Help with attaching back panel

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Forum topic by Mdciolli posted 03-08-2015 03:53 AM 657 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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20 posts in 972 days

03-08-2015 03:53 AM

This is an essential oils cabinet I’m making. The top shelf is still being finished. It’s taking a bit longer as I had to drill some counter bored holes to accommodate some larger bottles. It has all been finished with 3 coats of oil & urethane. I have a few questions.

1) the back panel is going in a rabbet. I have read not to glue it (hense why I finished the panel before installing), but to nail it or screw it. The carcass is 3/4 inch thick with a 3/8 rabbet. I don’t think screws would work unless I get small ones. I was planning to nail it on using predrilled holes with the holes in the panel slightly elongated. I was told to only use a nail in the center of each piece of the panel (which is made of 4 strips). My question is, somewhere during the finishing stage, the panel developed a very slight warp. I’m concerned about the nails holding it in flat. Would I be better off using small screws instead of nails? I’m not really concerned about the appearance as this will be on a counter and the back of the back will rarely be seen. That being said, I have spent some time on it and don’t really want to ruin it now. Suggestions?
2) I was told to wait three days after the final coat and then rub it with steel wool. Why is this needed? This is my first experience finishing a project. It feels smooth to me. I’m worried of adding scratches.

Thanks in advance for the help!

11 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


3970 posts in 1773 days

#1 posted 03-08-2015 04:00 AM

Normally you wouldn’t make a back into a single panel like that but use tongue and groove on individual boards. Then they can be nailed on one side only and that spreads the movement across several small boards so that the allowance for movement is small for each board.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Mike Throckmorton's profile

Mike Throckmorton

124 posts in 1087 days

#2 posted 03-08-2015 04:29 AM

That is the most beautiful back panel I have ever seen.

-- You are never complete, you just draw a line where done is and stop at that line.

View TheFridge's profile


5678 posts in 908 days

#3 posted 03-08-2015 04:56 AM

It is pretty sweet.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View bobkberg's profile


420 posts in 2495 days

#4 posted 03-08-2015 05:04 AM

The reason (IMHO) for waiting 3 days is to let the finish cure enough that sanding or rubbing doesn’t tear it.

Depending on the specific finish, you would want to wait more or less time, but in general, the longer you wait, the better the curing of the finish.

That said, if you do your rubbing with steel wool, rather than sandpaper, you are less likely to put scratches in the finish.

Hope that helps.

-- Bob - A sideline, not how I earn a living

View ElChe's profile


630 posts in 758 days

#5 posted 03-08-2015 05:07 AM

I’ve had success gluing in a 1/3 of a wider panel and leaving the rest unglued but that is for a panel that slides into a dado like lets say a wide drawer. Letting the finish cure before rubbing is the way to go. I prefer to rub out the finish with a felt pad and rottenstone using mineral oil for lubrication.

-- Tom - Measure twice cut once. Then measure again. Curse. Fudge.

View waho6o9's profile (online now)


7121 posts in 1999 days

#6 posted 03-08-2015 05:10 AM

How about using rare earth magnets?

View jerryminer's profile


498 posts in 863 days

#7 posted 03-08-2015 09:07 AM

Nails or screws. Whatever. The problem you’re going to have with that back is the expansion/contraction since it is solid wood. (Did you leave room for expansion?)

You won’t like this suggestion, but you’d be better off replacing that back with a piece of 1/4” walnut plywood—-more stable. (Or take Bondo’s idea and cut it into 3 or 4 boards with a T&G or slot-and-spline connection, so the shrinkage/expansion is divided between several boards.)

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 636 days

#8 posted 03-08-2015 01:03 PM

I too think that the panel is beautiful but the wrong element for your project. It is too thick, contains cross joints when attached, is prone to cupping and on and on. Instead of using that panel (save it for something else) switch out foe the T&G or transform that panel into T&G (you’ll need to add a piece). Ship-lap or T&G are the traditional back panel configurations and either one would work in this situation. Since ship-lap is generally the easier one to execute I’d recommend that one.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View Mdciolli's profile


20 posts in 972 days

#9 posted 03-08-2015 01:14 PM

Thanks for the compliments and suggestions.

I did allow additional space on the sides of the panel to expand. I wanted to use walnut ply but they didn’t have any small pieces and didn’t want to buy a full sheet for such a small part. The panel is only 1/4 thick, so I don’t think its too big, it may appear that way in the photo though. The back panel measures roughly 12”x17”. I was told that this method would work as the panel is so small that expansion/contraction would be minimal. The lumber yard suggested I alternate the pieces in the panel so it would be less likely to cup, which I did.

View jdh122's profile


878 posts in 2239 days

#10 posted 03-08-2015 06:08 PM

My 2 cents: according to wood movement charts, that panel won’t move more than about a quarter of an inch seasonally, assuming you’re in an area with big seasonal humidity swings. (You can do more exact calculations at:
Personally I would think that if you nailed it only along the top and bottom of the panel it should be OK. The top and bottom of the cabinet will allow the nails to slide a little bit as the panel moves. But screws are much less likely to work for that.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View gfadvm's profile


14929 posts in 2112 days

#11 posted 03-09-2015 12:48 AM

I think with that panel being only 1/4”, you can get away with brad nailing the top and bottom. Cool looking piece!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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