Office Cabinet #7: Face Frame: The fix is in...

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Blog entry by Tom posted 04-13-2021 03:18 PM 408 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Tapered Sliding Dovetail: Resistance is Futile Part 7 of Office Cabinet series Part 8: Some Assembly Required - Slow progress »

I finally made the face frame this past weekend. It went very well and quite similar to the back panel frame, except without the groove. The main challenge for me was the layout. I don’t often work to exact dimensions or drawings when I build a project. My case is about 36” tall and 32” wide, but that is not exact, mostly because my initial dimensioning is focused more on getting square and true stock than it is on working to exact dimensions from a drawing.

Once the main case is assembled, I use a stick of wood with knife marks to transfer the layout to the next component, and then work out the rest from that reference point. I hardly ever use a measuring tape or ruler. I did allow for 1/16” overhang on the outside of the case so I can plane the face frame flush to the sides. The pictures tell the story.

Layout and cutting for the mortises on the vertical stiles:

Layout and cutting the tenons:

My process is to cut and trim the horizontal rails to a precise length based off the stick transfer. Then I used a cutting gauge to transfer the width of the stiles and mark the length of the tenon on one face and knife around with the square. Then I just layout the tenon with the mortise gauge and cut the tenon as usual. There are probably better ways to do the layout, but it worked for me.

I threw in a quick shot of my saw sharpening. It really does help to keep your tools sharp and it was a little bit of a barrier for me when I started with hand tools. I am better at it now and reasonably efficient. The sharp tenon saw allowed me to make precise cuts for the tenon cheeks. I had to do very little trimming with the router plane. Once I found a good depth setting on the router plane, I was able to keep it for all the tenons with no chisel paring. All the tenons are a good snug fit.

The Fix

After glue up, I noticed one of the rails was out of square. Not good!! The face frame needs to be as square as possible since it will house the inset doors. Fortunately, I was able to plane off the discrepancy with some planes and chisel. It was tricky going against the grain, but it’s fine now. I don’t have a good explanation except maybe one of my mortises was elongated and I clamped the piece slightly out of square by only a 1/16”. These things can happen in woodworking.

Hope you liked the pictures. Til next time… :)

-- Tom

4 comments so far

View metolius's profile


391 posts in 1814 days

#1 posted 04-13-2021 03:40 PM

I liked the pictures, thank you for sharing

-- derek / oregon

View mafe's profile


13188 posts in 4173 days

#2 posted 04-13-2021 08:26 PM

Lovely pictures, nice and easy to follow.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View Oldtool's profile


3219 posts in 3274 days

#3 posted 04-14-2021 12:56 AM

I follow th he same methodology that you do, that being starting with the main carcass assembly, then following with additional components to fit. The exception to that is when an add-on component, like the face frame, can be made slightly oversized and trimmed flush after glue up.
Regarding your out of square rail, well, there’s a bumper sticker covering that, something about stuff happening. Your recovery fix worked well though, nice fix.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Tom's profile


269 posts in 975 days

#4 posted 04-14-2021 01:02 AM

Absolutely. Stuff happens! But persistence prevails. :)

-- Tom

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