How to attach face frame to shelf unit.


<Beginner question warning>
I'm building a shelf unit. It's pretty simple, basically a 5' wide x 13" high x 12" D box that I'll be hanging over a desk. Besides the two "end" upright pieces, there are two other "dividers", so it's roughly this shape:
________ | | | | --------------
(imagine that the top and bottom touch the four upright pieces).
It's all made of oak 3/4" ply, dado joints, glued and screwed. Now I've made a face frame for it from 1x2 oak. It is made of six pieces, the same shape as the front of the unit, except that it extends outward 3/4" in all directions. I used a router to make "half-lap" joints (is that the right term?) between the uprights and the horizontal pieces. I haven't fastened the frame pieces to each other, nor to the main unit yet.
I'm thinking of gluing up the face frame first, while it is dry clamped to the main unit to ensure that it will fit the "shape" correctly. My first question is this: Do I need some sort of fastener (nails, dowels, whatever) at the vertices of the face frame, or will glue alone hold it together adequately? If I do need a fastener, can I use tiny brads from the back?
Next, how do I fasten the face frame to the main unit? I don't have a biscuit joiner, and I don't think I'll be buying one. I do have at least 10 clamps that are long enough to hold the face frame on while gluing. So I could use glue and finish nails, then fill the holes with... well, what would you use?
I considered using metal angle and screws to attach the frame, since the frame overlaps the main unit on all sides. It would allow me not to have any holes in the front of the frame. That would work, of course and wouldn't be seen except by very curious people , but it feels wrong somehow.
If I was a much more precise guy I suppose I could use dowels or pins of some kind between the back of the frame and the main unit, which wouldn't come through the front of the frame. Lining that up seems a little iffy though.
So now that I've demonstrated my ignorance, any suggestions?
Greg Guarino
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Pocket screws work well. Tom
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Glue should be enough since you are using lap joints. Many of us just butt them together with glue and pocket screws. I like to attach the face frame with a finish nailer. Finish nails will work if you don't have a nailer. I just fill the holes.
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I use a blind nailer to fasten face frames. Basically, it raises a sliver of wood, a nail is hit home and countersunk and then the sliver of wood is glued back in place. Very easy, very clean.With a little practice, it makes the attachment point virtually invisible. LV recommends fish glue, but my preference is white carpenter's glue.
http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=1&p2683&cat=1,41182
If you do use this method, I suggest that with hardwood, a slightly undersized hole be drilled in the hardwood to permit easier insertion of the nail. It's a bummer when you're doing a lot of hammering to bang the nail home and you deflect off the nail crushing a portion of your face frame. <g>
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Upscale wrote:

I've contemplated that very tool, but the product description warns not to use it in brittle woods like cherry. Unfortunately, this is mostly what I work with. Have you ever used it on cherry, and if so, how did it do for you?
TIA.
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No I haven't. I've used it in Oak and Maple only. However, after using it for awhile, I'm of the opinion that the effectiveness of the tool is more dependent on technique than the type of wood being used. That thought occurred to me after I had initial difficulty using it on veneered plywood. At the very least, Lee Valley Tools warranty should cover you if you don't like it. You might want to try it out if/when you place your next order. Alternatively, someone else here may be able to give you information on cherry and the nailer.
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Upscale wrote:

Thanks for the input. Maple is the other wood they "warn" you against, so if it's working for you in maple, that's a good sign.
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Well, I do admit to initially having trouble raising a sliver in the maple because of its hardness. I found that a little practise and the dabbing of the area with a damp sponge made the maple temporarily more pliable greatly assisting in properly raising a sliver without it breaking.
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Greg Guarino wrote:

Just glue it on. If you feel that you just *have* to have some sort of mechanical fastener as well (you don't), either nail it through a raised sliver (glue down sliver after) or (my favorite) use countersunk screws and plug the screw hole with face grain plugs. Very salty (nautical) :)
--
dadiOH
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wrote:

Thanks for the reply. Your way sounds attractive; no holes to fill, etc. But let me put a finer point on it. The oak 1x2 is reasonably straight, but I'm sure there's a little warp to it. can get it straight with the clamps while the glue dries, but will the glue hold afterwards?
How many clamps do you think I'll need? There are 2 horizontal pieces, 5' long and four verticals, about 13" long. The frame will be glued up as a unit beforehand. Would it be OK to clamp at each vertex (8 clamps) plus one in the middle of the center span of each horizontal? Or do I need direct pressure in the center of each upright as well? I believe I own 12 clamps long enough for this job.
Greg Guarino
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a
while
of
raised
screws
Yes assuming the thing isn't bent like a bow now. Even if it was, it would probably hold. ______________

I'd put 4-5 on each long piece, one on each vertical in center. If you don't have enough clamps you can always loosely clamp 2x4s to the whole works (one clamp each end) and use wedges between 2x4 and frame for pressure. People always forget wedges, don't know why...very handy.
--
dadiOH
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damn, I was hoping for a more complete answer. It is a basic point of woodworking, how to do this. Something like, you fasten the whole face frame together first, then attach it after to the body as a single unit. The way to ensure it is created correcrtly, place it upside down on a flat desk, and check it by lifting the body onto it, remove and let set. Then it is EASY to do dowels, OR use finish nails. I do not know if this is even close. This is a consideration when building a built in cabinet with drawers. I just built 8 drawers and mounted them into 3 uprights (2 x 4 high drawers). No face frame. If I did, it is easier to use false door fronts screwd on after the box is made and hung. This allows planing, micro positioning of the drawer faces w/r/t the face frame installed. Again. don't know the procedure.
I think that if you went to the library (not suggesting it) and got a handfull on books on the subject THIS would be clear. A little research project on a specific point. I researched what I thought would be a good book(s) on woodworking. I got my first one 1/2 price at LV. "Making Tables and Chairs", bty Nick Engler. There is about 46 in a series, not a numbered series, buyt each title covers a different subject. In Toronto, the over 100 libraries have nearly all of them. Each book is about 120 pages, on a specific topic, gluing and clamping,. Yes there is more complete info on each topic, but as is, 46x120 = 5520 pages, two Machinery's Handbooks! It is also the best of information. Alll points important. All the good stuff you need to know. No crap. Learn tonnes! Read a set of ww info like this, bit by this, and you don't have to ask simple Q's like this. Although not 1/100th as qualified to answer, you'll probably be 10x more likely to know the right answer.
Open the links with the 47 quantity beside it, and look at the titles. Hardcover, or soft. Matching size and cover design and covers. Besides the title each of the 47 also says "The Workshop Companion", and "Techniques For Better Woodworking".
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oh, the site, <http://hip.tpl.toronto.on.ca/ipac20/ipac.jsp?session=N145641A1206F.44513&menu=search&aspect=subtab25&npp%&ipp &spp &profile=rs&ri=&index&term=engler%2C+nick&aspect=subtab25&x=3&y=8#focus>
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