he first step in any cabinetmaking project is to select and prepare your stock. As shown below, not all the wood at a lumberyard is free of defects, so it is important to choose boards carefully.
Whether you are building an armoire or a toy box, most stock is readied in
roughly the same way. The procedures illustrated on pages 13 to 15 cover the basic techniques. For rough, or unsurfaced lumber, first pass one face across the jointer, then one edge, producing two surfaces that are at 90° to each other. Next, plane the second face, making
it parallel to the first. Now you are ready to rip your stock to width and crosscut it to length. For dressed, or surfaced lumber, you only have to joint one edge, then rip and crosscut. Before gluing up a piece of furniture, be sure to sand any surfaces that will be difficult to reach afterwards.
Selecting stock for cabinetmaking
Wood is available in two broad categories: hardwood and softwood. Although the terms are botanical rather than descriptive, hardwoods, such as mahogany and cherry, are preferable for most cabinetmaking projects because they are, in fact, generally harder. Before buying lumber, examine it carefully. Check its color, texture and grain patterns, and select stock that you find visually appealing. Lumber is usually milled in one of two ways:
Quarter-sawed, or edge-grained lumber has a tough surface and is generally stable; plain-sawed, or flat-grained lumber, although less expensive, is more prone to warping and shrinking. Whatever type of wood you buy, choose kiln-dried lumber, and watch out for defects. Some of those shown above only affect appearance, but others can make the wood difficult to cut, joint or plane. You can avoid defects by buying “select” lumber when possible.
Maintaining proper pressure on the outfeed table
For most operations, set a cutting depth between Va and Zm inch. To joint a board edge, feed the stock slowly into the cut – terhead, pressing its face against the fence while keeping the edge flat on the jointer tables. Be sure to feed the workpiece so the knives are cutting with the grain. Continue feeding the stock until your right hand approaches the outfeed table. Then reverse the position of your hands without stopping the cut. Gradually slide your left hand toward the back of the workpiece, maintaining pressure against the fence (left). Shift your right hand farther back on the stock to maintain downward pressure just to the outfeed side of the knives. Continue these handover-hand movements until the pass is completed. To joint the face of a board, follow the same procedures, using push blocks to feed the stock.
Feeding the workpiece into the cutterhead
Set a cutting depth up to Ze inch. Stand to one side of the workpiece and use both hands to feed it carefully into the machine, keeping the edges of the stock parallel to the planer table. Once the machine grips the board and begins pulling it across the cutterhead, support its trailing end to keep it flat on the table (left). Then move to the outfeed side of the planer. Support the workpiece with both hands until it clears the outfeed roller. To prevent stock from warping, avoid passing only one face of a board through the machine; instead, plane the same amount of wood from both sides.
Using the rip fence as a guide
Set the blade height about lA inch above the workpiece. Position the rip fence for the width of cut, then push the stock into the blade, pressing it against the fence with your left hand and feeding with both thumbs (left). Stand to one side of the workpiece and straddle the fence with your right hand, making sure that neither hand is in line with the blade. Keep pushing the board until the blade cuts through it completely. To keep your hands from coming closer than 3 inches from the blade, complete the cut with a push stick. (Caution: Blade guard partially retracted for clarity.)
With the workpiece flush against the miter gauge, align the cutting mark with the blade. Position the rip fence well away from the end of the stock to prevent the cut-off piece from jamming up against the blade and kicking back toward you. Hook the thumbs of both hands over the miter gauge to hold the stock firmly against the gauge and flat on the table, then feed the board into the blade (right). (Caution: Blade guard partially retracted for clarity.)
Clamp stop blocks to a work surface at both ends of the workpiece to hold it steady. Fit a sanding block with a piece of abrasive paper and sand the surface of the stock along the grain, applying even, moderate pressure (above). Use long, smooth, overlapping strokes until the surface is smooth. Repeat with a finer-grit paper for a smoother finish. To prevent rounding the edges of the workpiece, keep the sanding block flat on its surface, and work up to—but not over—the edge.
Use a stop block to keep the workpiece from moving. Install a sanding belt and drape the power cord over your shoulder to keep it out of the way. With the sander parallel to the wood grain, turn it on and slowly lower it onto the surface, holding it firmly with both hands (above). Move the machine back and forth with the same type of strokes you would use with a sanding block. To avoid gouging the surface, keep the sander flat and always moving; do not let the machine rest in one spot.
If a planer is not available to even out the surface of glued-up panels, use a belt sander. The diagrams on the left illustrate the correct sequence of operations. First, slowly move the sander back and forth across the surface at a 45° angle to the wood grain (far left). Be sure to cover the entire surface, but do not let the sanding drum run completely off the edges of the panel; this may round the corners. Next, make a second pass back and forth diagonally across the grain in the opposite direction (center left). Finally, run the tool along the wood grain to remove any scratches left by the earlier sanding (near left).