Custom Cabinet Construction #4: Where planes soar in a modern shop

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Blog entry by rhett posted 05-23-2013 02:00 AM 2641 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Simply Turning a Corner Part 4 of Custom Cabinet Construction series Part 5: Furniture Bath Vanity »

As of late, I have been helping a local cabinet maker get caught up on some work. Nothing fantastic, basic kitchen and bath cabinetry. Spending a few hours a week, building boxes in my shop while he works on the doors/drawers down the hill. Perfect opportunity for extra income to help get the planes flying. It’s also an excellent opportunity to document where old technology still wins in some parts of the modern shop.

Let me show you two of the bigger steps in basic cabinetry and where “plane over power” produces a better end product, faster.

First place I choose to fly a plane, the faceframe. Pocket screwing wood together, even with the best technique, will at some point lead to an unflush joint. Large cabinet shops will build the faceframes and then send them through large, wide belt sanders, flattening both sides. Smaller shops rely on orbital sanding or belt sanding. Both stir up a bit of dust and when you factor in sanding out the scratches left from courser grits, it proves to be a time killer. Grab a block plane, I find them to be faster and more accurate at flattening than their tailed options. Also, the surface left needs little extra attention. Even if your just OK with a plane, final sanding will hide your practice. Do I even need to mention you aren’t making dust or fighting a cord?

I will make the argument that a wooden soled plane is a better choice here, simply by the fact that when flushing up joints, the heal and toe of a wood plane is less likely to chip or mar the edges of surrounding openings. On drawer stacks and cabinets with lots going on, I find a plane long enough to span the smallest opening works best.

Next stop, flushing up the frame on a finished end.

Power tool option is a router with a flush trim bit. Works great and is a solid go to method. It is however loud, dusty and if you tip the router, well, don’t tip the router. Once again, this is a spot to consider a plane. Almost as quick but with minimal chance for disaster and next to zero chance for finger amputation.

Those are the two steps anyone building basic cabinetry has done or will do, and proof that hand planes still have a spot in the modern woodworking shop. Hope you either learned something or are motivated to make shop time. Thanks for reading.

Be Good

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

2 comments so far

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3558 days

#1 posted 05-23-2013 12:29 PM

Rhett, you are a natural salesman! Bravo!
You say use one that spans the smallest opening, do you attack the uneven joint at a 45 angle?

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View Don W's profile

Don W

19242 posts in 2982 days

#2 posted 05-23-2013 03:30 PM

I see you’ve put a cap screw in the wedge. I like it!

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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