Now working on my third cabinet build project, I’ve come to appreciate using software to sort out the cultist for plywood. I’m using a demo version of Simple Cutting Software X, and it works pretty well, with some exceptions.
Of the detractors for the software, it tends to “optimize” the cuts rather than make them all work in the grain direction you prefer.
I’m now getting the counter subtop, shelves, and plinth base cultist organized to break down two more sheets of plywood, and then on to laying out for cutting 1/4 Baltic birch for backs and door panels. You can tinker with it in the Fibre column so that it will shift pieces around, but it still will not give everything you want. Depending on the stock size of your sheets, though, it is simple enough to shift a couple of cuts on the fly and get most of what you want done. English or Metric works.
The demo version of the software doesn’t seem to allow the cultist diagrams to be saved, but even so, it does print. So it is a nice, handy piece of software that you may want to use on your next shop cabinet project, shelving project, or whatever plywood or other sheet cutting job you have to do.
There is NOT much Mac friendly woodworking software out there, so it was nice to find this one.
Scott King’s 1991 Fine Homebuilding article served as inspiration and the basic plan for my miter saw workstation. For my purposes, with limited storage and often working in my driveway or garage, it was important to have a workstation that I could easily move and also tuck away. I live in the tropics and near the ocean – critters (geckoes, cockroaches) and salt air add additional challenges to tool maintenance – an enclosed box is the way to go…
Following up on the previous posts from this week, I finished the installation of a Craftsman-style wainscot in a small bathroom.
The top cap on the wainscot is a 3/4″ full bull-nose. Fortunately, the 1/2″ filet that you will see in the door top trim is available in stock at our Home Depot, I discovered that after I’d already made about 24 feet of it. It is part of a series of trims that are carried locally. Most Craftsman trim is NOT bull-nosed. I like the look and have it running throughout. Note-Colors don’t reproduce well on my camera. The top half of the wall is a light green. It is the accent color throughout the house. The trim color is mannequin cream. The wall panel color is Kansas grain.
Backside of finished, unpainted wainscot for the kitchen
This morning I rabbeted out the back of the wainscot frame to accept 1/4″ birch plywood. The frame is made from borax treated radiata pine, suitable for wet locations, and very resistant to Formosan termites.
The inside of the frame corners needed to be cut square to fit the plywood (alternately you can round the corners of the panels), using either a chisel or an oscillating tool. Once the corners are cleaned up, the panels can be cut to size and fitted from the back.
For the replacement hallway shoe shelf, I wanted the shelving to be adjustable. This meant once again taking on the task, and pursuit, of perfect shelf pin holes. I opted for L-shaped 1/4″ shelf pins only in antique brass so discoloration won’t be an issue. The small hole will allow for a retaining screw to be installed so that the slanted shelves will stay in place.
The next problem to solve was how to get clean holes without any blowout. I already have used the Woodpecker shelf pin template, which works well, but each bit/method I’ve previously experimented with left me unsatisfied with the results. The 5mm pins used in the closet organizer have no flange to cover the hole, and there was always a tiny bit of tear-out using a Vix bit with a brad point 5 mm drill bit. I had also attempted to use a 5 mm spiral UPCUT bit in the router, which is specified by several online sources. I thought it odd at the time since I found that the UPCUT bit, just like a spiral drill bit, will cause some tear-out.
Thinking that a DOWNCUT bit made much more sense, this time I ordered a 1/4″ DOWNCUT spiral bit, and it turned out to be spot-on.
Spiral DOWNCUT bit shown below with the Porter Cable threaded template bushing adapter (since a 3/8″ template guide is not in the Bosch lineup) latched into the Bosch spring loaded, latching template guide accessory. All parts sold separately.
Not to say it was a perfect job. Every job has a learning opportunity!
Early lesson learned – when cutting shelf pin holes in hardwood plywood, dial back the speed in the router to avoid burning. Fortunately, found that out in a test piece of stock. Second lesson – threaded template bushing adapter tends to become unscrewed, and needs tightening periodically. Pay attention to little stuff, it matters – the template will move when hit with a rotating router bit that is not fully un-plunged.
Spiral DOWNCUT bit shown below with the PC threaded template bushing adapter
Bottom view spiral DOWNCUT bit shown below with the PC threaded template bushing adapter
I’ve made all of three pieces of furniture in my adult life.
My first project, a workbench, lasted almost four years before disassembly and reuse as scrap. My second project, a small, two-shelf bookcase based on a Kreg design remains in the corner of myson’s bedroom – still quite stout, functional, and dutifully holding two shelves of books.
Most of my time doing projects has been spent on remodeling projects focused on finding storage in a tiny townhouse in the DC suburbs. In light of the challenge of storage, and a home with a small footprint, it may seem ironic that I was inspired by anything with “Gigantic” in its title. Yet, browsing for design inspiration for an entry sideboard, I came across Hillary’s The Friendly Home and Gigantic Rustic Sideboard design. It meshed with the desired, Pottery Barn-ish, design aesthetic and my modest woodworking skills.
Finished entry sideboard. Approximately 38x40x26″.
An hour or so with pencil and paper, and I downsized the design and came up with a design and cut list that reflected the finished proportions. All lumber, including sheet goods, came straight from Home Depot. Hardware, on the other hand, required a trip to my local Woodcraft as did the wax for the finish, which was a 50/50 mix of clear bowling wax and Tudor Brown Briwax. As most of my ‘woodworking’ has been outdoor-oriented carpentry projects such as fences and decks, and I didn’t own a chop saw or radial arm saw, I relied on my sidewinder fitted with a finish blade, a steady hand (assisted by clamps), and methodical approach to cutting to include taking the time to ‘gang cut’ ‘matched’ parts of the frame. I worked in the elements (this was late summer 2014).
Finished entry sideboard.
If you have access to a chop saw or radial arm saw, so much the better – I recommend using one and setting up a stop in order to get good, uniform cuts. Otherwise, primary tools included a Kreg jig, a standard assortment of framing and carpenter squares, Titebond, and a Bosch Colt handheld router (although designed more as a laminate trimmer, this router – equipped with a new Bosch bit – was more than powerful enough to cut and route smoothly in the the whitewood that forms the frame and stiles of the door and back). I’m a huge fan of a Dewalt variable speed R/O sander that I purchased for this project – and the sideboard received a standard progression of sanding from 80 grit up to 220 grit (3-4 complete sandings). I relied heavily as well on my Makita impact driver and Makita 14.4V drill. Clamps – Bessey H-clamps, Kreg clamps, and an assortment of other clamps also made possible the assembly of the case and other components.
Framing & Case Assembly. I basically followed instructions for the sideboard’s ‘gigantic’ cousin except for insetting the doors and the back with ¼” baltic birch plywood (Hillary discussed this in her article). I opted to inset the back simply because it looks better and our sideboard would be positioned near the front entrance of the house. The side assemblies are straightforward – joined with pocket holes with the assistance of the Kreg jig. I assembled the interior divider separately. The proportions of the interior divider were key to the overall design: the interior divider comprises six compartments. Three small compartments for shoes (7.5” high) and 28” upper compartment to accommodate backpacks and large pursues. Unlike many projects with face frame assemblies, the face frame and the back – which again was inset – were the last components assembled. The H-clamps (Bessey pipe clamps) should receive an honorable mention. Although I had the actual clamps for a few years before this project, it was their first use in accordance with the design. The H design allows for the clamps to “stand”on their own feet, as seen in a few photos, easing the process of alignment and clamping.
Visible inset and overhang.
Top Assembly. The top is the easiest part – but I would recommend leaving assembly of the top for the next step after the case (or even the last step). The sideboard’s top is simply comprised of 2X6″s and 2X4″. I only left a 3/4″ overhang all the way around my sideboard. Although a modest amount of contortionist endeavor will be required, the top should be attached to the case only after drawers are installed.
Drawer Assembly. Another moment of honesty: this was my first time building drawers. I kept them simple, and relatively strong, albeit not highly attractive. I knew that it was important to know the dimension and method of operation of the sliders before designing the drawer. I opted for ball bearing slides that would more than accommodate the likely weight of any items (my backup plan for the project was to use it as a replacement for the aforementioned dismantled workbench – so heavy duty slides made sense). My slides were pretty rudimentary – Richileu 18″ sliders from Lowes.
The front and sides of the drawers are whitewood. To assemble the side, I routed grooves to accept the bottom panel of the drawer (I ran the groove using a 1/4″ up-cut router bit and edge guide. I ran the groove, full length, in the 1X4″ before cutting the sides to length, ensuring that the groove would be uniform for each drawer). The back of the drawer actually rests on the bottom – and the bottom slides into the assembled drawer. Pocket hole joinery came into play, yet again, as the sides were screwed and glued to the front and back. The actual front of the drawers is a false front, sized and screwed to the actual drawer box close to the final steps of assembly.
Door Assembly. The doors on the sideboard are relatively tiny compared to the design, and insetting the panel within the door seemed like a prudent approach to ensure a stable, basic, attractive door. This time, however, the challenge was that I was working with ½” whitewood – not a particularly forgiving dimension with the Kreg setup. Pocket holes also would’ve likely made the inset unnecessarily complicated. After some experimentation, and some delicate clamping and drilling, the frames ended up being butt-joined and received a ¼”x ¼” shoulder to accommodate the inset. I opted for hinges that didn’t require mortising.
Finish. I sanded — progressing with from 80 grit to at least two final passes with 220 grit sandpaper. As mentioned, the finish is an approximate 50/50 mix of clear bowling wax and Tudor Brown Briwax. The clear wax lightens the brown in the Briwax and makes for a harder, more enduring finish than Briwax alone. The combination also yields a smooth, almost caress-able finish, as it fills the voids and pockets in the surface of the wood. I experimented with the specific ratio on pieces of scrap. Enough elbow grease and its also quite possible to lighten and even out the coloration across the piece.
This is the carcass for the drawer base. Had to get it together since all else installs on top or around it. Kreg system worked well. Used a little glue during assembly. The wide board lying on the table is the front stretcher that gets installed under the top drawer slides.
Good thing I did this, ’cause I quickly found out that I’d made the shelf unit side panels that go on top too long – misread my own plans when I transferred from the plans to the cut sheet. A couple of quick cuts solved the problem – sure better than looking for the board stretcher!
Yesterday I changed out router bits in the table to setup for a 1/16″ roundover bit for all of the solid edging on the cabinets/shelves. The refinements at such a small dimension get critical, so it was also time to pull out the router mounting plate, draw a template, and drill a hole thru the plate for the topside fine height adjustment key.
This is the Bosch 1617 mounted in a Bosch router table specific base. It is similar to a fixed base without handles, but has the ability to use the top mounted height adjustment (note the knob on the right).
Here is the router and top in profile. Here you can see the feather boards added to the fence to hold down the cabinet panels for smooth flow past the cutter head. The feather boards fasten to the fence with t-bolts (toilet bolts with heads filed to fit the track, and cut to length).
…..and here is the fine adjustment – a t-hex wrench that fits into a female fitting in the router base adjustment knob.
For the closet organizer project, I’ve designed four cabinets that will integrate into a combined drawer base, shelf, and hanging rod system. I’ve chosen to use poplar solid wood edge banding applied to the exposed 3/4″ birch plywood edges. Poplar, and other stock hardwoods available locally come just slightly oversize of 3/4″, but less than 1″, and all of it wider than 3/4″ plywood, which is really 1/32″ less than 3/4″.
Once glued on, the edge banding stands proud of the plywood and must be brought level with the plywood surface to be finished. I attempt to glue one side close to the plywood surface, and run most of the excess to one side, but as a practical matter I find that there is some excess of edge band on either side, so both sides of the banding need to be leveled. You could use a belt sander to bring the edge banding into level with the plywood and risk sanding thru a veneer layer, but there is a better way, use a pattern bit on the router table. Here is how it is done:
The rough edge after glue up
Router table high fence is made up of 3/4″ birch ply, rabbeted on the bottom facing edge approximately 1/8 X 1 1/4, and secured to the router table fence using 3/4″ 10-24 bolts countersunk into the fence and Tee nuts that fit into the router table fence slots. Fence is about 12″ high since I’m making 16″ to 21″ wide component parts.
The router bit I’m using is a 3/4″ pattern bit with a bottom bearing. The bearing rides on the surface of the plywood stock, while the cutter blades trim the edge band down nice a smooth to very close to the plywood.
The result leaves a nice, clean surface to surface finish, ready for sanding with just a random orbit sander to ready the stock for sanding sealer prior to finishing.