In my last blog I talked about the bare faced dovetail joint I will be using for this project. I also mentioned how I’m calling this my “challenge project” because I want to try a number of techniques I haven’t done on this scale. The main thing is to use solid wood for the entire cabinet along with a lot of hand cut, dovetail joinery. Makes me a bit leery of posting this for all the world to see (well, at least my blog readers) but what the heck, the byline on my blog says that I’m “sharing my thoughts and decisions” so I suppose I’m committed!
The first thing to do was to cut those bare faced dovetails that will connect the two sides together with the main shelf. Yes, router work is quicker than hand work but it’s also quicker to mess things up! Before routing the socket for this joint, the inside surface of the cabinet was finished with a smooth plane. Really can’t do that later as it would change the fit.
Next step is cutting the socket. This is definitely a case of measure twice and cut once. The initial cuts were made in two passes with a 1/2″ cutter to a depth of 3/8″. That bit was swapped out for the dovetail bit, the fence moved 1/4″, and the cut made. Amazingly enough, even though I used a tape measure to make these settings the groove itself is only 1/64 wider on one side than the other.
Now, here’s the somewhat ironic part of this joinery story! When I was at San Francisco State University it was important to not only cut your joints but get them glued up the same day. Why?, well when the fog rolled in the next morning the increase in humidity would cause the wood fibers to swell and what was a good fitting joint became difficult to assemble. Here in the desert, I’m experiencing the opposite of this. Two days ago the fit on this joint was as close to perfect as I could get after fine tuning the flat side with a rabbet block plane. Now, there is a very slight space and I think it’s because the wood dried a bit after being exposed. Not a huge concern though, it may reach an equilibrium but if not a small Dutchman will conceal it.
The bottom piece of the cabinet will be 3″ wide with twin dovetails into the side for the front. The top piece is dovetailed into the sides and serves as the upper track for the sliding doors as well. The back of the cabinet will be a panel and frame piece to create a square and solid case. After cutting these pieces to the inside dimension of the cabinets plus 5/8″ for the dovetails I used the tablesaw to rabbet the ends, the rest of the joinery will be hand cut.
The workday ended by cutting another rabbet on the inner, back side of the cabinet. Here’s where using an L-shaped fence in addition to the rip fence comes in handy. You don’t need to add a sacrificial piece and can see exactly where the cut will be made with your dado head.
The final thing accomplished is beginning the work for the sliding doors. Here’s where I have to go out on faith. I’ve mentioned my design considerations for them and the commercially available plastic track is just plain hideous! I found an article in Fine Woodworking magazine by Seth Janofsky showing how he makes his own track for sliding doors. This was in the September/October 2004 edition. The first part is to cut the track in the shelf and also the top, cabinet case member. I followed all of his directions including drawing it out to visualize it. The work was done with a 1/2″ wide dado blade in the tablesaw and what you see is the final result. Definitely have to pay attention to what surface — ah yes, I love the challenge!