of the drawers. Guides mounted atop the runners controlled side-to-side movement and glued-on blocks stopped the drawers flush with the front.


Broken-off drawer sides make drawers hard to open and close,wear down the stop blocks and damage the drawer bottoms.


1. Remove the runners. First, use a hammer and chisel to break the runner from the support block.Then, break the tongue-and-groove joint at the front by prying the runner away at the back, where it’s probably just nailed to the case.


2. Saw square shoulders on both sides of the groove worn into the drawer divider. Use a squarely cut block to guide the saw.


3. Chisel out the waste, to create a flat-bottomed dado.Then glue in a patch, with the grain direction of the patch the same as the divider.


4. Pare the patch flush with the divider, using sweeping strokes with a sharp chisel held flat on the divider.


5. Renew worn runners with hard-maple inserts. First, cut rabbets wide and deep enough to remove the wear.Then, glue in the inserts and plane them flush with the remaining original surface. If the runners are too far gone, make new ones.


6. Glue blocks to the cabinet to support the runners. First, install the runner, without glue, and square it, using a carpenter’s square clamped to the face frame. Orient the block’s grain direction so it matches the side of the case.


7. Install the runner. Glue and clamp the joint at the front. At the back, don’t use glue. Just screw the runner to the cabinet, toenailing it against the support block through an angled, oversize hole.This construction allows the chest’s solidwood side to expand and contract.


8. Remove the broken edge of the drawer side, using a plunge router and a clamped-on straightedge. Start behind the drawer front and stop before you cut into the back. Remove the remaining waste with a sharp chisel.


9. Cut a replacement piece to fit. Mark the front dovetail and back corner on the extra-wide replacement piece, using a square and a sliding bevel to transfer the angle. Then, cut to the lines, using a bandsaw or handsaw.


10. Mark the dado for the drawer bottom, using a straightedge. At the back, the top of the dado aligns with the bottom of the drawer. Your second mark indicates the dado’s width.


11. Cut the dado for the drawer bottom using a regular blade. If the dado needs to run at a slight angle to the edge, shim the replacement piece. Adjust the angle by sliding the shim toward the front or the back. When you make the cut, both the shim and the back corner of the workpiece must ride against the fence. If your saw’s fence is too short (in front of the blade or behind it), clamp on a long-enough subfence. CAUTION:The blade guard must be removed for this cut.


12. Glue on the replacement pieces. Make sure that their inside faces are flush with the drawer sides.


13. Plane the replacement flush. Skewing your plane so it rides on the drawer side keeps the planed surface flat.Work from front to back, with the grain.


14. Trim the drawer sides to fit, about 1/16-in. narrower than their openings in the chest. These initial cuts should leave the sides extending below the drawer front. This extra width leaves enough material for fine-tuning the drawer’s fit in the opening. CAUTION: The blade guard must be removed for this cut.


15. Mark the drawer's width on the runner, so you can install the guides. Hold the drawer flush across the front, using blocks clamped to the dividers, and snug against the side of the opening. Move the drawer against the opposite side to mark the other runner.


16. Mount the drawer guides flush at the front, but leave the lines showing at the back, so the drawer won’t bind.


17. Glue drawer stops to the front dividers.With the bottomless drawers held flush with the front of the face frame, simply butt the stops behind the drawer fronts.


18. Eliminate a shrinkage-caused gap by adding a piece to the drawer bottom. Plane it flush and rabbet the ends after the glue dries.


19. Fine-tune the drawer sides. It’s not unusual for old drawers to be slightly twisted. If the back end of one side is high, plane down the back end of the other side until they both rest on the runners.


20. Brush a coat of shellac on the runners and guides. Then sand with 280-grit sandpaper and apply a coat of paste wax. Do the same to the sides and bottom edges of the drawers, and they’ll slide like glass.

 

Sources

Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Van Dykes’s Restorers, vandykes.com, 800-787-3355, 2-in. pine knobs, #02001844; 1-in.-round maple escutcheon, #02289083.

Wm. Zinsser and Co., zinsser.com, 800-899-1211, SealCoat Universal Sanding Sealer.

United Gilsonite Laboratories, ugl.com, 800-845-5227, Zar Oil-Based Stain, “Provincial” color; Zar Interior Polyurethane, “Antique Flat” sheen.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October 2002, issue #96.

October 2002, issue #96

Purchase this back issue.

 

 

Air-Drying Lumber

Air-Drying Lumber

It’s the low-cost, low-tech way to dry lumber. Here’s how to do it right.

By Dave Munkittrick

 

Want a truly cheap and easy way to dry lumber? Consider air drying. It’s the most economical method for removing water from wood, and when done properly, you’ll end up with perfect lumber.

Although air-drying is inexpensive and easy,be aware of these drawbacks:

It’s slow. Depending on the species and your climate, it can take from 2 to 12 months to bring 4/4 lumber from green to air-dry (12- to 20-percent moisture content, depending on your location).

Air-dry isn’t dry enough for indoor use. If you’re planning to use the lumber for outdoor projects, airdrying outdoors is fine. But if you plan to use the lumber for interior projects, you’ll have to re-stack it indoors and let it dry down to 6- to 8- percent moisture content.

Loss of material. When you airdry lumber, it’s not unusual to lose up to 10 percent or more to drying defects. Lumber defects occur when drying is too rapid, which leads to surface checks and end splits or when drying is too slow, which results in sticker stains and discoloration from fungal growth.Because air-drying is at the mercy of the weather, drying rates are difficult to control.

There’s not much you can do about the slowness or the final moisture content, but you can ensure that your lumber has the fewest possible drying defects. It’s all in how you stack the pile.Here’s how to do it right:

Put Your Pile in the Open

Locate the stack in an open area exposed to the prevailing winds. Avoid shady spots or low areas where moisture can collect on the ground.

Keep the area around the stack clean and free of vegetation. Debris from off-cuts or broken stickers and sawdust are breeding grounds for insects that can migrate to your stack. Control vegetation around an outdoor pile by laying down landscape cloth and covering it with gravel.

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Box-piled lumber yields the most high-quality boards. The pile should have:

• Straight sides and ends

• Full-length boards on the outside of the pile

• Short boards staggered through the inside of the pile

• Offcuts used as spacers to bridge the gaps caused by short boards.


2. A slanted roof helps the pile shed water.You can do this in a number of ways; here we are using stickers on the top that vary in height to slant the roof to one end of the pile.

 

Prepare a Good Foundation

For outdoor drying, the foundation should be at least 18-in. high. We used 12-in. cement blocks and 4x6 landscape timbers to keep the bottom of the pile up off the moist ground and to encourage airflow through the bottom of the stack. Level the cement blocks to create a flat foundation.A dip in the foundation will telegraph through your whole stack resulting in less-than-flat boards. Place the timbers on 16-in. centers.

 

Prepare the Boards for Stacking

First, trim the ends of the boards so they are a uniform length. Be especially careful to remove any existing checks, because they’ll only increase during the drying process.

Then, “butter” the ends with a commercial end-sealer (see Sources, page 98). The money you spend on end-sealer will be more than paid back in better quality lumber. Make sure the coating is thick enough to indent with your fingernail.

You may find some variance in the thickness of your green stock. Sort your wood so that all the boards in a layer are within 1/16-in. of the same thickness.

 

Use Good-Quality Stickers

Stickers create gaps between the layers of wood. These gaps allow air to flow freely through the stack. Make your stickers from dried wood.They should be straight-grained and strong, so they can be used over and over again. Standard stickers should be surfaced to a uniform 3/4 in. x 3/4 in.Use 2- to 3-in.-wide stickers at the ends of the stack. The extra width helps slow the rapid loss of moisture at the ends of the boards and makes the stack more stable. Stickers should be slightly longer than the overall width of the stack. It is essential that each sticker be place directly in line with the one below. This creates a vertical column that transfers all the weight of the stack to the foundation.

 

Box-Pile the Stack

“Box-piling” is the best way to build your drying stack (Photo 1). In box-piling, full-length boards are used on the outside edges, and shorter boards are placed in the interior of the stack.Fill the voids at the ends of the pile with offcuts from trimming.

 

Put a Lid on It

If your stack is outside, it needs a roof to keep out damaging direct sunlight and rain. You don’t need anything fancy, although it’s good to have a slight slope in the roof for water run-off (Photo 2.) We used chipboard covered with tarpaper. It’s best if the roof overhangs the pile by 6 in.or more.

 

Weight the Stack

Weight (rocks, cement blocks, sandbags) will lock the boards in place, helping to prevent warp and twist as they dry. Plus, it keeps the roof from blowing away.

 

Control the Wind

To help minimize the effects of the weather, it’s best to have a tarp that can be dropped down the sides of the pile. This offers protection on hot windy days when the drying rate can be too rapid. This is important with hard-to-dry, check-prone woods like oak and hickory, especially when the green wood is above 30 percent moisture content.

After you’ve done all you can to protect the quality of your air-dried lumber, it’s up to nature.

 

 

 

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker June 2002, issue #94

June 2002, issue #94

Purchase this back issue.

 

 

AW Extra 5/22/14 – Hang a Router….Perfectly

Hang a Router....Perfectly

Surfire router plate installation

By Jennifer Feist

 

Are you tempted by the benefits of owning a router table plate but hesitate to take the plunge because of the hassles involved in mounting it in your table? That’s understandable because a poorly fit router table plate leads to endless frustration.A loose fit makes it impossible to maintain a consistent distance between your bit and fence. A plate that’s set too high or too low in the rabbet creates catch points for stock and makes depth-of-cut settings difficult. Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with these headaches. Here’s how to correctly install the plate for peak performance.

If you’re still worried about approaching your immaculate tabletop with a screaming router, do what I did and practice the procedure on a piece of scrap first.You’ll need a pattern bit (Photo 1), a jigsaw, a drill,double-stick tape and some 1-in.-thick stock. (The 1-in. material can be made from built-up sheet stock.)

 

1. Choose a pattern bit with the same radius as the corners on your router table plate.

Click any image to view a larger version.

 

 

2. Make an exact template using your plate as a guide.We used 1-in.-thick stock to accommodate the depth of the bit and the bearing (Photo 3). Double-stick tape works great for holding the boards in place without making holes in your router table top.

 

 

3. Set the bit depth using a template board and your plate as a guide.The depth-of-cut equals the thickness of the template boards plus the thickness of the plate.

 

 

4. Rout the rabbet after adding support boards for the router base to the middle of the cutout.

 

 

5. Rough cut the opening with a jigsaw. Be sure to support the cutout so it can’t break off before the cut is finished. Predrilling the corners helps start the cut and makes cutting the corners easier.

 

 

Accurately Centering the Router on the Plate

If you want to use template guide bushings with your router table plate, the router must be mounted dead-on center, and that’s not easy.

Rousseau has developed a baseplate mounting system that’s simple and accurate. The bit includes a centering disc, alignment pin, longer mounting screws and pointed tapping screws that accurately mark where to drill your plate.This system works with any plate that accepts 1-3/16-in. guide bushings. Priced at $5, it’s well worth the headaches it saves!

 

 

Sources

Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Hartville Tool, hartvilletool.com, 800-345-2396, Top-Bearing Pattern Bits: # R3004, 1/2-in. dia.; Double-Stick Tape: #12638, 1 in. x 36 yards.

Rousseau Baseplate Mounting System, rousseauco.com, 800-635-3416.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker February 2000, issue #85.

February 2000, issue #85

Purchase this back issue.

 

 

AW Extra 5/15/14 – Precision 3-Wall Scribes

Precision 3-Wall Scribes

A simple template guarantees a perfect fit.

By Brad Holden

 

Fitting a countertop between two side walls and a back wall is one of the most challenging installations you will ever face. Experienced cabinetmakers can do this with ease by marking and scribing straight to the countertop, but they have years of experience. I take a more roundabout approach, but it’s virtually goof-proof.

I prefer to make a template of the opening and rout my top to match. This prevents trimming too much from any side, which would create a gap that can’t easily be repaired. I’ll show you a simple method for making this template using a kitchen desktop that butts against a cabinet, a side wall and a back wall as an example. I installed this desktop with no backsplash. If you intend to install a backsplash, you don’t need a precise scribe on the back edge.

 

Materials

You’ll need a piece of plywood or MDF slightly smaller than the countertop opening—about 1/4 in. less at each side and the back is sufficient. This board will be your template’s base and will rest on top of the base cabinets or wall cleats. You’ll also need three guide boards of any 1/4-in.-thick material. Cut them about 4 in. wide. Make two a couple inches longer than the countertop’s depth and one a few inches shorter than the countertop’s width.

 

Make the template

Lay the template base on top of the cabinets or cleats and temporarily secure it with a couple of screws (Photo 1). Position one guide board on either the left or right end and push it up against the side and back wall (Photo 2). Next, you’ll need a washer whose rim is big enough to span the widest gap between the wall and the guide board. Put your pencil tip in the washer’s hole and draw a line on the guide board, letting the washer follow the wall’s contour (Photo 3). Clamp the guide board to your workbench, and use a belt sander to sand down to the line (Photo 4). Check the fit against the wall. When you’ve got a snug fit, screw the guide board to the template (Photo 5). Repeat the same steps on the guide boards on the other side and on the back. Cut the back guide board so it fits between the two side guide boards.

Make a mark on the side guide boards to indicate where you want the front edge of the countertop to line up (Photo 6). Then, remove the template assembly and set it on the countertop to be trimmed. Line up the marks you made with the front edge of the countertop, and clamp the template in place (Photo 7). Note: Build your countertop about 3/8 in. larger in width and depth than the opening.

 

Rout the top

Using a top-bearing pattern bit with a cutting length at least 1-1/2 in. long, trim around the template (Photo 8; see Sources, below). Stop short of the front left corner so you don’t blow it out, and carefully finish the cut with a belt sander (Photo 9).

Tilt the countertop into place (Photo 10). It should fit snugly, but if it’s too tight, you may need to adjust the fit slightly. To do this, reattach the template slightly off center and rout the exposed edge to gain a little clearance. If you follow these steps carefully, you’ll end up with a perfect fit.

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Three-wall scribes are tricky because both ends and the back of the countertop all have to fit snugly. My technique removes most of the difficulty by starting with a loose-fitting template base. I’ll scribe three guide boards, one for each wall, and screw them to the template base.


2. Position the first guide board on the template base by sliding it up against both the side and back wall. It must be long enough to overhang the front of the template base by a couple of inches.


3. Along the side and back wall, mark a scribe line on the guide board using a pencil and a small washer. The washer follows any bumps or curves in the wall. Repeat this step with a second guide board on the other side.


4. Clamp the guide board on your workbench and carefully sand to the pencil line. When you’re done, check the fit against the wall. The beauty of this method is that if the fit’s not quite right, you can just mark and sand again.


5. Screw the scribed side guide boards to the template base. Mark, sand and attach the back guide board last, because it butts between the two side guide boards.


6. Mark both side guide boards at the exact point where you want the front edge of the countertop located. This mark will be used to accurately align the guide boards on the countertop.


7. Use a square to align the countertop’s front edge with the marks on the side guide boards. The countertop must be slightly larger than the template assembly.


8. Rout the countertop’s finished shape using a topbearing pattern bit. Start at the countertop’s front right corner and rout counterclockwise.


9. Stop routing short of the front left corner and use a belt sander to remove the remaining material. This prevents the router bit from chipping out the front edge. A piece of masking tape provides a clear mark where to stop sanding.


10. Tilt the counter into place. Fasten it with screws from underneath through the top of the base cabinet. A wood cleat screwed to the right-hand cabinet supports this top on the right side.

 

Source

Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Router Bit World, routerbitworld.com, 800-630-2260, Amana Top bearing 3/4-in.-dia. plunge bit, #45465.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker February/March 2007, issue #127.

 

 

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