Dovetailed Hand Tool Cabinet #5: Half lap door frame, glass panel, glass stops...

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Blog entry by JasonD posted 05-03-2011 05:50 AM 5239 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Making the tool holders Part 5 of Dovetailed Hand Tool Cabinet series no next part

I didn’t take too many pictures on the day that I built the door frame. This is particularly because it was the first time that I made a frame using half lap joints and I completely hate them and never want to use them again because they make me feel completely incompetent.

I did everything the way I normally do to cut a clean, square shoulder and cheek; just like when I cut tenons. I made sure the lumber was flat and square. I used the reference face and edge to score the lines to define the shoulders and cheeks. Then, I chiseled out a small “valley” to start a perfectly straight, sharp shoulder / cheek line. Even doing that, I wasn’t happy with the final fit. Another thing that was a pain was figuring out where to put the clamps to pull one part together without pulling another part out of whack.

One thing I think that I could do differently is to clamp the two stile pieces up together to mark the shoulder lines at the same time. Then, do the same thing with the rails.

One thing that I did do was to clamp each half lap down with a small clamp, then clamp the frame together from the sides. Even though I did this, it still didn’t seem to work the way I wanted it to.

Before gluing the door frame up, I cut out the rabbets on the inside faces of the stiles / rails to hold the glass door panel. I used basically the same method that I used to cut the carcass dados to cut the door frame rabbets. After the door was glued up, I measured the inside dimensions of the rabbet and visited my friend’s glass shop the next day to buy a piece of 1/16” clear glass. I wanted a piece of 1/8” thick glass, but he didn’t have any clear in stock large enough to serve as my panel.

I put the glass panel in place using some clear silicone. Of course, since I’d never used a glass panel before, I messed up and put too much silicone in some places. Carefully cleaning this up with a razor blade after it set up wasn’t too hard, but it was an avoidable pain in the behind. Oh, well, you live and learn, I guess.

To make the glass stops, I crosscut, ripped, and resawed some scraps left from the 1×4s that I used to make the carcass. Then, I planed them flat, square, and to the proper size with my Stanley #7 jointer plane. Afterwards, I cut the miters on the ends with my LV crosscut joinery saw. I nailed the glass stops into place with really small brads, being careful to nail them at a slight angle without hitting the glass.

Oh, I should also mention that I was going to go with a 1-1/2” deep dovetailed door in order to give me more tool storage room. My wife came into the shop to check out my progress one night and mentioned that she loved the look of the colors of the holders; especially in how they contrasted against the colors of the tools they’d hold. She suggested that I use a glass door panel; which is what led to me choosing to do half lap joints in the first place.

3 comments so far

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2654 days

#1 posted 05-03-2011 03:09 PM

Half laps can be a pain, for such a simple looking joint you would think they would be no fuss at all. When you set your depth of cut use a cabinetmakers triangle to mark the adjoining faces of the pieces and use that face to mark the depth on both faces, that way if you are a little off, the pieces still match.

Don’t you love being able to work small pieces without fear of losing fingers?

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View JasonD's profile


180 posts in 2861 days

#2 posted 05-03-2011 06:10 PM

Thanks, RG. The problem wasn’t so much being off on depth. I purposely left a little to plane flush in that regard. The biggest problem I had was alignment of the shoulders / cheeks. It wasn’t anything major; but it was a real headache. I think the culprit was because I measured / marked each piece separately; instead of ganging them up the way I do when I mark out mortises.

When I’m marking out mortises for a door frame, I clamp both stiles together, get them aligned, then make one mark across them both at the same time. That way, I’m all but guaranteed to have them line up properly when I put the frame together. With this half lap frame, I marked each stile by itself and I’m guessing that allowed just enough room for error so that the frame’s cheeks / shoulders weren’t 100% flush / square when it was time to put it all together.

I also don’t like half laps, because there’s no mechanical interlock; which made assembly a pain. With mortise-and-tenon or dovetail joints, there is a solid mechanical interlock that holds it together while you’re getting the clamps into place.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2654 days

#3 posted 05-04-2011 02:10 AM

That’s why I like bridle joints, easy to do but there is a nice mechanical interlock still.

Keep on knockin’ it out. You’ll get there.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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