Whatever was selected for the backing material of this cabinet needed to add strength, look good and be 1/2” thick. Plywood meets two out of three of those requirements, but I just can’t fall in love with the idea of plywood in my tool till. Biggest hurdle with any other material is the work I might have to do to get it to that 1/2” thickness.
I checked the remaining inventory of poplar (says Don W, and he should know) boards salvaged from somewhere, some time ago. This stuff is stacked on top of the hardware cabinet at the back of the shop, and I didn’t know how much was up there (out of sight, out of mind). Figures the material is dimensionally spot-on, the boards are beaded and clear, and have a great, old-world look to them. And because they’re tongue and groove, they’ll add strength to the finished cabinet over straight-edged stock or half-lap stuff. We’ve got material! With a measure of the cabinet width, I figured ten boards would be needed for the job. I’ve got that plus a few spares. Good!
Measured a carcase side to get the length, cut a single board that served as the length pattern for marking the rest. Cuts made on the RAS.
I have two widths of these boards. Why? No idea. But some are 3 1/2”W and others are 3”W. Played around with a layout that minimized waste and kept wider pieces to the left and right. Allowing some ‘slop’ for expansion, planed off the tongue off one board and the groove from another for the right fit.
The most I could do in advance of having an assembled carcase is pre-drill the tops of each board. In the pic you can see the simple stop I made to set the holes a uniform distance from the top of each board, a distance that met the 1/2” rabbet these have to fit into without splitting when the countersink was drilled. Marks on the stop help set the board for two matching cuts to each board.
I then brushed the dust and dirt from the boards then set them aside. Until the carcase is a single assembly, there’s nothing to apply a back to. Good news is, the glue up was over the weekend! The carcase first had to be freed from a maze of pipe clamps…
... then get the mini-drawer shelf and vertical partitions put in place. Run a bead of glue in the dados for drawer mini-bank:
Place the bank and put clamps on the cabinet:
Finally, no more clamps. Cabinet is now as ready for a backside as it’s ever gonna be:
After playing around with measuring and planing over the weekend, the ten pieces should fit nice and snug, with a little play for wood movement. How much will they move? To my way of thinking, one advantage to vintage wood (50+ years) is dimensional stability. I did a quick depth check of the perimeter rabbets, taking a few shavings with the #92 shoulder plane and a chisel. All boards were laid in for final fit check, and install could begin.
I’ll screw them in, with two at the top of each board, one set into the middle shelf, and another one set into the board at the bottom shelf. The 1” slotted screws I’ll use are from a flea mkt in North St Louis. Very rusty, so an Evaporust bath was in order.
After the bath (can you spot the one that’s a ‘before’ example?):
I started by driving the screws in every other hole at the top of the cabinet, then set a second screw in each at the midpoint of the cabinet. Those I knew where to locate because I drew a couple of lines to define the shelf before the backing was laid in. Here’s the standard bit in the brace I used to drive the screws. Effortless work, let me tell you. Not kidding. It’s a great way to set screws into wood!
Here’s a pic of marks setting the boundaries for the center line of screws.
With everything ‘screwed up,’ here’s the cabinet with a backside!
And just like that, we have a three-sided cabinet! The whole back will still get a light sanding and a hit of Watco’s to seal it, but this stage is DONE! :-) Thanks for looking!
-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive