Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Ming-inspired Cabinet (44)

In the past couple of days I took a bunch of panels, the grain of most of which was of the curly bubinga variety, to a local shop which has a newish Bütfering 2-head wide belt sander. I figured the shop, likely the largest in the vicinity, would have a good sander and I was not mistaken. It was the most sophisticated wide belt machine I have come across in person at least. I'm not totally sure, but I think it was the SWT 300 model.

It was 2.5 hours of work to get the panels all to thickness, and they came out very nicely. Interestingly, just as my SCM planer struggled with curly bubinga but breezed through the VG bubinga, as do I and my hand planes, the big sander also had issues with the curly material. It seemed to cause heat and burn more easily, leaving marks on the wood surface. I've seen this before with curly bubinga. In the end, a new belt went on (at my cost) and we tried a few different combinations of heads, sanding strategies, and feed speeds until things came out well, and very precisely to target dimensions as well. It felt like a bunch of progress was made - for a few hundred bucks.

Then, back at the corral, I got started on the carcase corner joinery. Following layout, the jigsaw came in handy to hack off some waste chunks right off:

I cut the middle 6 dovetails, using a router. Then it was on to the last dovetails and their mitered returns, which I am doing at both front and back carcase edges:

A 45˚ slice afterwards with a dozuki to sever the waste from the board:

Then a paring jig comes into play for an initial clean up:

The adjacent dovetail cheek is also trimmed to the line:

This process was repeated at the opposing corner.

Then, starting a trial fit at the first corner:

A little tight still, but it goes together with some persuasion:

It's probably too tight for glue at this stage. I'll need to ease the fit some amount yet. Since I know these will be together and apart a few times, I try to make the initial fit quite tight, as grain compression will ease things after several rounds.

Another view:

The miters had been left long of the mark on both sides of the joint, allowing me to creep up on the fit simply by the try and fit method. At this stage, there's a fair amount to trim yet before the joints are seated all the way down:

Before drawing any conclusions about the miter fit, I will check that the boards are 90˚ to one another:

A while later things were starting to come together with the first join:

The ends of the tails and pins are just slightly proud of their surrounding surfaces, leaving minimal clean up. For a while I was contemplating making the tails about 1/8" (3mm) proud of the carcase, but eventually decided that for this piece I preferred the quieter look of flush-trimmed pins and tails instead.

Some time later, a couple of corners were fitted:

During this process, I also dealt with the face of one of the cupped boards by clamping it with a batten both sides across my planing beam, so as to flatten it out for planing:

Someone needs to sweep the shop floor. Where's my manservant, Jeeves? Ah, dang it, that's right, I don't have a manservant so I guess I know who will be working that broom. He takes orders well at least. Excuse the mess in the meantime please.

That clamping seemed to do the trick:

The above board has had one end's joints completed, but the other end isn't even laid out yet. Somehow I overlooked it earlier. Usually I would prefer to do the same step in turn to each board, be it lay out or cut out, however if I fall short of that level of orderliness, well, I guess it's less critical than, say, spilt milk.

As corners were fitted, and slight discrepancies at the miter faces could be cleaned up by a pass or two along the board edges, sidling up close to the miter line:

It would generally be preferable to use a narrower plane for such tasks, however the 70mm was handy and sharp so I went with it.

Another view:

I seem to have forgotten to take closer pictures of those miters during the fitting, but they appear to be coming together decently so far. It takes time to fit them, and judging when to take the lass pass off of the miter face is tricky. One thing is for sure, you don't want to take one pare too many.

At this juncture, I have finished fitting about half the corner joints, and have completed cutting the joinery, miters left fat, on all the remaining carcase boards. I hope to have the rest of the corners fitted up the next time I'm in the shop. And then on to the rest of the joinery cut out on the carcase boards. Fortunately, an MDF jig I used to rout the dadoes for the drawer runner supports can be used again for cutting the same dadoes on the carcase sides. The drawer rails tenon into, but not through, the carcase sides, so that makes for quicker cut out. I'm optimistic I will have the carcase cut out completed in the next 2~3 days. I'll have to do some finishing work on the panels before I can glue the cases up of course, and it's just starting to get warm enough in my shop that some finishing work might be attempted in the next couple of weeks.

All for this time - thanks for your visit. Post 45 is next.


  1. Nice work Chris! I like the layout on those dovetails. Having finished a few rounds of mitered edge dovetails recently, I respect how much difficulty is added with front and rear miters. I haven't commented on each post, but I'm paying close attention, it's coming along beautifully.

    1. Well, thanks Brian - most generous!

      It was tricky getting the dovetail spacing to work well with the sliding door grooves on the underside of the top panel. In fact, partly in regards to solving that issue, I added a third pin to each side, while I had drawn two each side originally. It makes better sense that way, as stresses are highest on a carcase join at the edges, so crowding more dovetails together are those locations makes good sense. And, while I did find a way to accommodate the sliding door upper tracks without having to cut into the roots of any of the dovetails, it does result in an unusual arrangement of upper and lower track rebates on the doors. You'll see what I mean later on.


  2. I blanched at your use of the jigsaw so close to the line. You have the sangfroid of William Boone in Paladin.
    Bruce Mack

    1. Bruce,

      as I'm sure you know, sometimes a jigsaw is a handy thing to have around. I don't use mine too often, but it sure does the job when I need it.

      As for Paladin (from Have Gun - Will travel) - not at all familiar with it, but I believe the actor was Richard Boone, not William Boone. I'll check it out if I can.



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