Friday, January 30, 2009

Edgy! And biscuity...

I've spent most of my evenings this week trying to decide how I was going to make the applied edges on my cabinets. While I don't have any illusions that these cabinets are going to be high-end, top quality cabinets, I couldn't bring myself to even consider those cheesy self-adhesive edges. When I was picking up my plywood I looked at these pre-made wooden edges that were actually really nice. They were solid wood, 1/8" thick, and all quarter-sawn. No birch though - so much for that. Because there is more than 250' of edges total I tried to come up with something that would speed up the application. I don't have hundreds of clamps, so my initial idea was to apply a heavy edge, 1/2", and use my 18ga nailer and glue to fasten them to the plywood. An 18ga nail leaves a super small hole and the tiny amount of filler needed would probably go un-noticed. I thought that a thicker edge would also have the added advantage of rigidity, meaning there would be less clamping pressure necessary to close up the joint. I made a couple samples however and it turns out I was wrong. The difference in color in the pre-finished ply and the solid edges didn't look good either. It became immediately apparent that I'd have to think of something else.

After some searching on the internet I read about the 'Burgess Edge System', a router bit set that cuts a cove in the plywood edge and a bullnose on the solid edge. The two profiles match exactly and it leaves a a tiny little lip on each edge, ideally leaving just the top sheet of the ply untouched.

I bought the set from lee valley and after some buggering around with the supplied shim kit I was glueing up my first couple test pieces. The edge is applied thick and once glued up it is flushed to the faces and trimmed on the tablesaw to whatever thickness is desired. I think I'll leave the edges at about 1/16" - I like the look. Another nice feature is that it leaves such a small shoulder, requiring a very small amount of pressure to close up the joint.

Another concern that I've been testing is removing the finish from the plywood in the joint locations. Obviously glue doesn't stick well to hardened epoxy, and I didn't really trust the biscuits alone to hold things together. After a failed attempt to scrape the finish off I decided to stick to a laminate trimmer. It's difficult to maintain the necessary 0.002 cut, but it turns out that even if the cut ends up heavier it doesn't seem to really effect the fit of the joint.

I've also been playing around with my biscuit joiner, which is brand-spanking new. It's pretty straightforward. I think that while operating it is pretty much dummy-proof, the margin of error lies in the proper layout. Making sure that the correct reference face is used while cutting the biscuits locations seems like it could screw a fella up quick!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

All pieces (and fingers) accounted for!

This weekend I managed to get all the pieces for my cabinet cut out. Well, kinda. I made a spreadsheet of all the pieces I needed, and I made one column for finished dimensions, one column for dimensions prior to the addition of any applied edges, and one column for 'rough dimensions' which was 1/2" oversize. In hind sight I suppose I could've cut everything out so it was ready for applied edges but I decided to play it safe. I was concerned about my ability to cut all the panels straight and square while pushing a full sheet across the tablesaw. It turns out though that it wasn't too difficult, and it all went fairly quickly. I built a big monster crosscut sled on saturday, and while it was a pain in the butt to take on and off the saw, it turned out to be very helpful.

I always wanted to incorporate an adjustable stop and a built in measuring tape on a crosscut sled. It works great.

As I pulled each sheet out of the pile I noticed a few things. I decided to go with veneer ply rather than MDF or particleboard core due to its strength. I want to build concrete countertops and I didn't want the base cabinets buckling under the load. I think though, again in hind sight, I might go with a different core if I were to do this again. There were several imperfections in the surface of the material, caused by voids in the core plys. I made a point of helping the guy at PJ White load the plywood on my trailer so I could cull any flawed sheets, which there were lots of! Of the 16 sheets I bought I think we put 8-10 aside because of glaring flaws. It was a brand new lift too, not one that had been picked through, we took the bands off and started pulling sheets. Anyhow, some minor flaws were obviously missed because a few sheets are a bit rough. It was simple to cut around the obvious screw ups, but nonetheless - you pay the same for a flawed sheet as a good one!

Working with this pre-finished stuff is a bit tricky. Even though it's baked-on epoxy it is still susceptible to scratches so you have to watch what you're doing. I believe this is C-Grade, so while both sides are finished, there's a good side and a bad side. I actually like the color of the bad side better, but there is lots of knots and filler, so I'll keep it to the inside of the cabinets.

This is the entire off-cut pile after cutting 11 sheets, 115 pieces total.

The next step is to apply edges and cut to final dimensions, which has it's own list of 'how the hell am I going to ...?' things. For instance, I'm currently testing methods of finishing an applied edge that is glued and flushed to a pre-finished panel without having an obvious masking tape line. I think 0000 steel wool and wax will be used liberally.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tablesaw Thoughts

I like machines. I like big old industrial machines, they fascinate me. I love wandering around factories, machine shops, anywhere that machines are clanking away, sawdust and metal chips flying.

That being said, I don't like tablesaws. I appreciate the importance of a tablesaw, for sheet stock they're necessary, but I prefer crosscutting on a miter saw whenever possible, and don't even consider ripping lumber on anything but a bandsaw. I had a mishap with the cabinet saw when I was out at the Rosewood Studio. I was cutting a piece of particleboard and it got pinched between the fence and blade, firing it into my (ahem) midsection. When I was in high school I watched a kid run his hand through the tablesaw too, losing three fingers.

As I've been buying machinery I look through catalogues, old woodworking forums, etc etc, and drool over 16" jointers, 36" bandsaws, 60" three grit drum sanders, but I don't give a damn about a bigger tablesaw. I'll keep rocking my little 1-3/4 hp Dewalt hybrid, and save my money for a bigger jointer. I like the fact that it stalls when a sheet of plywood gets bound up, rather than throwing the sheet back at me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Now I need a robo-laser plywood cutter-outer.

While I was at the office 'working' today I finally got my cut list finalized for my cabinets. I found a program online called 'Cut Optimizer' that allows you to enter your inventory of material and your list of required pieces, and it designs a cut pattern that minimizes waste. When I bought my material I made a tally of all my pieces and thought that I could squeeze it out of 13 sheets - but it would be tight because I didn't factor in the shelves in the wall cabinets. The software today spit out a cut pattern that got all my pieces, everything, out of 9 sheets.

Lets see your silly wooden handplane do that!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Makeshift Cabinet Shop

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm going to complete all the casework for my kitchen cabinets in my garage. It's far from luxurious, but it's sufficient.

Just a CNC router and a drinking problem away from a production cabinet shop! I've been busy the last few days getting all my machines set up, wiring some extra plug-ins, building fixtures, etc etc. Due to the confined space and temporary nature of this location, I tried to set things up as simply as possible. No dust collection yet, it's still in the crate!

Get a load of the toilet seat clock on the far wall. Classy! Getting things ready to start making sawdust wasn't without mishap however. I built a sheet goods cart to help move all the veneer ply around but once I got about 12 sheets on it I noticed a pretty considerable sag in the base. I just started off-loading all the sheets when it collapsed, sending the stack up against the bandsaw, damaging the top sheet. Fack! Oh well,there's lots of places that will only be seen from one side where I can hide a scrape. At least it didn't tip over the bandsaw. That thought raced through my mind when I saw it start to go...

I built the cart so one side could hold full sheets and the other side has bunks for off-cuts. See how the base of the cart is actually two halves? I did that so the side that stands upright, that supports the sheets leaning up against it, would be captured at the bottom. I was worried that if I made a solid base and then screwed some type of box on top the weight of the sheets would just push it over. Unfortunately though that seam buckled and pulled apart. I'll fix it up and put another set of casters underneath it.

The previous owner left a whole stack of these stickers. They're so obnoxious and ... Albertan! I stuck them all over everything.

I don't know how functional this setup will be. It's hard to free up any more room AND swing full sheets around. Both the jointer and planer are on wheels though, so I can get them out of the way if I have to.

Drill press and nudie calendar. I love nudie calenders, they're so old school cheeseball. It reminds me of my grandpa's garage. The girls are all old and heavy, with botched boob jobs and c-section scars. Hilarious.

Ta-Da!! Here she is, in all her cast iron glory. I had a be-atch of a time getting this thing through the door by myself. It's a couple inches taller than the lip on the end of the overhead door so I had to tip it forward and drag it into place. I'm not sure what it weighs, but the bill of lading when it was delivered said 800lbs, enough to squash me like a bug. I haven't actually run it up yet though, it's 3 phase so I'll have to rob the VFD off my milling machine. Baby steps...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

You wanna eat?

...then you need a kitchen.

I've been blog lazy the last few weeks, but there hasn't been much to talk about. I've been working on my house, and have finally got to a point where I can start building the kitchen cabinets. Here's a drawing I've been working on to make sure everything would fit together properly. Unfortunately my house has oddball dimensions after furring the interior walls 2" for insulation. Rather than the nice 16" devisible window spacing, my cabinets will end up being... unique! I also used this drawing to show people to get their input regarding functionality. There were a few revisions, and I think I have it now to a point where I can start snapping measurements off this drawing on to a set of 2D construction drawings. It's nice to have the 3D representation first though, to make sure everything jives. It's like having a mockup, sorta.

Obviously I'm not going to paint the frames purple and the panels grey. I didn't bother rendering 'real wood' into the drawing because it takes forever and eats up memory like crazy. The doors and drawer fronts are all simple frame and panel, birch. I'm going to use pre-finished birch veneer ply for the casework. Expensive, but it'll save hours of finishing time as well as eliminate all the space I would need to lay all the cabinet components out for finishing. Another added benefit is the final finished surface, which is a baked on epoxy. Supposedly it's near indestructible, yet has a nice matte finish. Not the ugly glossy varathane look I expected.

For the casework I'm going to stick to my makeshift garage shop. It's comfortable enough to get everything cut out in there, but then I'm going to move the pieces into the kitchen itself for assembly and glue up. The extra room and regulated temperature in the house will be much needed! Also, it will allow me to hang cabinets as I finish them rather than have them sitting around.