Please pardon my possible ignorance here.
In researching cabinet jointing methods, thinking along the lines of
Joints with no nails or screws, yet still be able to use them if I
needed. I ran across Sommerfelds tongue n grove set, which appears to
me to just be an adjustable bit set, set for a permanent offset.
It looks like if one were to by two sets of these Rockler adjustable's
one could accomplish the same thing for less money, along with long
term support. and you have a choice of 3/8 or 1/4" shanks.
Sommerfeld has a third bit included in his set for cleaning up the
tongue when necessary so as not to weaken a pocket screw connection.
It is a common bit most everyone has.
He mentions how it pretty much inherently keeps the cabinets squared,
and it certainly appears to a natural way of doing things and
eliminating the craziness of cutting DADO's when the sizes of plywood
vary so much. I did notice, however, on his base cabinet explanations
that he used a support block for the bottom shelf, at the ends of the
cabinet while using the tongue n groove in the FF.
I would appreciate your educated experiential opinions on this. Is the
offset Tongue n Groove worth it? Is the T&G as strong as a DADO?
And should a combination of the two be done or just stick with DADO's?
(the bottom's of my DADO's always seem to need to be cleaned up so
that there is a smooth glue surface)
Freud doesn't appear to have either of these bits, but they do have a
T&G set with a centered tongue.
Also a side question regarding router usage. In watching Sommerfelds
video's he has a lot of fuzz on his grooves regardless if it is
hardwood or plywood. I have had that problem on occasion with wood
like poplar, otherwise I have seen very little of that other than the
occasional spots on plywood when I make a DADO.
Is fuzz or "hair" to be expected?
1. It would be a cold day in hell before I paid $150 for T&G bits
2. Avoid bits with a 3/8" shank unless you already have a 3/8" collet.
3. Why would you want two T&G sets?
4. I don't find all that much variation in plywood thickness; from type to
type, yes but no with same speciaes from same source. Regardless, NP if you
make dados/grooves narrower than the plywood and cut shoulders on the
tongues. The shoulders have the added benefit of positive, visual
confirmation of when the tongue is all the way into the dado/groove.
5. I prefer to cut dados/grooves on a table saw with my trusty wobble dado.
That means the bottoms are never flat. NP, I always make dados/grooves a
smidge deeper than the tongue that is going into them, provides a place for
excess glue and also assures that the inserted piece will be at the correct
depth (because of the shoulders). If, for some reason I NEED a flat bottom,
I use a bottom cleaning router bit (bottom cuts, sides don't; bit sides ride
on the sides of the dado/groove) .
6. Whre would you use both a dado and T&G?
7. Fuzz depends partially upon the wood. With any wood, one side of a
groove/dado that is cut in one pass with a router bit will always be a climb
cut and that side will tend to fuzz. That can be avoided by using a bit
that is smaller in diameter than the desired width of the dado/groove and
making two passes, one in each direction. That is easily accomplished with
two fences set to the desired dado/groove width. It can be accomplished
with just one fence if one makes a square router base plate that has its
sides at different distances from center. For example, suppose that one
side is X" from center; if another side is X+1/8" and you want a 1/2"
dado/groove then use a 3/8" bit for the first pass with the "X" side on the
fence then turn the router so the x+1/8 side is on the fence for the return
pass. No climb cut, No (probably) fuzz.
groove. Figured that time saved would also assure that they would
match forever once setup for the purposes.
I have seen some differences between old stock and new. When I say old
it means it might have been in the shop for a year or so. :)
I had read that if there were gaps, like with a rugged bottom that the
joint would be weakened since glue is not to be counted on as a
filler. I have always smoother mine with a chisel, like a plane, or a
sandpaper rig. I once had an 8ft long dado and wished I have the
proper plane for it. Leaning over and stretching to clean it out was
not much fun.
DOH! You're right, I just remembered doing just that for the same
reasons you described on dado's. T&G would not have that same option.
Now as to an offset T&G versus a centered T&G, would you see a reason
Router bits are notorious for not staying keenly sharp for very long.
In many instances after 10~20 feet. Basically 2 teeth doing all of the
work. Then you deal with the results.
I would advise a good dado set. Really good ones stay sharp for a very
Took a look the "Cabinet Plans" under the "Woodworking Made Easy" on
that website, and was not impressed.
Appears to be a case of the tool (router bit) being the tail that wagged
the cabinet making dog.
If a router is the only tool you have maybe, but I make cabinets for a
living and were I forced to make cabinets like that I would go broke in
There are much better kitchen cabinet fabrication methodologies than
using tongue and groove joinery.
If you're wedded to that style of joining cabinet parts, a biscuit
cutter would serve you much better, or perhaps splines in a groove,
instead of routing a tonge.
I use routers in much of my work, and one of the givens with routed
joinery is an inherent inconsistency in fitting routed parts, amplified
by any inconsistency in the dimensions of most purchased project materials.
IOW, it is my experience that for routed joinery to work well you really
need to plan on milling ALL your project material to precise dimensions,
width and thickness; and even then you will often have inconsistencies
in fit between the first of a run of routed parts, compared the last part.
Anyone who has done routed dovetail in dozens of drawers sides for a
project will appreciate that phenomenon.
Not that it can't be done, but it takes a good deal of time and effort
in milling, tool setup, and a thorough knowledge gained from lots of
experience with routers and their foibles ... simple things, like the
router bit not always being perfectly concentric with the other parts.
Not trying to discourage you on that line of reasoning, but might to ask
questions about alternate ways to get to the same destination.
seeing the little things, like having to bang parts together at times
and other things made me wonder. Then checking to see the bits for
sale elsewhere and finding none made me wonder. You confirmed it for
me. I can see a use for it, but then the standard setup should be
Actually, seeing your advice, using the dado, for your cabinets was
always in the back of my mind, telling me you were doing it for a
reason. The bottoms of my dado's always seemed to me to need clean up,
and I can get a plane that would do that just fine. But I gathered
from Leon, IIRC, that it really isn't that big of a deal. But I'd like
to feel comfortable about the clean up before I commit to it. And
actually when thinking about it, a plane might just take too much off
it I overworked it, and end up throwing off my dimensions and cause
things not to fit right.
Odd, all the video's I watched on people cutting dado's and no one
spoke much, if anything about cleaning up the bottom of a dado.
I can understand that.
So when making drawers, should I stick to making just a few at a time,
or should I use a locking bit, half lap, or? Although I have some of
the tools for making a dovetails, I have virtually no experience in
that. I have made other simple box joints but I would like the drawers
to be strong
No problem, I was looking for exactly this type of advice. I was
attracted to the Glue only method he was basically doing, but then it
seemed like you said, like he was developing sales for his bits and
some other tools to me.
I also saw some people using splines for things like table tops which
made a lot of sense to me, using that or dowels or something to keep
the boards in tune with each other instead of tearing apart glue
joints over the years.
So I guess the questions I have now are, using dado's how clean should
the bottom of the dado be, if it is important. Should the dado be cut
1/3 the thickness of the board it is seating into. And if it is wisest
to pin the joints after gluing before one removes the clamps.
Regarding FF's I do have the Kreg pocket kit and have learned how to
use it, but I am not adverse to joining it another way, like dowels or
M&T or biscuits. I don't have the new setup by that expensive tool
company, and I would probably be dead before I would even get a decent
ROI on any of their tools. IYKWIM. :)
Thanks, and feel free to snip most of this post.
As long as the depth of the dado/groove is consistent from one end to
the other, whether the bottom is pretty or not is irrelevant.
With a good dado stack, and a good table saw to mount it on (no worn or
uneven arbor and/or no runout) that is not usually a problem.
What kind of Dado stack do you have? Good place to spend your money When
you consider the cost of a good tool with regard to the overall cost of
the project ... and the time, effort and waste inherent with an inferior
Even with good equipment/tools, probably the biggest problem you'll face
with dadoes in cabinet parts is the above mentioned inconsistent depth,
usually the result of bowed material when insufficient, downward
pressure is exerted as the material passes over the blade.
That is something we alwaysy check after each pass, regardless.
Depends upon your budget. A dovetail drawer will give both strength and
If appearance is secondary, then a locking rabbet joint, which can be
done on the table saw or router, makes a nice looking drawer, with
sufficient strength for most any kitchen application.
Again, your overriding concern is a consistent depth of the dado/groove
throughout it length.
If you don't have that because of the tool, then you need a better tool.
Search around on some of the New Yankee Workshop videos. Norm had a few
shows where he built his FF cabinetry using biscuits. Take a look and
see if something like that might fit your budget and tools.
If I may offer something to watch for when cutting grooves/dado's.
Especially with longer stock but just as important with any stock
inspect your groves/dado's to insure that you cut full depth the entire
length of the cut. Often the wood can lift and you will not get a full
depth cut. Running the pieces through a time or two again typically
insures a consistent depth though the entire cut.
I cut these type joints/groves/dado's all the time and almost always
encounter shallow passes. So that is how I know this. ;~)
Also just as important is to use stock that is as flat as possible and
the use of feather boards to insure that the stock remains flat against
the fence through out the cut is advised.
I was just skimming and did not notice if you had preciously mentioned
it. I was pretty much restating what you just said but felt a second
voice adding emphasis on the procedure might stick better. ;~)
What!? Oh, I heard asshole and it caught my attention. :-D
Anyway, I haven't followed the whole thread but I'll throw my hat in for
the table saw as far as T&G joinery is concerned.
I have a few different high quality T&G router bits that I used before a
got a good table saw and a stacked dado set. The bit did a fine job but
the horse power of my saw and teeth-per-inch of the blades make cutting
T&Gs on the saw like a dump truck vs a wheel barrow compared to the
"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
radial arm saw Many, many moons ago. Like, '73 or so. The 8" hasn't
been used but once, the 7" I have used 10 or so times, well maybe
more. It cut pretty clean on a melamine mdf. plywood, and pine n stuff
at the edges, but the bottom was not too hot.
I went out and looked closely, didn't count the teeth but it was a
bunch. Sad thing is I just recognized that neither of these was
carbide tipped. I have 1/16 th in adjustments on them, and I bought
some new spacers because the last project with "3/4" plywood couldn't
be matched with the spacers I had.
I checked Rockler on some tests done in 2010, and the pictures they
showed looked pretty smooth. Any particular brand you would recommend?
or anything to look for in a new set, like 1/32 " adj, more teeth the
merrier, etc.? BTW my chippers only have one tooth each end. But wide
Oh, my saw is a Craftsman Contract Saw. It was new/older when I bought
it and I had to aligned everything on it. It has a great fence, and
webbed cast wings so I can drop my tape's and pencils through the
grates. It runs true, no slop.
I understand, First time I saw that I wished my Radial Arm saw was not
buried in stuff, so I could cut and see the dado's working.
Both are important to me, I have the dovetail kit so I might as well
practice and learn. If I bite off more than I can chew I will try the
I have seen where he mounted the FF to the cabinets with a very long
groove and biscuits where he felt necessary. I don't remember how he
actually joined the ff itself.
Any preferred method as to making the FF first and then the cabinet,
or the cabinet 1st or does it even matter?
I appreciate your time spent on this.
While it is raining cats n dogs, and the surf is supposed to be
rolling in at 18' or better by Friday, I am at least going to get some
wood and do a few practice runs on scraps.
Very astute of you to ask that question. The answer, IME, is a
resounding YES, it does matter ... following are some excerpts from some
of my previous posts on the subject:
~ First a bit of philosophy: The holy grail of cabinet making is "SQUARE".
Making a _perfectly square_ cabinet insures that all doors and drawer
fronts will fit and be easy to install, and that the cabinets
themselves, even when hung on a wall that is not plumb, will be easier
to shim to that wall, and that those doors and drawers will always work
because the cabinets will remain square even if the wall moves, which
all walls will do.
The easiest way to achieve "square" in your cabinet making is to _batch
cut_ all the component parts.
IOW, set the table saw fence ONE TIME ONLY, and cut ALL the component
pieces that are going to be 1 1/2" wide at that time BEFORE moving the
table saw fence to another setting; Set the table saw fence to 30", and
cut ALL the component parts for ALL cabinets that are going to be 30"
long, BEFORE you move the table saw fence to another setting.
Repeat as often as necessary to batch cut all your cabinet parts, rails,
stiles, end panels, floors (which includes the top in industry parlance
since they are the same size), and backs.
The same goes for router setups for dadoes and grooves.
Back in the 60's I got a good start on both appreciating, and learning
how, to build cabinets by working with a cabinetmaker in England whose
family had been in business just a few hundred years. :)
When it came to building kitchen cabinets with traditional face frame
cabinetry I dissected what the cabinet factory industry was doing,
figuring that a mix of my two learning experiences would allow me to
build a superior cabinet, in an efficient manner, and in a one man shop.
This is the method I have adopted in my business and it works quite well
for me. Others may have their own methods, thus the plethora of books.
Indeed, I've read them all, take a little from here and there, and
depart from them in various ways. One way is as you have noted, building
the face frame first ... this is basically what many cabinet factories
do, because, when you analyze the fabrication process, it is both more
efficient, less labor intensive than trying fit a face frame to a
carcase, and also guarantees a square product.
I'll take two birds for that one shot any day. :)
The idea is to take the time to make the face frames FIRST, with
meticulous attention to making the face frames as perfectly square as
possible (easily achieved with _batch cut parts_ ), AND then assemble
the casework on top of that square face frame, basically insuring a
Route the necessary dadoes into the backside of the face frame to accept
the ends of the casework.
Route the necessary dadoes/groove into the _end panels_ of the cabinet case.
Assemble the face frames using pocket hole screw joinery.
Once your face frames are completely assembled, with due attention to
them being square:
Lay the face frame, dadoes up, on a flat surface and assemble, and glue
and/or nail the previously dadoed case work plywood component ON TOP OF
THE ALREADY ASSEMBLED, SQUARE FACE FRAME.
Doing it this way, and only this way, absolutely insures that you have
the squarest possible cabinets; cabinets that will not only attach to
each other easily for a cabinet "run", but cabinets in which the doors
and drawers will always work until the house is torn down ... something
that can only be achieved, with any assurance, with properly made, _shop
Let me know if you have any questions.
That'll work and is a good guide. For cabinetry in kitchens and baths I
generally do 1/4" deep dado/groove in 3/4 stock.
On occasion, mostly for fixed shelving, especially an intermediate shelf
that adds structural rigidity to the casework, I might go to 3/8" deep
With kitchen and bath cabinets, where there will be sheer force applied
to wall cabinet components; and with unknown future loads on the base
cabinets (including heavy stone countertops); and where you're generally
attaching hardwood to a plywood case; or plywood end panels to plywood
floors; I'm of BOTH glue and carefully applied nailgun persuasion.
It is rare that I don't both glue and finish nail (16ga/1 1/2") kitchen
cabinet components joined with dadoes/grooves ... the face frames to
cabinet box; and the end panels to the floors ... therein lies all that
blue tape you see to help keep the nail hole filler from bleeding over.
Properly done, with the right filler, the nail holes basically disappear
Literally hundreds of stained cabinetry and I have never once had anyone
mention ever seeing a nail hole in a stained face frame.
Take the time to orient the nail head to the grain direction, and use a
filler that will take stain well from experience.
Whether you use both glue, and some other type faster in conjunction
with the glue, depends upon the intended use of the piece.
Furniture, where it's hardwood to hardwood, and there is not going to be
heavy weight/extraordinary sheer force applied, I almost always just use
glue by itself.
Lots of dadoed joinery here in this project, with both plywood and
hardwood as primary material, and no nails on the visible casework and
(I also included that link above because you mentioned in a previous
post about making angled cabinets)
Just ran out to the garage, everything I have is 18 GA, so I added
that to my list, with blue tape.
Yes, and thanks for the picts and layout.
Great Job! BTW, your doors are perfectly centered, a mark of a true
craftsman, per everything I have seen and read. Looked great overall
as well. I liked the way you made the face of the cabinet, but I think
I will be using a 3/8" inset door, I think they call it.
Last question for now. Is sanded grade 3/4 7 layer project grade
plywood good enough for painted cabinets or should I use Baltic
plywood for the casings?
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