Why is building a small cabinet such a pain?

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Blog entry by technicallymark posted 04-24-2010 06:14 AM 1130 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve looked at books for new woodworkers that laid out several different projects to build various skill sets. I like the concept, but enjoy being creative when it comes to thinking about projects to build. My first project was a woodworking bench from FWW last summer. I put the hobby on hold as far as building goes, but read and watched as much as I could and even took a class at my local Woodcraft store. So I’ve had a great deal of time to think about what kind of projects I would like to tackle and hopefully fit well with my limited skill set.

My other hobby is flying remote control airplanes. I needed a good utility type box to hold a couple of 12 volt batteries, a battery charger and a motor starter. I really didn’t do much planning since I had made a previous box but wanted something a little more substantial. I would even hesitate to call it a project since there was very little joinery involved and mostly butt joints. I did make a small drawer that came out good enough for me so that was one thing I hadn’t built yet.

So ideas for my next project were just swirling around in my head and it was just a matter of grabbing one and going for it. I’m relatively practical so I knew it had to be some kind of cabinet for my cordless power tools because the clutter in the garage was getting to me. I became even more practical and thought of building a rolling cabinet that my contractor saw could sit on and also provide storage for blades and other items. After 5 drafts of what I wanted using Sketchup, I was happy with what I had come up with and decided to get to it.

Its a simple plywood case cabinet with a drawer on one side, open storage on the other with a simple door, a shallow but wide drawer above that area, and a top with a cut out and port on the back to attach my shop vac to for dust collection. Unfortunately, I don’t have a truck so I have to rely on the panel saw at the BigBoxStore to do some of the cutting for me. Cutting the sheet in the middle seemed the best way to limit the number of cuts done by the panel saw and I could do the rest at home.

I have the sides, top, and bottom cut and sized to my dimensions. For cutting the dado and rabbets, I purchased a “plywood” router bit, or a 18mm straight bit to be more accurate. My first thought was to use a jig I made for making dado cuts but to lay the sides next to each other and just keep routing from the beginning of one side to the end of the other. Well, that didn’t work out all that great and I decided to actually use a pencil and mark the position of the dado and hope my marking and routing would be precise enough so the shelves could be somewhat level and perpendicular to the sides. I’m not sure how but I ended up actually routing different depths at different areas of the sides! It seemed so simple but leave it to me to make more work for myself. But I was able to clean it up successfully tonight and no worse for the wear. But somehow, I couldn’t make even cuts for the top and bottom and they turned out slightly different. Even putting a square on all four corners, I couldn’t really tell what went wrong. The bright side is that I was able to use both of my hand planes on the edges to really come close to evening everything up!

When I finally did a dry fit tonight, with only the top, bottom, and sides mind you, there was still a slight skew when it came to the bottom shelf, but with a little coaxing I think I can make it work. I’m sure some of my problem is the quality of the plywood that I purchased and probably shouldn’t have relied on good factory edges when I started to make cuts. I think the main thing I’ll learn from this project is how to correct my mistakes! And I figure if I can just laugh at myself and learn, I won’t become too frustrated. I’ll probably take some pictures and post them tomorrow and maybe someone else will get a good laugh, which will probably make it all worth while. My original goal to make the cabinet, including wheels, be at the same height as the metal stand that the saw is currently setting on was confirmed as accurate tonight, so I’ll focus on that success and just keep working at drawing and cutting straight lines!

-- Love the taste of sawdust in the morning!

1 comment so far

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401 posts in 2967 days

#1 posted 04-24-2010 03:18 PM

I use factory edges to make an initial cut making the piece 1/4” wider than needed, then flip the piece over and cut to size. Also take the time to inspect the factory edges for defects and foreign material such as staples, bumps of glue and nicks and splinters.

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