Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Bathroom Cabinet, Part 2: Joinery and Shaping

After getting all the stock prepared and cut to final dimensions (and letting my body recover from that), it was on to joinery.  The cabinet will be put together with dadoes and rabbets.  About two thirds into this stage I realized I had made a big mistake in the order of layout.  I was very fortunate that things went together just right.  I'll get to that later.

The top was to get two stopped dadoes to receive the sides, and a rabbet at the back for the piece that will be used to mount it to the wall.  The dadoes were straight forward and went smoothly, though slowly.  I was being very careful not to blow out the way-to-thin wall near the edge.
Dadoes in underside of top complete
Just a quarter inch left at end of board - yikes!
These dadoes are stopped about an inch from the front of the top so the joints won't show.  BTW, the reason my sides and shelves are about 17/32" thick is so I can use my 1/2" router plane iron in these dadoes.

The rabbet across the back end of the top was interesting.  I couldn't use a rabbet plane because the design has that thin edge (see above picture) extending all the way to the back.
Started the rabbet by chiseling a chamfer (bevel up!)
Then started chopping with chisel ...
Chopping and paring, chopping and paring ...
More paring
Finally I went right into my gauge lines and pared the rabbet square.  Touched it up a tiny bit with a router plane set to the same depth as the dadoes.
Rabbet finalized
The sides received dadoes for each of the two shelves.
Chopping close to the knife line - about 1 mm away
Removing waste with router plane
When the 1/4" deep dadoes were about two-thirds down, I used the knife in the corners rather than the chisel to sever fibers to be able to continue routing to depth.

The sides also needed a notch cut out to fit with the stopped dadoes in the top, as well as two rabbets for the back members to fit in.  These rabbets were made with chisel and mallet.  I did make a couple saw cuts near the layout lines to avoid removing any "keeper" wood.
Notch in side to mate with stopped dado
Side joinery complete
With this done, a dry fit was needed.  Just a few strokes of a plane were necessary to get a good fit of the sides and shelves into their dadoes.
Cabinet joinery fitted
HERE IS WHERE I REALIZED I LUCKED OUT!!!    With the shelves fitted into the sides, I added the top (which already had it's dadoes and rabbet cut) to the assembly.  In retrospect I should not have done the joinery in the top until the lower assembly was completed.  That way I could take the sides/shelves assembly and directly mark the extents of the sides on the top, and there could be no error in placement of the dadoes in the top.  I had marked my dadoes in the top by measurements from the drawing, which can be a fatal mistake.

This is one of the most important lessons in woodworking.  Measurements are fine for rough work, but when laying out joinery you should use actual work pieces for marking.

The next thing was shaping the sides.  I needed to mark a 5" radius arc on the sides and to do this I used a large compass that I made several years ago.
Large compass
Didn't get any progress pics, but with the line drawn, I sawed, planed, spokeshaved, scraped and sanded the curves.
Curves added at bottom of sides
Now was the time to do the part I've been thinking about all along - shaping the edges of the top.  Here's the profile I drew up in Sketchup.
Top edge profile that I'm aiming for
I started by laying out several lines that I would plane to.  On the top, a line 1/16" from the edge.
On the top, 1/16" from the edge
On the bottom, 1/8" from the edge
On edges, a centerline (3/8").  Later added a 3/16" line on edges from top surface.
Note also in the above picture that I used a cutoff from a side or shelf to fill the dado to protect it when planing the profile.  I REALLY didn't want to blow out the thin dado wall at this stage!

And here's the profile that I'm aiming for marked on the board.
Profile marked
I started by planing the end grain edges, so I clamped a piece on the far end to avoid any spelching.
Spelch protection clamped on left side
I started by planing the convex portion of the profile with a #4 smoother.
Convex curve at upper left done, concave at upper right started
On the upper right, I started by planing a straight chamfer to remove most of the waste.  When I was close to the lines, I got out the moulding planes I made last year.
A #6 (6/16" radius) and #8 (8/16" radius) round moulding plane
I haven't really used these since I made them, but they worked very nicely.
Working the hollow with a "round" plane
I'd really like to get Bickford's book "Mouldings in Practice" and sometime soon I will.  I think I could learn a lot about creating mouldings.
Almost there ...
Finished with a little sanding to refine and even out the surface
And here it is.  I'm totally stoked about this!!  I've done close to zero edge profiling and this is a real confidence booster.
The profile done
Another view
So here it is complete minus a little scraping and finishing.
Looking good!
Next up: some scraping and applying a finish.  I'll probably be using a poly or poly/oil mix.  But that will wait until next week - we're heading out for a camping trip in the Eastern Sierra and I've got a lot of preparation to do.


  1. I recall you saying your power tools were in storage. Are you ever going to get them and use or stay hand tool only?
    I think I'll get rid of my tablesaw next year and that will free up a lot of real estate in the shop.

    1. With current shop space and the completely out-of-whack real estate prices here keeping me in my current home, it looks like I'll have to keep to hand tools until my wife retires and we can move elsewhere. Probably another 8 years or so. But I dream of a time when I have a power tool area to get stock to rough sizes. I could probably do most of that on a bandsaw, but I don't have one. I've got a small table saw, a jointer (that I could never tune up properly) and a planer. Maybe eventually I'll trade those three in for a band saw.

  2. Go ahead and trade these 3 for a band saw, you wont regret it. AND it dovetails very well into a hand tool shop, since it is used for roughing out shape, slicing small logs for the wood etc. Very handy and safe.
    Get a good clone or an original older Delta 14 in bandsaw, If you outgrew it, then you NEED a bigger shop :-)

    Bob with his sidekick Rudy

  3. Hey Bob. A band saw might dovetail nicely in a hand tool shop, but I'd need to use a shoehorn to get it in the current shop. my power tools have been in storage for 3.5 years and the rent has increased 50% in that time, so I'd love to downsize and get rid of some stuff. Maybe now's the time.

  4. That moulding looks really amazing.
    I am constantly impressed how much difference it makes to a project compared to a flat or just rounded edge.

  5. Hi Jonas. I agree about how much mouldings can improve a project. I am learning as I go about moulding profiles. I have not had much of a feel for them, but I hope to use them more in future projects.