I'm designing a new desk for myself, with modular units for the
"pedestals". Each side of the desk will have one or more of these of
various widths. Each is a separate box (sides, back, bottom) made from
1/2in plywood with hardwood fronts (face frame, drawer front,
whatever, not shown in photo). I'm wondering... what would be the best
joinery to use to assemble the plywood box part - rabbet+glue?
biscuits? lock miter? pocket screws? something else? a combination of
Photo, details, and sketchup file: http://www.delorie.com/wood/desk/module.html
I'm thinking of doing something like that, as well. My thoughts were
a rabbet joint. I've found rabbet joints to be quite strong as long
as the rabbet is reasonably tight (no glue gaps), though I generally
use 3/4" ply. For a top I was going to either use a solid core door
or for about twice the price Ikea sells Birch, Oak, or Beech butcher
block slabs. I bought a small one over the weekend to replace my
saw's extension table. We'll see how that goes.
Me too, but in this case there will be two layers of 1/2 ply between
each module - one from each module. Using 3/4 would have resulted in
a 1 1/2 inch wall between modules, which I thought was too much.
Here's the full-desk plan so far: http://www.delorie.com/wood/desk /
I'm doing a solid oak top. My current desk sags a *lot* so it's
something I'm particularly keen on avoiding.
I'd consider it non critical.
Both joints are in shear so depth of cut isn't critical.
Rabbets are "shared" joints so 50% from each member.
3/16"-1/4" deep dado cuts for 3/4" wide dado cuts seems to work for
Norm, so what the heck, it has worked for me, especially if you have
flat bottom cuts.
BTW, might want to consider a sandwich top consisting of 1/4" ply
skins and 1" foam core.
Light weight and stiff as a bull in fly time.<G>
Yeah, shallow rabbets and dados just to keep things aligned. Keep in
mind 1/2" is pretty thin. 3/4" would be bullet proof but 1/2" "might"
bow, etc. Plus I suppose you will glue and either nail or screw from
the outside and again, 3/4 would be better. Pocket screws won't work
in 1/2 material, they are designed for 3/4 + but if you went 3/4 you
could use them on the front interior to hold the face frames from
inside. This is especially OK if it is drawers where they won't ever
The other option to stiffen up the joints if you do go 1/2" would be
glue blocks in the interior. Maybe rip some 1x1 into a like a
triangular molding and glue and nail in to the seams inside.
I've had great success building milk crate sized storage boxes from 1/2" plywood
nothing but lock miter joints cut on the router table. The better quality the
better the results (baltic birch, for instance), but most of the boxes I've
standard construction quality 1/2" ply and they've held up famously. I've even
had to build
some for friends after they saw the results. :-) Another plus is that the
virtually invisible once it's all locked together. Glue-up is very easy because
miter joint is self-aligning; just slather yellow glue in the slots, fit it all
clamp. You should try building some small boxes with this technique just for
grins to see
what I mean.
Free bad advice available here.
To reply, eat the taco.
You are a better man than I. I love the concept of lock miters but
have just had a few huge failures that have made them scary to me.
1. Every time I use them I have to look up on the web for a
description of how to make the adjustments during setup. Thers is a
great document, I think from Amana that shows various misalignment
scenarious and describes if you need to move the fence in or the bit
up or down. It still takes for ever to get them setup. Yeah, setup
blocks help but always still need a tune up.
2. Because the alignment is so critical and on two axis, you can't
really do multiple succesivly deeper passes. You have to cut all the
material at once. This can be a lot of material. I have ripped a
partial bevel in the edge before to help minimize but you need to be
carefule to not take too much material so there is enough left for the
I was building a stickly repro bed for a client. It had 4" posts, over
4' tall. The plan was miter locked boxes with some infill where I had
huge 1" x 4" through tenons. I had beautiful figured QS white oak and
trashed all 16 pieces because the few times the bit would catch and
jump while hogging out the WO it was actually pulling it out of the
collet so the setup changed but I was too dumb to recheck and none of
them matched up well. I've since gone to a shaper for such ops so
things are better but I am still very afraid of this joint type.
I can understand your apprehension towards using lock miters; I had similar
problems when I
first started fiddling with them, but eventually the light bulb went on above my
now I can set them up from memory without the assistance of documents or
you can absolutely make multiple passes without affecting the setup; you just
need a fence
that can return to a "home" position. I have a Jointech fence which makes this
you should be able to achieve this with any fence using simple stop blocks
clamped to the table.
To get the setup correct, you just need to follow some simple rules (all of
both workpieces are of the same thickness; let's not even think about the case
1. Set the height of the bit first, according to the thickness of the stock;
done this, the setting never changes.
2. Set the "home" position of the fence, also according to the thickness of the
take a full cut. Install stop blocks against the back side of the fence, or
"zero out" the
indexing feature of your fence so that you can always return to this position.
initial cuts you start by moving the fence furthest away from the home position
towards you) until it's taking very little bite, then gradually back the fence
home position with each successive cut. That's all there is to it!
Ok, so I've left out a few details, and I don't have any diagrams handy, but I
can try to
1. All lock miter bits have a vertical "center" position (along the Y-axis).
For a bit that
has a rectangular tongue, this is the point where the underside of the tongue
with the face of the tongue; for bits whose underside of the tongue is angled
center point is the midpoint along the angled cutting edge. The height of the
bit must be
adjusted so that this center point is exactly half the thickness of the stock.
think you're close, lay a couple of pieces of stock on the table and "nick"
against the bit (this works better if the bit is spinning, and you don't really
fence for this - if you're careful!). Turn one piece over and compare the cuts,
the height of the bit until you've found home center. Done!
2. Setting the home position of the fence is easy. Get a good thick straight
crisp edges (I use the 12" slide from my combination square). Place two scrap
stock against the fence, on either side of the bit, then place the straight edge
flat on the
table against the blocks. Keeping this assembly snug, adjust the fence until
surface of the bit is "kissing" the straight edge at the intersection of the bit
table. Lock the fence down and set your memory device - you now have your
That's it! The rest is left as an exercise for the reader. :-)
Free bad advice available here.
To reply, eat the taco.
Looking over some of the projects on your web page.. nice work there.
Question: on the Lego cabinet, it appears that you have drawer runners
on the insides of the doors to allow for full extension of the
drawers. How do you prevent the doors from opening beyond 90 degrees
and dropping the drawers?
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