am at the point in building the face frame for my tool cabinet where I have to cut steep angles on some prized cherry. To me, all cherry is prized lumber, but this cherry is even more precious because I have already resawn it and then fed it through my planer. I don’t want to have to do this all over again should I make a steep angle error. My planer is loud, it makes a mess and I really don’t like using it; but, I am fortunate to have one. Recently, I have found myself looking at new planers in Fine Woodworking, but my current plan for purchasing tools is to first get a low angle jack plane sometime this year. I’ll have to endure my love/hate thickness planer relationship for a while longer.
But, I need to cut some fussy angles for the next few steps in the build process. Like all things in woodworking, cutting the steep angles needed (see the components highlighted in blue above) can be accomplished a number of different ways. After giving the process considerable thought, I chose a plan of attack which I feel is about as simple as it gets. First, I’ll need to make a sled for my table saw. Here is what I envisioned…
I like this sled/toggle clamp approach because the left edge of the sled aligns with my table saw blade giving me the exact location of the cut. The toggle clamps enable me to move the stock in very subtle ways to achieve the precision cut needed for the angles. Also, the toggle clamps are screwed in place from under the sled which means I can move the toggle clamps as needed to cut the rails and triangular blocks.
A more sophisticated version of this sled would have t-tracks embedded in it so the toggle clamps could simply slide into the various positions needed to cut the angles eliminating the need to pre-drill counter-bored holes from underneath. T-tracks cost money and the plywood I chose is only 1/2″ thick, so I see mine as a disposable sled.
Getting a tight fit with the piece of hardwood which rides in my saw’s miter gauge slot is critical. I used hand planes and fine adjustments to my table saw to achieve the fit I wanted. Using hand planes is so much fun.
I simply mark the angle needed with a sharp pencil and carefully align the pencil mark with the edge of my sled. After making the cut, I check the angle; when I am happy that this angle is correct, I then make the square cut on the opposite end of the rail and install it using pocket screws.
With the sled’s toggle clamps I can easily position a component for fine cuts and then lock them in place. This all goes remarkably well.
Up to this point, I have had some disappointing pocket screw joints. Despite my best efforts at keeping the mating components aligned properly, there have been several instances where one board will be slightly proud of the mating surface. So, I decided to first glue the remaining triangular pieces in place, then reinforce them with pocket screws after the glue dries. But, clamping with these odd angles is a tricky business. I devised what I thought was a clever way to compensate for the angles when clamping…
By drilling sheet rock screws into the upper face frame, I now have a perpendicular point to clamp against. I thought this was pretty smart on my part. 🙂
I applied just enough pressure to get a little glue squeeze-out. Once the glue had set, I removed the clamps and the sheet rock screws. No one will ever see the holes these screws created.
Right now, the face frame is held in place with just five pocket screws. And note the diagonal brace which temporarily keeps the face frame square. The face frame wants to shift out of square a little. I’ll remove that when I attach the face frame with more screws.
I’m pretty pleased with how this looks. Next, I’ll put the web frames in place and then I’ll start to frame out the interior of the cabinet with things like drawer runners, etc. Then drawer construction will begin which will be a lot of work.
PS: Concerning the low angle jack plane I want to get this year – I am not sure I really need it. I am not doing a lot of face planing of rough stock which I see as the primary purpose of a jack plane. But it can shoot end-grain and can serve some other functions as well. So, right now, the jack plane is still high on my wish list.
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