Roll Around Tool Cabinet #4: Loose Tenons instead of Pocket Screws for Face Frame

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Blog entry by HappyHowie posted 01-24-2017 04:25 PM 1118 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Milling and Cutting My Poplar Hardwood Lumber Part 4 of Roll Around Tool Cabinet series Part 5: My Plan for Tomorrow: Wednesday January 25 »

One other change I am implementing on this tool cabinet build that is different from the Woodsmith plan is how I was fastening the face frame. In the Woodsmith plan they used pocket screws to fasten the face frame together. If I wanted to do it the easy way, I would use my pocket screw jig and supplies to fasten this face frame. In the end I may have wished I done it that way. Instead I want to use loose tenons for this work. I am doing this because I haven’t done loose tenons until now. I have built several jigs to route mortises but really I have not put them to use. Now I will. I really intend to learn this process.

I began the process of using loose tenons by cutting the materials. During my prior milling process I had already ripped poplar parts to 1/4 inch thickness by resawing it on my table saw. I determined the widths my my loose tenons by taking the widths of my face frame’s rails. With the 1/4 inch thick strips, I ripped the widths I needed for the two tenon widths. Then I setup my router table and used a 1/8 inch roundover bit. After testing this setup with a scrap piece, I rounded over the tenon material. I use a padded sandpaper piece to lightly sand the tenon strips so the small ridges, etc where gone, or smooth.

After measuring the maximum length of the 1/4” upcut router bit I could get with the bit seated in my plunge router, I decided on the length of my tenons and thusly the depth of my mortises.

With a stop block I cut the lengths of these loose tenons using my crosscut sled on my table saw.

Since this was the first time I have used this router mortising jig, I had a few things to fix with the knobs, etc. Two threaded bolts were a bit long. I marked their flush position on the back of the plate and cut them with my hacksaw. The toggle clamp block interfered with the knob I use to adjust the the panel that holds the rail up and tight against the top panel that houses the plunge router. I trimmed that edge of the block using my Incra miter gauge set at 45 degrees since that edge was at that angle and cut about 3/16 inches off at the table saw. It worked. The knob I needed to turn had its clearance.

This day was a long one. So far I was only testing the mortising jig on a scrap pieces. I will finish that process tomorrow, Tuesday.

I put all of my equipment and tables back into their storage spots. I drove my vehicles back into the garage so the snow storm coming wouldn’t dump on them overnight.

-- --- Happy Howie

6 comments so far

View Notw's profile


743 posts in 2360 days

#1 posted 01-24-2017 05:03 PM

vehicles in the garage…i don’t get it :-)

View SteveMI's profile


1149 posts in 3901 days

#2 posted 01-24-2017 05:34 PM

vehicles in the garage…i don t get it :-)
- Notw


View HappyHowie's profile


473 posts in 2552 days

#3 posted 01-24-2017 07:34 PM

All I can say is that this arrangement works for both of us: the boss and me… She just said: “That was the deal”...

-- --- Happy Howie

View HappyHowie's profile


473 posts in 2552 days

#4 posted 01-24-2017 07:37 PM

The picture below shows a good fit of the scrap pieces.

I can tell that I must keep track of the face sides so if anything is off from center that the parts will fit flush…

Let’s work on the real parts.

-- --- Happy Howie

View HappyHowie's profile


473 posts in 2552 days

#5 posted 01-24-2017 11:38 PM

I will finish my blog entries on the face frame right here.

I did. I placed a carpenter’s triangle on the two stiles so I would remember which one was left and the other right. Also on the rails I did the same thing so I know which piece is the top rail from the bottom. The center rail is easy to tell but with the arks it also establishes which end is left and which is right.

Since the pencils marks were placed on the face or front sides then it is easy to know how to mount the parts on the jig: always keep the face side facing outwards!

I routed the end grain of the rails first. Since the top and bottom rails were the same size I did those one right after the other. I did not need to adjust my stop fences for the jig this way. After completing the center rail I took a mental note that routing the end grain gives the sensation of be resistive; like you are packing the dust upon piles of dust.

Next I turned to routing mortises in the stiles. Again set the jig for the center rail. Once the first was routed, I then mounted the second stile and routed the center rail. After that I would roug the top and then botton mortises.

With the loose tenons fitted into the rail’s mortises I then did a dry fit of the entire face frame. When I glue this together I must remember to use my Titebond III glue since it has a longer set time. i will need the extra time to clamp the rails and stile flush to the case, at the right spots.

Routing mortises and making loose tenons takes a lot of time. I know this was my first time performing these tasks so I expect with more practice or experience I can reduce the amount time significantly. Enough to compete with pocket screws? Most likely not, but for face frames on shop made cabinets why wouldn’t you use packet screws? In this case, I wanted to learn and evaluate loose tenon joinery. I learned what I needed to know. I have not regrets.

At some point I will also need to put my shop made horizontal mortiser to a good test, but not today. (Note: you can see where I keep my horizontal mortiser in the photo above: its just to the right of this case. Well, you kind of have to know what to look for. I have plans to put that stand on a mobile base.)

I have a face frame to glue and clamp together.

-- --- Happy Howie

View HappyHowie's profile


473 posts in 2552 days

#6 posted 01-25-2017 03:38 AM

My glue up was straight forward. Prior to gluing I marked the alignment location where the center rail’s top edge met the stiles. Those locations were to insure that the top of the rail would be flush with the plywood shelf.

Some of this alignment depends on muscling simply pushing or pulling the rail piece to the plywood shelf. I will use my pin nailer, 23 gauge gun to hold those locations when I glue the face frame to the case, or carcase. I suspect I will do that glue up early tomorrow.

I had a good day.

I appreciate all of your comments. I had fun teasing my Annie; just a little bit. She has been so supportive of my woodworking efforts. Very supportive. Making sure she had a place to park her car at night “was the deal”. Actually, I drive her car in every night if I had been working in the shop that day, and it is most days I am doing something fun.

-- --- Happy Howie

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