In the shop yesterday morning, feeling frustrated.
I needed to make something – anything. I stared at my tools, thinking about how I didn’t have all the wood I needed for any of the projects on my to-do list. As usual the wife was using the car, though even if she weren’t, buying more wood wouldn’t be a good idea as I’ve spent the bulk of my woodworking money this month.
Then my eyes settled on a cardboard box on the shelf. It’s doing a fine job holding some miscellaneous stuff, but I need to do something with wood. This box I’m using as a tray is getting replaced.
I’ve never cut rabbet’s before, and now that I have a shoulder plane I wanted a chance to try them out.
As an added bonus, this little project would also give me a chance to put my contractor’s saw to some use, removing the rough edge of a short piece of Soft Maple, as well as cut a long strip of Poplar off a board not in good enough shape to use for anything else.
Since this is my first time cutting rabbets, and since this small project will just be replacing a cardboard box, I’m not aiming for pretty. Just a chance to use some tools, try some new things, and work with some wood.
I joined two pieces of the Maple with a spring joint. I measured the length of the sides and cross-cut the Poplar pieces down to size. Then I found the center distance of the thickness of the Poplar, and marked my rabbets on all pieces.
The rest of the project proceeded smoothly enough. I nailed strips of wood to the boards to make up for the shoulder plane not having a fence. If this weren’t a shop piece I would of needed to clamp them down or do something different, other than putting nail holes in the piece.
It was necessary to cut two rabbets across the grain. Rather than worrying about severing the grain before planing, I remembered that Roy Underhill was doing something similar once and pointed out that you cut the cross grain rabbets first. That way any breakout occurs on wood that won’t exist anymore once you rabbet the other two sides.
I was puzzled for a quite a while about why my rabbets kept getting narrower and narrower as I planed. Eventually – near the end of cutting them all – I figured out that the blade was just barely not set up to the edge of the plane: something like 1/128 of an inch off. Once I corrected that it worked a lot better.
This’ll be something to watch out for in the future. Even if you rest the plane on it’s side on a flat surface the blade will still try to lift in a hair when you tighten down the screw.
All in all an enjoyable time in the shop. I used nails to attach the side rails that go across the grain of the base, and glued the rails that travel with the grain. Don’t know if it was necessary but I also nailed the rails together at the corners.
Finally, I took a couple of the scraps I used as a fence while starting the rabbets, and nailed them to the bottom to keep the piece lifted up just a bit.
There were some errors made late in the project, all related to the nailing work. I somehow managed to nail one rail in slightly crooked, and of course didn’t notice until after I’d set the nails. In two places the nails split the wood a small amount – nothing that’ll pose any structural issues anytime soon, but still unfortunate (and another reason I didn’t try to correct the crooked rail). I drilled pilot holes first, oriented the cut nails correctly too. I guess maybe a larger pilot hole next time.
In the end, the completed piece serves it’s purpose. It was a simple excuse to do some woodwork, and educate myself a bit.