Squaring up panel doors

I'm making two panel cabinet doors. Got all the pieces made and (mostly) sanded. Yesterday I decided to try to glue them up. I got one done, but not without a fair amount of angst and a flurry of unkind utterances in the direction of the wood, tools and the universe in general.
I spent my commute to work this morning musing on what I might have done differently.
As per suggestions here, I made the panel a little small, and didn't apply any glue to hold it in. I put one of the stiles in the bench vise and built the rest of the door up from there. Thus the door was essentially on its side during the process. Like so:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gdguarino/6402573917/lightbox /
Once I got it square I laid it on the bench and clamped it lightly.
I had three problems.
1. Squaring up: Once I got the last piece on (the top piece in this orientation) I put a framing square to one corner. It was off. No surprise there, but adjusting it (with a rubber mallet) seemed more problematic than I had expected. Having to tap it, then check, then tap, then check, then ... was tedious, especially when I needed to tap one of the rails *outward*.
2. Which brings me to the second problem. I have two black rubber mallets. I used the small one mostly; 8 oz., I think. Although I used a piece of scrap against the inside edge of the rail to give me a bigger target to hit, I still managed to put a black scuff mark on the panel. Luckily, the mark sanded out before I went through what I have learned is a very thin veneer, but I'd like to avoid that on the next one.
3. In the end the worst problem was that there was a slight gap between the rails and stiles, a gap that wasn't there when I dry fit the pieces. I doubt that anyone will notice this in the finished location (a few inches off the floor), but it disappoints me and I'd like to learn from whatever mistake I made.
Here is my own assessment of my mistakes and ideas for improvement.
1. I'm planning to make a jig of sorts, even though I have only one more door to glue up. I would assemble the door laying down on the bench instead of vertically. I'd make a (shallow) U-shaped jig that would hold the first stile snugly in position on the back of my bench. The side pieces of the jig would be just long enough to act as "stops" for the rails. I'd then make corner marks on the bench top itself (on painter's tape). I'm hoping that such marks will show me exactly where the corners of the finished piece should end up when it is square, rather than having to reapply the framing square (or worse, remeasure the diagonals) after each mallet blow.
2. To avoid scuff marks, I figure to use a thicker block with some sort of thin material under it to protect the face of the panel.
3. This one has me perplexed. The splines I used in the joints fit pretty tightly even when dry, but I'm pretty sure that gap wasn't there in the dry-fit. Is it possible that the splines (or the wood in the grooves) swelled a little from the moisture in the glue? (Titebond). If so, maybe I should shave down the splines just a bit. I should add that I was taught in High School (back when some of the trees this lumber came from from were young) to wipe off excess glue that squeezes out with a very wet rag, which I did. Maybe yet more moisture to add into the equation?
As always, thanks in advance.
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wrote:

That's PFTC.

Next time, try using mortise and tenon joinery instead of splines. It helps keep your panels flat and square without trying.

Either get a Nupla replaceable head mallet, or get a urethane mallet. They're scuff-free. http://goo.gl/JPBZR or http://goo.gl/QnrWQ

Bondo is your friend. <gd&r>

Not enough time to answer this one.

Yes, use a push stick of sorts. It protects the corners of the wood.

There should be room for glue on either edge of the spline (ie: if the grooves are each 3/8" deep, the spline should be less than 3/4" tall, maybe 5/8. And, yes, they will grow just a bit with moisture from the glue, but that gap you have may close up a little when dry.

Your high school teacher did you a disservice. Wet rags can flush out too much glue and contaminate the rest. I wait until the drips tack and then scrape them off in semi-solid form. Prefinishing the rails and stiles before machining and it saves a lot of headaches, too, even if you have to refinish later. You'll never get a glue mark if you do.

Wait'll you get out invoices, duuuude.
-- When a quiet man is moved to passion, it seems the very earth will shake. -- Stephanie Barron (Something for the Powers That Be to remember, eh?)
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On 11/28/2011 12:20 PM, Larry Jaques wrote:

Damn. And what's with all the AOFDUs ? (Acronyms Old Folks Don't Understand)
>> I spent my commute to work this morning musing on what I might have done

Sounds like a couple of notches above my current tool complement and skill set, especially for such narrow stock (3/4"). Unless tongue & groove counts as mortise and tenon. Still requires bits I don't have though.

Festive looking too.

I'm counting on myopia and inattentiveness.

I didn't count on that. Maybe next time. What if I was really picky about the spline filling the groove as seen from the end? What if I did have one of those fancy tongue & groove sets? Would I still need to leave a gap?

Wouldn't work on any glue that dried where the chamfered rail and stile meet, would it?
Prefinishing the rails

Now that sounds like a good idea. In fact, I believe that's what I did on my last significant project, although I can't remember why. I assume a couple of coats before gluing and the rest after is acceptable?

You'll have to get in line.
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wrote:

Old folks are the only ones who understand Par For The Course because newfangled kids don't -play- golf, even if the clubhouse is wired for WIFI.

It requires either a mortising chisel+backsaw or tablesaw/router/mortising machine setup.

Aren't they, though?

What, you're not painting them?

Hopefully, the T&G sets are different lengths.

Yes.
Yes, anything to seal the wood before gluing prevents the glue from preventing finish from sticking. If you do that, you can use a thumbnail to flick the excess glue off. It's great.

Youse wants ta wake up wit a horse head in your bed, son?
-- When a quiet man is moved to passion, it seems the very earth will shake. -- Stephanie Barron (Something for the Powers That Be to remember, eh?)
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- I just do them flat on their back on a table with light clamping pressure. - I do the stiles a little long and the rails a hair fat. Let the stiles hang at each end and trim flush and to size at the TS later - I never woory about square but I am typically using cope and stick joinery and cut the rails super square and flushing up with clamps just squares everything up on it's own. Normal procedure for furniture building in my camp. Square parts, square assembly. - If I needed to square things using your method, I would use a clamp across the diagonal to draw it square. - Yes the splines could swell in width specifically. I always under cut them a 16th at least in width. - Wiping glue away with a wet rag (a real normisim) is "OK" but you need to really wipe it or you are just making it worse. I prefer to wait 30 minutes and use a scraper or cheap chisel or sharpened putty kife to pull off rubbery remains.
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On 11/28/2011 2:46 PM, SonomaProducts.com wrote:

Don't know if I'd have thought of that, but I don't have a table saw. There is the prospect of one entering my orbit, if not my actual house, so I'll store that idea away for later.

Just looked up cope and stick. Interesting, but probably not for me for right now anyway.

I even thought of that, but visions of solidifying glue clouded my thinking in the heat of the moment. Sounds more controllable, especially if I make myself little "corners" to give the clamp a flat surface to mate with. .

That I will definitely do. With a plane, I suppose.

By "worse", I imagine you mean "soaking it into the wood", rather than just having it lay on top without a good bond.
I prefer to

I'll give your advice a try. Thanks
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Yes, if you just smear it around it dries and gets in the way of any staining or even stops adhesion of varnish on raw (non-colored) wood and will show up under the finish.
Depending on how it squeezes out I guess I would say I "Usually" try to skim it off later but if it smears out then I'll sponge it off with water. It does take some extra time and effort to be carreful not to disturbe the squeeze and to check back and wait for the best time to skim it. To early and it just pops the bubble and smears fresh glue and to late and it is solid.
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On 11/28/2011 4:26 PM, Greg Guarino wrote:

Cope and stick has nothing to do with square. When doing frame and panel make certain your cuts to length are perfect 90. Cut wide stock (at least 2x as wide as the rail or stile) to length first, then rip to width. Now each pair of rail or stile will be EXACTLY the same length and you have little to worry about as far as square goes, things will just be square on assembly unless you force them "unsquare".

You can wipe with a damp cloth, or wait till it dries some and hope to sand off what soaks into the wood. The key with glue is to use just enough, no more, no less. If you get tiny beads sneaking out of the joints, OK, if you get gobs of glue running out ala Norm or that Scott guy, no good. Use a solder flux brush to apply glue sparingly. A little practice and you will get it. Remember end grain doesn't glue worth a damn, so applying glue to the shoulders is doing nothing but insuring gobs of glue everywhere it shouldn't be.
--
Jack
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On 11/30/2011 12:39 PM, Jack wrote:

I did the opposite: the lumber yard ripped the oak to width and I cut it to length. The lengths were quite exact; all four stiles were cut simultaneously...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gdguarino/6320616462/lightbox /
... as were the four rails. However, the lumber yard's ripping was less than stellar. There was maybe 1/16" or even 3//32" of variance, and not just between the two pieces of stock, but between one end and the other of one of the pieces.
I decided to let it go, mostly. I don't have a table saw. I did however remake two of the rails that were just too out of whack. I did that with a circular saw and guide rail.
None of it was perfect, but it was decent. The problem was as much my own inexperience and anxiety about the ticking clock of the glue drying as any actual misalignment.

I've become unsure about this over the years, not that I've done many projects in that time. I seem to vaguely remember the word "sparing" from somewhere, maybe high school, maybe my Dad. But I also have visions of larger amounts of glue. Maybe those images seeped in from PBS? :)
If sparing is good, sparing it will be. Is the amount of glue that would result from "painting" it on with a brush enough?
If you get tiny beads sneaking out of the

I don't think I know who "Scott" is.
Use a solder flux brush to apply glue sparingly. A little

There's a good tip. I was already quite "sparing" in those areas, but I won't bother with them at all on the next unit.
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When I do edge gluing I like to wipe the glue down to a thin enough film that I can see through it easily. So not to much is needed.
Wood glue is not gap filling so it only glues well where one piece is wood is in contact with the other and pressure helps. So a vert thin film is all that is needed. More porous woods can use a bit more.
Long grain to long grain is the best for wood glur but end grain does glue somewhat. You can increase the end grain adhesion (I am told) by "sizing" the joint. Spread thin glue on the end grain first and let it dry mostly before joining the pieces. Then glue normally and the glue- to-glue retension is a little better than with an unsized joint.
Also epoxy doesn't care about grain, it is just strong everywhere and can be gap filling too.
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On 11/30/2011 12:39 PM, Jack wrote:

I just glued up the second door, using some of the suggestions from this thread. I am happy to report that this one went much more smoothly and without any need for what my Dad calls "commemorating the saints" (swearing).
Here are some of the suggestions I implemented:
I planed down the splines just a little in both dimensions as they were too tight on the first door.
I used a plane to slightly chamfer the edges of the panel.
I used a tiny art brush to apply the glue "sparingly" to the inside surfaces of the slot. This was a great idea, by the way. Thanks to whomever suggested it.
I didn't apply any glue to the "cheeks", only to the splines and slots.
I applied only light clamping pressure.
As a result there was hardly any glue squeeze-out, but I'm pretty sure I made solid joints anyway. The brush made it easy to cover every spot that needed glue without using excess. I did not end up squaring the door up with a clamp. It was pretty close to begin with; a couple of very light mallet taps got it nice and square.
Thanks again to all.
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Greg Guarino wrote:

First of all, all your pieces need to be square and opposite pieces need to be the same length. Ditto any mill work on joints.
I imagine everyone has their own way of squaring stuff. Here are some thoughts...
1. Glue up two adjacent sides assuring they are square. Glue up the other pair, squared also. When dry, insert panel into one pair and attach the other pair. Downside is time.
2. If you are doing all at a time and stuff isn't square then you have a rhomboid. Easiest fix is a clamp across the acute & diagonally opposite corners (I've done that many times, never a hammer). Lacking a clamp, put the appropriate side against something solid and straight and push from the opposite side.
If you had a gap after gluing and none when dry fit then your panel was not inserted fully. It *really* helps to slightly chamfer all edges of a panel. Joints should be snug but not so snug that you have to draw them together with a hammer or by heavy clamping. In the case of a panel, even if the fit isn't super tight, the stile or rail can bow slightly and that can make inserting the panel a hore...the chamfering helps. In the case of mortice and tenon joints, if there is no place for excess glue to go it can keep the rails and stiles from totally closing; if the joint is not super tight, it will ooze out but may require heavy clamping to get the ooze; a slightly short tenon will give a home for excess glue.
If you want to fix the gap, a thin saw kerf and glued in piece of veneer will do it. If it is going to be painted, Bondo or auto glazing putty.
--

dadiOH
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On 11/28/2011 3:46 PM, dadiOH wrote:

Same length I got covered. I cut them all at once after squaring the far ends. The width and consequently the parallel orientation of the sides is a different story. I don't have a table saw, and relied on the lumber yard to rip the stock to width. I even told them that the exact width was not important, just make the two boards parallel and equal.
Live and learn, I guess. But that imperfection I already knew about from the dry fit, and it wasn't too bad. The gap I mentioned here only occurred after I applied the glue.

Less stress though. Maybe good for an inexperienced person like me.

This is what I intend to try. I do have the appropriate clamps.

I don't think that was the problem. I briefly pulled off one of the stiles and found that the splines protruded more than the panel. With the benefit of hindsight, I suppose I should have pulled it all apart at that point and scraped off the glue. It might have been difficult to get it out of the groove though.
It *really* helps to slightly chamfer all edges of a panel.
I filed the edges that I cut, but not the factory edges.

My mistake then. My joints fit, but tightly enough that some significant persuasion is necessary.
In the case of a panel, even if the fit

The panel bowed more, and it was a minor chore, but not too bad.
In the case of mortice

I'll be planing down the splines for the next door.

No paint. I'm not partial to painted wood, even when it is well done. And I'm sure that "well done" wouldn't apply to any paint job of mine. .
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On 11/28/2011 9:34 AM, Greg Guarino wrote:

I build lots and lots of these type doors. To tell you the truth I don't give squareness a second thought as the doors tend to come out square naturally. If your cuts are square and you are using good clamps the corners will naturally square themselves, this is with the assumption that you see no gaps at the joints.
First off are you using a Bessey K-body "style" clamp? These are great for helping insure that things remain square.
In stead of splines, try using stub tennon. Cut a center grove in all the rails and stiles to receive you center panel and then cut tenons on the ends of the rails to fill the groves. Done deal.
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And, an easy way to go with this is using a rail and stile router bit set. One of the best investments I've made buying router bits. A 3hp router is highly recommended to drive these bits.
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On 11/30/2011 8:21 AM, Dave wrote:

I don't use the rail and stile bits any more if using a regular flat panel for the center. I instead use a flat grind TS blade to cut a flat square bottom. Make two passes flipping the board end for end to insure the groove being centered. I use a dado set to cut the stub tenons.
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