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View kdr152004's profile

Advice on building cabinets accurately in a small shop

by kdr152004
posted 01-28-2018 04:18 AM


21 replies so far

View Loren's profile

Loren

10477 posts in 4187 days


#1 posted 01-28-2018 04:47 AM

I have a few books on making kitchen cabinets
and built ins. Generally as I recall they have
sections on making jigs and machine set-up.

If you don’t have a book I suggest those by
Jim Tolpin. I imagine others are very good
as well.

View BFamous's profile

BFamous

322 posts in 659 days


#2 posted 01-28-2018 04:58 AM

In my opinion, you already nailed the most important things. Ensure you blade and fence are dead on 90, and if you have any wobble in your sled, put new runners on it. I prefer metal runners because they don’t wear down, and neither do the screw holes in the runners.

Also, if you’re using a square to set the 90, start by double checking your square to ensure it is accurate. I never use a square to setup my table saw.

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC :: http://www.FamousArtisan.com

View AxkMan's profile

AxkMan

65 posts in 665 days


#3 posted 01-28-2018 07:39 AM

Make sure to pick up corner clamps like Irwin. Very useful for corner joints.

View Ron's profile

Ron

1 post in 657 days


#4 posted 01-28-2018 12:51 PM

In addition to the above comments I would suggest checking your crosscut sled using the 5 cut method. There are numerous youtube videos showing how to do this. I also break down sheet goods like you do but I check the sheet for squareness and if it’s square you know you have 90 degree corners. I don’t use a sled, just the fence on the table saw. I use the factory edges as my starting point and after every cut I put an X on the side so I know later that it is a “good” edge. Also when there are several pieces that are the same height and width I will cut them all to the required width from one fence setting and then to length from one fence setting. Good Luck with you project.

-- Ron

View bold1's profile

bold1

328 posts in 2386 days


#5 posted 01-28-2018 02:29 PM

Cutting parts close and square is the most important, but having a square jig to hold the parts while assembling, is one of the things you should have. I’ve even used the floor and wall of my shop, with shims, as a jig to hold large sides square when assembling.

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5555 posts in 2890 days


#6 posted 01-28-2018 03:46 PM

Rip all your sides and bottoms at the same time with the same saw set up. I rip the plywood for base cabinets at 23 1/4” and 11 1/2” for wall cabinets to maximize yield from a sheet of plywood.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Mike_D_S's profile

Mike_D_S

596 posts in 2753 days


#7 posted 01-28-2018 04:59 PM

I’ll add in that even perfectly square parts can be assembled into an out of square cabinet.

First make sure you have a nice flat place to assemble the cabinets. Properly prepared, some 2×4s as a support topped with plywood and shimmed can make a flat assembly table. Screw some strips to the top at 90 degrees so you have a good reference corner.

Secondly, I inset my cabinet backs and take care to make sure the backs are square. So when I get the cabinet sides, bottom and top/stretchers put together, when I tap in the back I get additional confirmation the whole setup is square.

Mike

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View Woodknack's profile

Woodknack

12927 posts in 2919 days


#8 posted 01-28-2018 05:22 PM

Put a good blade on your circ saw and use the track to cut parts, probably easier than cutting twice especially if you are already struggling with the tablesaw.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5768 posts in 3782 days


#9 posted 01-28-2018 07:33 PM

It appears that your table saw is the weak link. You should concentrate in getting the saw perfectly aligned; otherwise you can’t expect good results. All other comments expressed are also good to heed. Make sample cuts on scrap to ensure squareness and dimensional accuracy before cutting good material.

View Kazooman's profile

Kazooman

1380 posts in 2491 days


#10 posted 01-28-2018 09:07 PM

+1 to all of the above. However, remember that the kitchen you are going to install these cabinets is probably no where near being square to 1/16”. I am not suggesting doing sloppy work, but realize that no matter how perfect you get the cabinets, they will still need to be shimmed into place when you install them.

View Ripper70's profile

Ripper70

1342 posts in 1447 days


#11 posted 01-28-2018 09:29 PM



Rip all your sides and bottoms at the same time with the same saw set up.

- bondogaposis


+1

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

View Holt's profile

Holt

280 posts in 3168 days


#12 posted 01-29-2018 01:36 PM

++1

Never having to duplicate the saw setup will save you a ton of stress.

Rip all your sides and bottoms at the same time with the same saw set up.

- bondogaposis

+1

- Ripper70


-- ...Specialization is for insects.

View Robert's profile

Robert

3555 posts in 2019 days


#13 posted 01-29-2018 02:29 PM

The three criticals in cabinetmaking are:

1) consistent dimensions
2) square cuts
3) accurate assembly

Cut similar parts without changing any settings. IOW rip the sides, bottoms and tops without changing the fence and cut the sides/tops bottoms to same length without changing the stop block.

To achieve this, you’re machine and jigs must be balls on accurate. I’m shooting no more than ~ 1/64” error. If not, by the time you assemble the 6th cabinet you’ll have problems.

You’ve already identified an issue. I recommend:

1) Correct the runner issue
2) Double check your fence-to-blade alignment
3) Test everything using scraps until you’re satisfied.
4) Take your time assembling. Clamp everything up and triple check before you start screwing. Its easy to get in a rush and discover something not flush.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Mike_D_S's profile

Mike_D_S

596 posts in 2753 days


#14 posted 01-29-2018 02:57 PM

Kazooman makes a very good point in that the room you’re going into will also have it’s own variations. It’s good to understand those as well and think about your installation. The most accurate cabinets in the world still have to fit the real world of framing and drywall.

You don’t mention the style of cabinets, but if face frame then a good face frame can hide some ills in the cabinet boxes. If this is your first cabinet build, give yourself some soft landing space by not trying to build the cabinet interior flush to the inside of the face frame, etc where any imperfections will be instantly obvious.

Mike

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View kdr152004's profile

kdr152004

29 posts in 1321 days


#15 posted 01-29-2018 04:27 PM

Hi all,

Thanks for all the great pointers. Some of my learning:

1) I don’t need a sled for cabs in the 18-24’’ wide range. Personally I am much for comfortable just using the track saw and rip fence. All of my error was coming from the sled, which I have now improved by adding a second miter track insert to remove the wobble.

2) Dowel joinery is challenging for carcass construction for a hobbyist with pipe clamps. The forces that hold the joints tight more often than not pull the cab out of square. Going forward, I will try pocket screws in combination with the woodpeckers squaring jig – any thoughts on squaring jigs ?

3) After rough cutting with the tracksaw, it’s best to use the factory edge rather than the rough cut to ride along the table saw fence to bring to final dimension,

Round 2 of practice cabinet will be next weekend.

-kdr152004

View kdr152004's profile

kdr152004

29 posts in 1321 days


#16 posted 01-29-2018 04:31 PM

FYI, I am building face frame cabinets, all to be painted off-white. Face frames from poplar. The carcass will be 3/4’’ birch plywood with a 3/4’’ back and 6’’ poplar strips on top to support the granite counter. Cabinet box will be separate from the cabinet base/toekick. Drawers will be made from 1/2’’ birch plywood and 1/4’’ bottoms to accept blum undermount slides.

View kdr152004's profile

kdr152004

29 posts in 1321 days


#17 posted 01-29-2018 04:32 PM

rwe2156 , you were right about dowels , I just had to learn for myself always helps to do several test runs. Fasteners are just way easier.

View Jon Hobbs's profile

Jon Hobbs

147 posts in 1243 days


#18 posted 01-29-2018 05:03 PM


2) Dowel joinery is challenging for carcass construction for a hobbyist with pipe clamps. The forces that hold the joints tight more often than not pull the cab out of square. Going forward, I will try pocket screws in combination with the woodpeckers squaring jig – any thoughts on squaring jigs ?

Unless your pipe clamps are bent or warped or are otherwise severely un-straight, it’s not the clamps’ fault. If your clamps are pulling things out of square, it’s most likely operator error :) Likewise for the dowels. If the holes are aligned correctly, and your dowels are straight, it ain’t the dowel joint that’s pulling things out of square. The combination of dowel joints and pipe clamps is not inherently more difficult to square than any other type of joint and/or clamp.

When assembling a box, clamps of any and all types must be perfectly parallel to the pieces they’re clamping and perfectly perpendicular to the adjacent side. Otherwise they’re going to pull things out of whack. In other words, your clamps need to be applied perfectly square in order to keep your box perfectly square. If your clamps are off even a hair, you’ll have out-of-square boxes.

Pocket holes may, or may not help. Pieces tend to wander as you’re screwing them together. So you’ll still want to clamp things together while you’re screwing. So your clamping technique may still come into play here.

What everyone here is saying is: Everything at every step of the way must be perfectly square in order for the result to be square. Every tool, every blade, every jig, every clamp, every joint, every hole. Errors accumulate. If the blade on your track saw is 89.5 degrees to it’s base, if your sled is off by .25 degrees, and your table saw blade is 89.5 degrees to the table, and one of your clamps is askew by 1 degree, all those deltas add up and the resulting box will be way more than 1/16th out of square.

-- Jon -- Just a Minnesota kid hanging out in Kansas

View kdr152004's profile

kdr152004

29 posts in 1321 days


#19 posted 01-29-2018 07:10 PM

I appreciate the advice Jon .

View jerkylips's profile

jerkylips

495 posts in 3109 days


#20 posted 01-29-2018 07:51 PM

don’t think it was mentioned here, but there was another thread recently about accuracy and a big thing was paying close attention to cutting to your line -specifically cutting on the waste side. In other words, when you mark your piece for cutting, don’t cut THROUGH your line – cut just up to the line. The width (kerf) of a standard table saw blade is 1/8th inch – so if you’re not disciplined on cutting consistently relative to your line, you could definitely be off

View Medici's profile

Medici

50 posts in 1120 days


#21 posted 01-30-2018 03:03 AM

As mentioned before, jigs jigs jigs. Make jigs so that even if one part of a cabinet is slightly off, they will all be off, which will come out looking even to the eye, as if you made it that way. I’m talking miniscule errors though, not crooked doors haha.

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