Tag Archives: frame and panel

Blanket Chest – Molding Fitting

At last, the time had come to fit the cove molding to the frame-and-panels.  Most conventional wisdom says to cut the trim to precise length, and then miter the ends.  While this works up to a point, I’ve found that a modified version is easier for me.  This is how I do it:

Blanket Chest 27

I start by cutting a piece of molding to just slightly oversize, and then saw to this length.  As you may recall from a couple of posts back, I marked one face of the molding to keep any asymmetry coordinated, and reduce any irregularities between pieces.  I now take care to keep this mark oriented against the frame, not the panel.  The white on the panel is primer, applied to reduce any chance of bare wood peeping if the panel shrinks.

Blanket Chest 28

Rather than trim square to precise length, I go ahead and cut a miter on one end using the miter shooting board, continuing until the piece fits in place in the frame.  The next step is to miter the other end just to a point, keeping that good fit.

Blanket Chest 29

The photo above shows how the mark on the back helps keep the pieces oriented during the various manipulations.

Once the first piece is in place, I repeated the process with its neighbor, starting with the end that butts into the first piece.  Then, I shot the miter on the other end to fit.  I’ve found that, even if you cut all the pieces to precise lengths, their interactions with each other inevitably require a bit of further shooting to get everything to play nicely together.  For me, it’s easier to fit as a single operation rather than two distinct steps.  The pieces are small enough that shooting requires very little effort.  Just don’t forget your wax!

Blanket Chest 32

Once all the parts are settled into their respective places, I applied glue to just the side facing the frame, not the panel (remember the black mark?), and then held it in place with 23 gauge pins until the glue dried.  (Haven’t I heard that somewhere before?)  That way, the panels can expand and contract freely without trying to take the molding with it.

Blanket Chest 33

With all the molding in place, the time had finally arrived.  The joints were glued, and the assembly went into the clamps.  Suddenly, the group of flat panels was starting to look like a blanket chest.

Next time, I’ll add the bottom.  Stay tuned!

Frame Tuning Tip

Any time you make a frame-and-panel assembly, and especially with hand tools joinery, some of your joints will be a bit out of line.  It’s nothing to be embarrassed about – it happens to all of us.  The trick is to be able to make corrections for the irregularities with a minimum of effort.  The best time to do this is before your final glue-up, and this is the technique I use:

Frame Tuning Tip 1

Dry assemble the frame, and look for any places where the joint is out of line.  When you find one, use a pencil to mark along the edge of the adjoining piece.

Frame Tuning Tip 2

This will give you a guide line to show you the material that needs to be removed.   Take a hand plane and plane down to the bottom of the pencil line, feathering the cut in from what is the left-hand edge in the above photo for a smooth transition.  As you get close, stop and make at least one test fit to double check – it’s easy to overshoot.  Once you’ve planed to the bottom of the line, the joint should be a near-perfect fit.

Give it a try!

Blanket Chest – Raising Panels

Blanket Chest 13

A frame isn’t much good without panels to put in it (frame-AND-panel, right?), and this project needs eight of them.  In this case, I decided to make them 5/8″ thick.  This allowed the raised surface to be flush with the outside face of the frame, while the flat back simplified construction and reduced overall weight.  With this in mind, I had previously planed selected boards to thickness, stickered them, and let them relax.  Now, parallel to fitting up the frame, I had glued up the boards into oversize panels, ready for trimming to size.

Blanket Chest 14

I love Old Brown Glue liquid hide glue for this sort of work.  To me, once it has fully cured, it’s easier to remove to remove the squeeze-out than with yellow glues.  Also, it seems to form less gummy residue on my scrapers, and is transparent to stain and finishes.  Yes, I know my scraper’s getting dull, there’s a sharp one laying to the side, and they were swapped right after the photo.

Blanket Chest 18

Once the panels were cut to final size, it was time to cut the raised panel profile.  In a previous post, I went into my process for designing the panels, and this was where I put that design to work.  I dropped my panel-raising jig onto my tablesaw fence and used my prototype raised panel to set the height and bevel of my saw blade.  Then, after tweaking the fence position to yield the desired edge thickness, I cut all the bevels.  Note the quick clamp on the front edge of the panel.  This helped to counteract any tendency to cup or lift as I cut.

Blanket Chest 19

No matter how hard I tried, some of the corners were off a bit.  This is one place where accuracy counts because, if the line doesn’t hit the corner of the panel, it won’t hit the corner of the frame.  While there are many places where little variances won’t be noted, this isn’t one of them.

Blanket Chest 20

For me, the easiest way to correct this is with a sanding block.  This is simply a matter of working toward the end until the ridge creeps into the corner.  This only takes a few minutes, and makes a big difference in the overall appearance.

Blanket Chest 21

With the panels finished, you can now see how all the pieces will go together.  Now, it’s just a matter of final fitting everything and gluing up the subassemblies.

Stay tuned!

Blanket Chest – Framed

Blanket Chest 11

Once all of the mortises were chopped, it was time to start final fitting of the joints.  The first step is to decide which rails and stiles will go together to make a subassembly.  As I had selected stock for the various pieces, I kept in mind that the back side of the chest would be up against the end of the bed (or later a wall, perhaps), and parts with “issues” could go there.  Even though this chest will be painted, it’s a good habit to develop, since some blemishes can still show through.  My outfeed table was the perfect place for the selection process, as I could lay out a whole assembly for inspection, while keeping the other parts neatly stacked and organized to one side.

Blanket Chest 12

As I’ve said before, staying organized is of paramount importance on a complex project such as this.  Since all the joints are hand-cut, the matching components are hand-fitted to each other, making each pair unique.  To keep confusion at bay, I clearly number each joint pair, so that they stay oriented to each other all the way to glue-up.  Also, note the “X” on the bottom of the rail.  This denotes the edge where the haunch will be cut – more insurance.

This is also a good place to point out the answer to a question from a reader regarding how I cut my tenons.  The bottom face of the tenon in the above phto has the spacing I strive for – cutting just on the outside of the penciled groove, rather than splitting it.  The upper face is actually a bit on the “fat” side, and will require more work to bring it into line.  This task is accomplished with my router plane, as explained in a previous article.

Corner Detail

With all the rails and stiles fitted, it was time to address the corner joints.  As I mentioned previously, I decided on tongue-and-groove joinery to join the side frames to the end ones.  On reflection, reversing the joint so that the tongue on the face, and the groove is on the end wound have resulted in a stronger joint.  However, orienting the joint as shown will give less chance of a seam showing on the face.  Like most things in life, it’s a trade-off.

Blanket Chest 15

The first step was to cut the grooves.  Why?  Because I’m using a plow plane that has a fixed-width blade.  This is a good basic principle of hand tool work.  Whenever possible, perform the operation that utilizes a fixed tool first, then fit the other part to it.  When mortising, chop the mortise, then fit the tenon.  When making framed panels, cut the groove, then fit the panel to it.  You get the idea.

By the way, make sure you cut the grooves on the inside face of the stile.  Just sayin’.

Blanket Chest 16

With the grooves cut, I turned my attention to the tongues.  Fortunately, they were to be centered on the end of the stile, with a 1/4″ shoulder on each side (1/4″+1/4″+3/8″=7/8″).  I set the depth stop on the rabbet plane to leave the tenon just a bit fat, and did the final trim with a shoulder plane.  Rabbet and plow plane depth stops tend to slip, and should not be overly trusted.  Recheck the settings frequently as you work.  The astute among you will notice that I have sloped my tenon slightly from shoulder to edge.  I noticed this myself, and quickly corrected, paying more attention as I went forward to avoid a repetition.

Blanket Chest 17

Once all of the tongue-and-grooves had been cut, it was time for the first dry-up.  This is the time to walk around and take note of the things that need fine tuning, trying to get everything lined up before actual assembly.

Rabbet Plane Curlies

Now it’s time to turn our attention to other aspects of the project.  The panels have to be made, and I’ve got a couple of jigs to build.  But, in the meantime, it’s time to sweep up, and get rid of all the skew plane shavings left behind.

Stay tuned!

Blanket Chest – In the Groove

Since this blanket chest has frame-and-panel construction, the next step was to make the grooves to hold the panels.  As I mentioned in the post on cutting the tenons they, and their corresponding grooves are not centered, but offset to the inside face of the chest.  This means that the old tablesaw trick of running a board through, then flipping it end-for-end and running it through again to get a centered groove won’t work.  However, there’s an excellent way to get a groove without having to dig out the dado set.

Blanket Chest 8

A plow plane is an excellent alternative for grooves.  While not as fast as a dado, it can be set once and left on the shelf (much like a marking gauge), to be picked up as needed.  This leaves the tablesaw with its combination blade in place for such other jobs as may arise as the project progresses.  And, once set up and adjusted, the plow plane isn’t as slow as you might think.

With the 1/4″ blade installed, I set the plow plane’s fence to plow a groove in line with the tenons, and 1/4″ deep.  Notice in the photo above, the letter “I” near the tenon shoulder.  This stands for “inside”, and marks the face with the 1/4″ shoulder.  On the opposite side of the shoulder is an “O”, which stands for (you guesssed it) “outside”.  Placing these marks on every joint affords me a much better chance of staying oriented with all this asymmetrical joinery.

Another trick, as shown above, is the use of a cabinetmaker’s handscrew to keep the board vertically oriented.  I use this same configuration later when boring mortise starter holes.  Handscrews are generally underutilized by modern woodworkers, but this is just one of many uses they have in anyone’s workshop.

Blanket Chest 9

Once the grooves were plowed, it was time to layout for the mortises.  By gang-clamping matching pieces together and marking all of them at once, I was able to cut down on error.

The pieces shown above are four of the corner stiles, and the markings require a bit of explanation.  On the right, you see two lines.  The one on the outside marks the edge of the mating rail, while the inside one marks the end of the mortise.  On the left, there is a single line that marks the start of the mortise, but no line for the edge of the rail.  This edge is flush with the end of the stile, and the long gap indicates the haunch that will fill the groove to the edge.  It’s wider than usual due to the fact that these mortises will be hand-chopped, and I allowed extra wood on the outside of the mortise to help prevent any blow-outs of the end grain.

Blanket Chest 10

One of the beauties of grooved rails is that all of your mortising guides are already in place.  Just place your auger bit or mortising chisel in the groove, and you’re ready to go.  Of course, you still have to stay vertical.  As usual, I bored multiple clearance holes for each mortise to make the chisel work easier.  This step is especially important on mortises near the end of the board, as this helps to reduce the dreaded blow-out of the unsupported endgrain.

The next step will be to start bringing these various chunks of wood together.  Stay tuned!

Blanket Chest Design – Mix and Match Moldings

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.

Applied Molding Detail

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.

Panel Trim 2

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.

Cutting Molding

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!

Panel Trim 1