Cabinet Basics pt 2: Face Frames

Last week, I covered how I create the carcass of a base cabinet.  At this point, we have two sides, a back and a floor: doesn’t look much like a cabinet at this point.  Here is the fun part…

I make my face frames 1/2″ wider than my carcass.  I do this for two reasons:

  1. An exposed side accepts a 1/4″ piece of plywood nicely; the plywood tucks in just behind the edge of the face frame to make a nice flush plane.
  2. Two cabinets that sit side by side can hold a half inch thick piece of plywood between them.  This helps for spacing and for clamping the cabinets together during installation.
Knowing this rule of thumb, we can now start designing the face frame.  One of my current projects around the house is redoing the bathroom.  I’m pulling up the floor and putting down new tile, etc.  I am also putting in a new sink.  The bathroom isn’t big, so a standard sink base is much too large for the space.  A sane person would put in a pedestal sink, but my wife wants his and her sinks (two basins).  There is no way I can fit a standard double sink in my bathroom, so custom work, here I come.  I decided to make a base cabinet that is 48″ wide by 19″ deep.  This is just wide enough that I can get two sink bowls into the unit without it intruding into the tub.  Given this dimension, I had to modify my normal carcass design a bit, but I followed that process the same way, just with narrower sides.  The face frame width is the overall width, so the carcass became 47.5″ wide.
I opened up Microsoft Visio, my favorite tool for designing cabinets and other woodworking projects, and began laying out the parts that would become the face frame.  I started with some basics:
  1. All pieces are 2″ wide.  I sometimes break this rule if I have side-by-side doors, in which case I will go up to 4″ depending on the spacing of the rest of the parts (basically filler).
  2. The outside-most vertical pieces stretch the entire way up (toe kick to the counter top).  This is always unbroken; no cuts, no jogs, etc.
  3. The top-most and bottom-most horizontal but into the sides of the outer-most verticals.  Again, no cuts or jogs.
  4. If you are using premade doors like I did, know the dimensions of the doors before designing the openings for the doors.  Don’t assume that you will find a door that perfectly matches your arbitrary opening dimension.
After some design work, I came up with the following:
Face Frame
Just to note, the inner verticals are also 2″ in real life.
Time for cutting!  I picked up 2 8′ 1×6 oak boards at Menards and ripped them down to 4 1″x2″x8′.  From these, I cut two 30.5 inch boards for the outer verticals.  This takes up a total of 4″ from the overall width of 48″.  This means I have a length of 44″ for the top, middle, and bottom cross pieces.  From there, I took the dimension of the doors and subtracted one inch from both the height and width.  This gave me a half-inch overlap all the way around the door.  Using these dimensions, I was able to place the inner horizontal from the bottom horizontal and also the inner verticals.   As for the heights of the drawers, this became arbitrary.  Since I’m making the drawer faces myself, they didn’t have to match anything.   I found that four drawers with a two inch gap between seemed to create a good proportion given the remaining width after the doors and verticals.  The top three gaps will be false drawer fronts.
Assembly:  If you don’t have a pocket hole jig, please invest the money.  I have a $15 set from Kreg.  I love it.  I can’t imagine building any piece of furniture without it.  It is simple, it creates excellent joints.  Seriously, pocket hole jigs are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, so do yourself a favor and get one.  Seriously.
Having said that, find the worse side of each piece and designate this as the back.  The butt end of each piece that matches up against a side of another will be drilled using the pocket hole jig.  In this case, the 2″ board is wide enough for two holes.  Each hole then accepts a screw which is driven in and, therefore, into the side of the adjoining piece.  Easy as pie.
Joining the face frame to the carcass:  I’ve done this several ways.  My favorite way is using my biscuit jointer and cutting biscuit slots in the edge of the carcass sides and the back of the face frame.  This takes a little time and not everyone has a biscuit jointer.  Alternatively, I have found that a 1″ wide piece of the same material used to create the face frame can be glued to the carcass flush with the edge of the side.  This creates a 1.5″ wide flange to glue the face frame onto the carcass.  It may be a bit kludgy, but it works.
Let it all dry.  Next week, we tackle the countertop.

Cabinet Basics

Enough electronics, let’s get back to woodworking…

This spring’s big project was a re-organization of the garage.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I dismantled my work bench last fall in order to create more temporary storage space in the garage.  It is now  time to get the the shop back in working order.

Earlier, I displayed my plans for my new workbench, which is basically a series of 36″ wide cabinet bases with an MDF countertop.  I wanted to take a moment to go into how I do the cabinets.

I start out with a 4′ x 8′ sheet of 1/2″ sanded pine plywood.  Cut off a 4′ x 2′ 10.5″ piece.  From this piece, make two 1′ 11.25″ pieces.  Here are the sides. 

Now consider the outside width of the cabinet and subtract one inch.  This will be the width of the floor.  My outside dimension is 36″ overall, so my floor is 35″.  Obviously, yours will vary.  Assuming your cabinet is no more than 49″ wide overall, you can continue making the floor.  Cut   1′ 11.25″ from the original sheet.  Cut the 1′ 11.25″ wide  piece down from 4′ to your calculated floor length.

The last piece is the back.  The back will be the same with as the floor, but it is a little deeper.  From the original stock sheet, cut a piece 2′ 4.5″ deep.  Cut this piece down to the width of the floor.

At this point, we can turn our attention back to the sides, since they require a little work.  First, find the nicer side of each side piece.  Note the nicer side of each piece as the inside (the same will be true for the floor and back).  The inside will require two dado cuts.  (If you don’t yet have a stack dado set for your table saw, this is a great reason to go get one.  It doesn’t need to be fancy; mine was about $10 and has paid for itself many times over in terms of saving frustration.)  Set your stack dado to a width of 1/2″ and set your rip fence to 1/2″ away from the blade.  Set the height of the blade to 1/4″.  Cut a dado across what you consider the back of the inside of each piece (this groove will accept the back).  Next, set your rip fence to 5.5″ and cut a dado across the bottom of the side (this groove will accept the floor).

The front side edge of the sides now need to be notched for the toe kick.  Cut a 4.5″ deep x 2.25″ wide rectangle out of the front corners of each side.  At this point, you should have the following:

Base side

All the parts are now ready to assemble.  Fill the dado grooves with a bead of glue and press in the floor and back.  I like to have the cabinet laying on its side at this point, but do whatever works best for you.  Set the floor in first.  The back will reach from the top of the floor to the top of the sides.  4d finish nails will hold the panels in place while the glue dries.

The carcass is now complete.  Next week: face frames!

One too many things to consider

Having decided to reorganize my workshop, I drew up some plans for cabinets that would run across the back of garage.  This would provide solutions to two issues: first, it gives me more storage space and secondly, it provides a work surface (a.k.a. a work bench).  I figured this would be a great time to design a workbench and storage solution that would not only give me a great work place, but also integrate my tools in such a way that I don’t just have tools on my workbench, but rather integrated for least impact when not in use.  I got cracking in Visio and designed what I felt to be the best option for my new workbench and cabinets.

Back Wall diagram

From left to right, I added two 36″ wide base cabinets at 36″ high.  These are followed by a shorter cabinet.  This one is 17″ wide.  It sits 3.75″ shorter than the standard 36″ tall cabinet because this one holds the compound miter saw.  The deck of the saw is 3.75″ high, which taking the shortened hight of the cabinet into account sets the deck of the saw flush with the rest of the counter.  This is followed by a third standard 36″ cabinet. 

After the first four cabinets, there is a gap.  The width of this gap is the width of my table saw deck.  I’ve also built a new rolling stand for my table saw that places the table surface of the saw at 36″.  When the saw is rolled into the gap, the saw deck, again, sits flush with the counter.  Another 36″ wide base cabinet sits to the right.  One 18″ wide cabinet will be created  to sit in the far right corner.  If my math is correct, there will be a gap between these last two that are wide enough for my garbage can to tuck between the cabinets and under the counter.

The counter top material is 3/4″ MDF sitting on 3/4″ pine strips that run the depth of the cabinets.  The face of the MDF is a 2×4 cut down to a final dimension of 1.5″ deep by 2″ high and attached by biscuts.  I haven’t yet decided if I’ll route a round-over across the top edge or if I’ll keep it square.

The first four cabinets are complete and in place.  I was excited to move the tablesaw in place.  I then picked up my compound miter saw and dropped it onto the short cabinet.  Yes, the deck of the saw perfectly matches the height of the MDF countertop, but I didn’t take the required depth of the saw into account.  The saw has a good deal of structure behind the cutting deck’s fence, which pushes the saw out from the way a great deal.  Furthermore, the saw is a sliding model, which requries 9 more inches to get the blade all the way back.  Now looking at the setup, the saw would have to hang off the front of the counter in order to get the blade all of the way back.  In doing so, the deck no longer is supported by the countertop on either side.

How disheartening.  At least it looked good on paper.  It would have been a great setup if it had worked, but I can’t keep it this way.  The compound miter saw is completely unuseable in this space.  I expect that I’ll end up doing another pull out solution like I did with my table saw. 

My wife suggested that the roll-out stand that I build for the compound miter saw should have a pair of fold-out arms to support wide pieces while cutting (to make up for the fact that I can’t use the counters anymore.  She is so smart.  I knew there was a reason I love her.

Sometimes it isn’t worth going overboard when trying to get every last piece to integrate perfectly.  Some things have too many variables.  As a woodworker, I hate to admit that third dimension is too many for me to handle, but in this case that is where I went wrong.  I’ll chalk it up to learning.

Moving Parts

Last summer, my lovely wife Jennifer and I remodeled our kitchen.  This included tearing out the floor and adding more insulation to the crawl space below.  Obviously, without a floor, EVERYTHING that was in the kitchen needed to be removed: appliances, cabinets, furnishings, the whole nine yards.  Anything we didn’t need immediately went into the garage.  This included the old upper wall cabinets, which I decided to keep for my shop as we replaced all of the kitchen cabinets with new ones.

Eventually the kitchen project came to what I consider a finish.  My wife disagrees, pointing out a few places that need some touch-up.  Meanwhile, my garage is now full of junk; so much so that most of last summer, our cars were parked in the drivewway because there was no room for them in the garage.  As winter rolled in, we needed to get the cars in the garage, which meant something had to go.  The easiest solution was to tear down my workbench and use the space it took up for storage of the things that took up all the room in our parking spaces.

Not having a workbench is not only a foriegn concept to me, but also creates a new problem: where do I put all the things that used to be on my workbench?  Every other surface is already covered with junk from the kitchen, so where do I put things like my bench sander, drill press, and compound miter saw?  I’m ashamed to say that these have been tucked away in dank, dark corners of my garage that I haven’t seen now in months.

During the winter, my wife and I made a list of all the things that we need to fix in the house in order to get it into a sellable state (just in case).  Jenn asked me if I could start working on some of these things, which up front seems perfectly reasonable.  Looking at the list, however, I begin thinking of what tools I’ll need to approach the projects and then realize that I have no clue where these tools are.  I know I have a drill.  It is orange and black.  It is somewhere in my garage.  The key word here is “somewhere”.

It is clear to me that before anything happens, the garage needs to be organized.  I need to move all of the junk out, build a new workbench, and get my tools back into a spot where I can find and use them.  So begins the great shop rebuild of 2011.  More details to come.