I'm building a tv/stereo cabinet (my first woodworking project) and had
the lumber cut at Home Depot. As I expected, their cuts were not very
square or accurate and now I need to fine tune the pieces to get them
perfectly square and even. The main pieces I'm concerned about are the
four vertical pieces that will be attached to the top and bottom using
butt joints with biscuits and glue. I don't want to reduce the overall
height of the boards, if I can avoid it. I just want to just shave off
as little as possible to square them and even them up.
The height of the boards varies by up to 1/4" and the HD cuts weren't
square. For example, I might have to take off 1/4 off one side,
tapering down to nothing on the other side. the edges to be trued up
were crosscut (against the grain).
My tools include a circular saw, aluminum saw guide, clamps, a belt
sander and a small 7" hand plane.
I was going to try and clamp the saw guide in place and try the
circular saw, but I'm wondering if this is a good idea. I'm thinking
that it might not cut straight when it gets to the part of each board
where the amount of wood to be removed is very narrow, and that the
blade would "catch" and bend.
The belt sander might not be good either, since it probably wouldn't
make a flat and square edge suitable for gluing. Maybe I should buy a
larger hand plane?
I know that a jointer would be ideal, but I'm on a budget and trying to
get this done with what I have, if possible. If I need to, I'll take
the pieces to a professional woodworker who has a jointer.
Anyway, I'd appreciate any suggestions.
"cut at Home Depot. As I expected, their cuts were not very square or
Of course that's what they expected as they told you so before cutting and
(in my area) even have signs up to announce that they do no "do" precision
Given this, prudence would have dictated ordering the boards longer than
needed so as to allow for the 1/4" adjustments you now demand.
Your only hope is the Miller-Matic 3000 Pine Board Stretcher - but I doubt
you can afford the down payment.
You could square the ends and add a slice of contrasting wood to restore the
essential dimension (and add a bit of "interest") though you might want to
use dowels rather than biscuits (to account for the sandwiched "extender"
Absent a plan or even a picture of what you are trying to build, the
foregoing is a happy guess if it suits.
But most anything would be cheaper than a Pinewood Stretcher.
Here's a possible "do it yourself" suggestion;
Do you live near a high school that has a woodshop? Some schools host
adult evening education courses in shop and they may have the tools you
need. Perhaps some type of proficiency trial is required before they
cut you loose to DIY.
"just tell him he's stupid"
Nah, that was NOT the point. The point was that he was blaming Home Depot
for the problem. HD has its failings (note the flat stock price over recent
years) but they do not offer any precise cutting of materials and should not
be blamed for this particular problem.
I went on to offer a reasonable "fix**" albeit he did not give us enough
information on his design to really come up with a "fix short (no pun
intended) of cutting new pieces to the requisite size.
My grandfather, a finish carpenter in Ireland was oft quoted saying "Its a
poor workman that blames his tools." I suspect we might re-phrase to "its a
poor workman that blames the merchant."
The OP's question was [in essence] "I cut the boards too short. Is there
anything I can do short of cutting new wood?"
Blaming Home Depot adds noting to the story nor impacts the answer sought,
** You could square the ends and add a slice of contrasting wood to restore
essential dimension (and add a bit of "interest") though you might want to
use dowels rather than biscuits (to account for the sandwiched "extender"
> I'm building a tv/stereo cabinet (my first woodworking project) and had
> the lumber cut at Home Depot. As I expected, their cuts were not very
> square or accurate and now I need to fine tune the pieces to get them
> perfectly square and even.
Time to start over.
One of the secrets of woodworking is getting clever AFTER you've made a
mistake. Unless there is some compelling reason that your cabinet
can't get any smaller (like your components wouldn't fit in it), just
reduce the size of everything as needed to make it all square and equal
length. The raw dimensions usually aren't that critical as long as
they are consistent in length and have straight square edges.
Given the tools on hand, I'd try using the circular saw and guide.
Measure your saw carefully from the edge of the sole plate to the blade
teeth (the wide side of the sole plate, not the narrow side). Then
clamp the saw guide down at that same distance from the cut line. That
way the wide part of the sole plate is resting on the wood so your saw
will be well supported instead of hanging off in the air. The blade
will NOT catch and bend or grab; it's turning too fast. You can shave
the tiniest fraction off the edge in this manner. If you keep the sole
plate flat against the guide without wobbling, the cut will be fairly
If you find your board after cutting is a little longer or shorter than
you intended DON'T make adjustments to the process. Measure and cut
all the boards the same way and they will be consistent, if a little
This isn't the biggest or last mistake you'll make. It's the recovery
"We are all ignorant, just about different things." - Will Rogers
: I'm building a tv/stereo cabinet (my first woodworking project) and had
: the lumber cut at Home Depot. As I expected, their cuts were not very
: square or accurate and now I need to fine tune the pieces to get them
: perfectly square and even. The main pieces I'm concerned about are the
: four vertical pieces that will be attached to the top and bottom using
: butt joints with biscuits and glue. I don't want to reduce the overall
: height of the boards, if I can avoid it. I just want to just shave off
: as little as possible to square them and even them up.
: The height of the boards varies by up to 1/4" and the HD cuts weren't
: square. For example, I might have to take off 1/4 off one side,
: tapering down to nothing on the other side. the edges to be trued up
: were crosscut (against the grain).
: My tools include a circular saw, aluminum saw guide, clamps, a belt
: sander and a small 7" hand plane.
: I was going to try and clamp the saw guide in place and try the
: circular saw, but I'm wondering if this is a good idea. I'm thinking
: that it might not cut straight when it gets to the part of each board
: where the amount of wood to be removed is very narrow, and that the
: blade would "catch" and bend.
This won't be a problem -- the circular saw will spin the blade
fast enough that you'll be eating into the wood slowly (in terms of
the number of teeth per inch). A handsaw would deflect, but
a circular saw and guide will work fine.
: The belt sander might not be good either, since it probably wouldn't
: make a flat and square edge suitable for gluing. Maybe I should buy a
: larger hand plane?
A hand plane can trim endgrain, but you had the right idea with the
: I know that a jointer would be ideal
I hope I haven't misunderstood what you're trying to do here. If you're
cutting across the grain, i.e. across the width of the board (as opposed
to along its length), a jointer isn't the tool to use.
In any event, absent a tablesaw, do what you'd planned to do.
-- Andy Barss
Thanks for the replies. The reason I don't want to shorten the vertical
members, as DH guessed, is limited clearance for my components. The
stand is for a 60" tv and with these large sets, the cabinets need to
be low in order to have the center of the screen more or less at eye
level when sitting on a sofa. I planned for the stand height to be 21"
including casters and with two shelves on one side (it's a 3-"bay"
cabinet), there's only about 5" of height for each component. Though
the components will fit, there's only an inch or so of excess height,
which doesn't leave much room for air circulation.
But an extra 1/4" off the height shouldn't matter. I'll trim the pieces
with the circular saw. I tried trimming one piece using my original cut
line and it didn't cut straight where the line tapers too close to the
edge. The saw needs something to cut into all the way through the cut,
or else it veers off line. I'll draw another line further in.
I guess I could also use 1/2" plywood or glass for the shelves, which
would add a bit more breathing space compared to the 3/4" I was going
to use (I'm using 3/4 for the top, bottom and the 4 vertical pieces).
I may also leave the side bays open in back and put a back only on the
center bay, but I'm not sure if that would be strong enough to prevent
racking compared to using a full back. BTW, is a rabbet joint the best
way to attach a back, or are biscuits better?
I really need to buy a table saw. Actually, I'd like to setup a
woodworking shop in the garage, but it's a big investment. Are those
$100 portable table saws good enough for occasional light cabinetry
work, or should they be avoided altogether?
A couple more questions if anyone's still reading:
When doing a butt joint (with biscuits), would it help to make some
small holes or to score the surface of the face (birch) that will be
mated to the edge of the second piece, so that the glue will penetrate
better into the wood? I'm using Titebond III glue.
Can someone suggest a filler or putty to use to fill-in imperfections
and spliterings, that will be fairly unnoticeable after staining (i.e.
a putty that absorbs stain at about the same rate as birch)?
What circular saw blade would be best to use to minmize splintering?
I'm using a Skillsaw with a 7" general purpose blade.
Andrew Barss wrote:
This is true when trying to follow a line freehand. But if you use a
clamp-on guide, the pressure you hold sideways against the guide should
keep you on track.
Save your money. The tables are too small, the rips they'll take too
narrow, the fences too weak, etc etc.
It's not necessary to help the glue penetrate the wood. The glue does
this through the "wetting" action that's only a few cells deep, not by
mechanically travelling several layers deep. The problem with plywood
joints is not the face grain, it's the edge. The end-grain of the
crossed layers acts like a million tiny soda straws and sucks too much
of the glue away from the joint, leaving it somewhat starved. If you
want to improve your plywood bonds, mix glue half-and-half with water
and brush on the edges to be glued. Wait for it to dry thoroughly,
then glue as usual. The thinned glue will plug the straws to some
extent and improve the bond.
A plywood blade will help quite a bit, but the cut will be slower, and
you may get some burn marks on the edges. You might try putting
masking tape on the top side, where the splintering is worse, and saw
through the tape.
"A bulldog can whip a skunk, but it's probably not worth it."
There's a world of difference between the jobsite saws you're talking
about and the $100 hobby saws he's talking about.
"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom
that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down
on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid
again---and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold
one anymore." - Mark Twain
That's a good tip. However, I read elsewhere that Titebond glue does
not glue to itself (something to do with the formula/properties). This
makes it hard to repair joints that were originally glued with
Titebond, since all of the old glue must be removed. Maybe some other
types of glue like Elmers don't have this issue. Or perhaps there
something else (Elmer's, maybe?) that can be used as the end-grain
sealing agent, which Titebond will adhere to.
I'll try it the regular way and hope that it's strong enough.
> That's a good tip. However, I read elsewhere that Titebond glue does
> not glue to itself (something to do with the formula/properties). This
> makes it hard to repair joints that were originally glued with
> Titebond, since all of the old glue must be removed.
That's why 1,500 watt heat guns were invented.
Heat the existing joint, reclamp and allow to cool.
Part of the joy of working with TiteBond.
You're right. I checked the Titebond website and found I had gotten
the timing wrong! It says to brush the sizing mixture on and wait NO
MORE THAN 2 MINUTES before gluing as usual. Sorry for the bad info.
before I read any further and forget.
If you make a little mess on the scrap side of the line thats fine, just
remember not to go through the line with whatever you do. Only then do you
need a new line. You can clamp sacrificial guide pieces on either side of
the piece at the cut line so that you could use your plane or sander. Best
if you had some steel bars or something. When doing that, if you do it
patiently, you can see if you're going over the line, and how to control it.
A TS for just a little more money than what you said, possibly used, is a
hobby tool worth getting. Even the one you mentioned is worth getting. You
need to know whast to look for, and if/how to build your own crosscut sled,
and mitre sled, and if you got the guides in TS, or can get them to work. A
good fence is all thats left. Straight/angles/height/spinning is al besides
flatness and breadth of the m/c s top.
Okay, this morning I trimmed all of the pieces using the
square/guide/circular saw. I'm pretty happy with the results. All
pieces are square (face-wise) and the vertical pieces are exactly the
same height. I only needed to take 1/8" off the overall height. Using
our large, stable picnic table as a workbench made all the difference.
The edges, however are not perfectly square all the way down. For
example, while all of the boards will stand up when placed on the
edges, some are a bit wobbly. This might be due to the saw blade
flexing a bit or I didn't hold the saw perfectly level at all times. I
made a couple of saw passes to try and get it as square as possible.
Do I need to get the edges perfect to result in a strong butt joint
(I'm also using biscuits), or will the glue take care of any
BTW, though it might have sounded like it, I wasn't blaming HD for the
imprecise cuts. It was my mistake to hope they'd get it right, or close
actually in reality it is fair enough to add less than that and perfect it
on a TS, or whatever when you get it home. Of course this has implications
on the design. Even if you got only half a blades thickness left, a TS will
make quick work of it. Something I hadn't considerd as significant. OTOH,
I had a dozen different strips cut from a 4' x 8; mdf for door jambs and had
nothing to worry about.
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