Office Cabinet #13: An Interesting Top

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Blog entry by Tom posted 07-23-2021 08:15 PM 610 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: Whew... Hanging the Doors Part 13 of Office Cabinet series Part 14: A bit of Patience and a Base »

My woodworking often slows in the summer. It is time for outdoor activities and fun in the sun. But I was able to work on the construction of the top for my little cabinet.

Continuing my objective to eliminate end grain on the showing faces of my cabinet (except for the ends of the dovetails), I am making a top with a mitered and clamped bracket around the showing sides. I based it on the Roy Underhill's German school master's standing desk. The ends will be blind mortise and tenon clamp (breadboard) joints and the long side will be grooved and splined. The miters will also have a cross grain spline piece to hold them in alignment. I have done similar tops with a piece of plywood bracketed with wood and mitered corners that used dowels. Here is an example on my blanket chest from a few years ago. It is getting well worn from everyday use and abuse.

I don’t often do drawings when I work, but I want the top to have an specific overhang on the cabinet. So I worked out some calculations and prepped my stock to length, accounting for the clamp mortises which will be 1-1/2” deep with the tongue. It is important that my main top piece is square and true for my joinery method to work properly. The Stanley 45 will be instrumental in this process, but I need square ends for process.

I also joint the long bracket and double check for square on the ends.

A simple 1/4” groove is needed for the spline on the long bracket. Easy with the Stanley 45 working from the face sides.

Next I work on the tenons for the clamp joint on the ends. I set up the Stanley 45 with the 1/4” cutter and set the fence to the overall depth of the tenons (1-1/2”). I set the depth of cut to match the gauge lines for a 1/4” thick tenon. This process works well if you adhere to your gauge lines. It is similar to the process that I used for the raised panels. The nicking cutter on the Stanley 45 is used across the grain. I draw back to establish the cut and I deepen it with the knife. Then I cut a cross grain groove. This takes some courage and it works best to make full cuts from end to end. Do not pull back in the groove. One complete forward cut at a time until it is down to depth, watching the gauge lines all the time.

Also, you may want to make a relief cut on the end with a saw to avoid tear out.

Then I knock out most of the waste with a chisel and plane down to the gauge line with a jack plane. Finally, I test it in the groove on the clamp end piece.

With both sides of the tenons cleanly cut to depth, I true up the shoulders with a shoulder plane. You can do this with a chisel, but I need to show off my latest tool purchase, a vintage Record shoulder plane. It is officially the most expensive hand tool that I own, but it works really well for this! Then I laid out the tenons and cut away the waste.

Now I just need to mark off the mortise locations from the tenons, leaving enough on the end for the miter. Then it is simple to chop the mortise and fit the clamp piece.

Next come the miters. I don’t really enjoy mitering, but you have to do what you have to do. I marked location of the miter very carefully and used a miter box. Then you may need to do some trimming to bring the miter together. I also used a miter jack to help facilitate the process. After much fiddling, I got to a point that I was happy enough with the joint.

With that fiasco done, I chopped the miter section for a 1/4” spline and fitted splines to the miters and long bracket. For some reason, I tried to use a bevel edge chisel for this. Use a mortise chisel if you have one. It works much better.

Assembly and glue up is straightforward. I only glued front half of the tenon piece onto the clamp to allow some expansion on the back end. We’ll see how it holds up. A bit of smooth planing levels any discrepancies. I think it is a nice top. The joints a pretty tight, which pleases me. Only a slight gap on part of one of the miters.

This was a couple days work. I enjoyed all of it, even the mitering. Thanks for reading a long blog. :)

-- Tom

3 comments so far

View Sylvain's profile


1408 posts in 3749 days

#1 posted 07-24-2021 09:57 AM

Very nice.
Thank you for the detailed process.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View Johnny7's profile


693 posts in 2340 days

#2 posted 07-27-2021 03:50 PM

You do nice work—(your documentation is also first rate)

View Tom's profile


294 posts in 1141 days

#3 posted 07-27-2021 03:53 PM

Thanks for compliment Johnny7. Keeping a log is useful for me too. I go back and review sometimes. One experience builds on another. Over time, your skills improve and you can plan out the work better. Always fun to learn in woodworking. :)

-- Tom

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