Coped Doors with an Antique (almost) Rockwell Shaper

WoodworksbyJohn-Rockwell 43-120 Shaper-Doors-1Here’s a photo of my almost antique, Rockwell Woodshaper Model 43-120.  Rockwell became Delta/Rockwell but now the Delta name is the one most know it by.  I bartered some work for this shaper back in the late 70’s and it’s served me well.  You can still find parts for it and there’s an interesting site that is dedicated to all sorts of  old woodworking tools.  Here’s a LINK to it if I’ve piqued your interest.

There are a variety of ways I use to make doors ranging from hand cut mortised and tenoned ones that I prefer or in this case, a coped frame made with the help of a wood shaper.  Shortly after getting the shaper I purchased this set of cutters made by Freeborn.  I’m not sure why but many woodworkers shy away from shapers in their work but when I had the opportunity to barter for this used one I couldn’t pass it up.  Granted, this one is only 1 hp and runs on 110 volts but it has been more than adequate for the work I do.  When faced with making a number of doors this is a great way to go about it.  Once you have the machine set up it becomes a matter of planning your work sequence out and then cutting what you need.  Doors made this way are the industry standard and the type of door most of you probably have in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets.  Personally, I prefer using this shaper over the current practice of using a table mounted router to spin a monster bit at high rpm’s.

For the computer monitor I need a set of doors for the back which will blend into the cabinet yet give full access should it ever be needed.  Here they are, dry-fit and laid on the frame to make sure my calculations were correct.   It’s always a good feeling to see that your calculations were accurate.  In this photo they are just laying on the case to make sure the fit is what I need.  I tend to make them 1/16″ to 1/8″ oversize to allow room for hand planing to exact size.  This also allows me to compensate for any irregularity of the cabinet.

WoodworksbyJohn-Rockwell 43-120 Shaper-Doors-4After selecting the order of these pieces the panels will be sanded and the entire assembly glued up.  A good technique to use when selecting the wood for a set of doors is to have the top and bottom horizontal pieces come from the same piece of wood.  You should lay them out so the grain is continuous.  Same goes for the center vertical piece.  I will select one piece to make both of them and rip it in half.  Again, it’s marked for re-assembly so that when the doors are closed it will appear as a single board again with the grain pattern matched up.  These are the things you should expect when you order custom furniture.  Even if the client doesn’t realize these extra steps you take it’s always worth the effort.  When the grain of the wood has a continuous flow it’s pleasing to the eye.

Calculations, here’s a quick breakdown of how to go about making a door like this.  After selecting the wood for the doors you plane them all to a uniform thickness.  The first shaper operation is cutting the ends of the horizontal pieces which are called the rails.  You need to measure the width of the opening that needs to be covered.  In this case that measurement was 36 1/2″.  Now the width of the vertical pieces, referred to as stiles; needs to be subtracted.  For this project each stile is 2 1/2″ wide and since there are 4 of them it meant I needed to subtract 10″ from the overall width leaving a total of 26 1/2″ required.  Still with me?  Since there are two doors this measurement is divided by 2 to give a total of 13 1/4″ needed for each rail.  Don’t forget this, you need to add 3/4″ to each rail to allow for the stub tenon joinery.  Neglect that step and your door will be 3/4″ of an inch too small to cover the opening and yes, I know that from experience!  Here’s a LINK that will explain the process of panel and frame doors.

Coping the Rail

Coping the Rail

As I mentioned, the first piece to cut is the joinery at the end of each rail.  A feature of shapers is that the rotation can be reversed.  This allows you to cut with the profile on the bottom of the piece which is safer.  I don’t use a sled but rather have modified a miter gauge by adding a clamp to it which securely holds the piece being cut.  There is a piece of scrap behind it to avoid blow out.  You’re looking at the front of the machine and the piece has already been through the cutter.

Shaping the Inside

Shaping the Inside

The next step is cutting the stiles and the inside of the rails with the other three cutters.  The reason I prefer not using a coping sled is that the height of the cutters remains the same when making this cut.  If you use a sled you must re-adjust it to compensate for the thickness of it.  It is safer to use the sled when the piece being shaped is wide.  The inside of each rail is cut along with the inside of each stile.  In this picture I’m using a push block on the rails which makes for a safer operation.

After selecting and cutting the material for the panels the doors can now be glued together.  Looks like I’m making good progress on this project.  So far the weather has cooperated and my timing to glue up in the mornings has worked out.  By noontime it’s well into the mid-90’s in the shop and that’s just too hot to glue up.  Hinges, surface prep, and finishing is left on the project.  I’ll also need to design a molding to go around the monitor once it’s installed.  That’s on the work schedule for today.  I’m also meeting with a client that has a very interesting project designing a presentation box for a very high end Apple iPhone, tablet, and laptop his company is producing.  Fingers crossed we are able to come together on that one!


About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
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