Well, I’ve gotten side-tracked by life, and have yet to make it to the lumber yard. Not to worry, there are still things to think about in the meantime. One of the biggest design elements left to work out is the molding on the edge of the panel frames. One of the most widely-accepted ways of doing this is with a matched set of door-making bits for the router table. However, I’m not personally inclined to this approach. It locks you into one molding style for each set of bits purchased (and they ain’t cheap!), and setup can be very tedious. That’s fine if you have a commercial shop, but it just doesn’t suit my temperament and penchant for hybrid woodworking. Besides, I believe a traditional mortise-and-tenon joint is much stronger overall.
My plan is to use applied moldings. I mentioned in a previous post that I hope to be able to wind up with finished stock that is 7/8″ thick, rather than the standard 3/4″. This will allow me to place a 1/4″ groove 1/4″ from the back face, and have 3/8″ thickness on the front face. This will give me plenty of room to use custom made applied moldings, and even have a small rabbet shoulder at the top edge for effect if I desire. The mortise-and-tenon joints will be centered in the grooves.
Applied moldings have several advantages over rail-and-stile bit sets. First, you can custom-craft your edge effect on the fly. In the picture above, you can see four test pieces that I made just using bits laying around the router table. The combinations are limited only by your imagination and budget for bits. Router bits of this size, are far cheaper than their larger cousins. This means more bang for the same buck. Secondly, the applied pieces can, if used carefully, cover any gaps in your casework, and make for a smoother look. Last, but certainly not least, a mistake in joinery won’t cost you nearly as much here. If you mess up a molding, simply make another to fit. You should, by the way, cut extras – it’s not hard.
The important thing to remember is that small moldings are cut from big stock. Use your router bit to cut the desired profile in the corner of a larger piece of wood. Then, make cuts with your tablesaw to release the molding from the stock. I’ve found that I get better results with stock that is slightly longer than the finished pieces. This seems to yield better results than by using long stock and cutting to length, probably due to the fact that the shorter pieces are easier to hold against the fence consistently.
The problem is, getting my wife to pick a molding! I’ve shown her the four samples, and told her that I can get bits for other profiles if she prefers. Well, I’ve still got to get the wood and let it acclimate, so the need for a decision is some distance off. Until then, the samples sit in the dining room, waiting for her to pick a winner. When will that be? The world may never know!