Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cutting Plywood

With this post, I'll have brought everyone up to date with this project. From the next post on out, you'll be learning of stuff I've done within 24-48 hours of my actually doing it.

A quick recap: I have all of the stock, both solid white oak and plywood. I've laid out all of the parts on the stock. I've ordered and even received all of the hardware. I've determined in what order I'm going to make the parts & put everything together. I've cut out a pattern for the top & bottom shelves. Time to cut up some plywood!

My first task was to get the garage set up for breaking down the plywood. Those of you who have read my postings on WoodNet may have read that my "shop" is actually a 1 car garage, 10' wide by 24' long. I have to share it with our minivan in the winter. But right now, it's all mine. I also have a shed attached to the side of the garage. The only way in or out is a double door with a pad lock. My chop saw, bench top drill press, routers, circular & jig saws, thickness planer, and all my wood live in the shed when not in use.

In the garage, I use 2 metal folding sawhorses with three 2x4's on top, and a partial sheet of 1/4" plywood on top of them as a work table. This is where I do most of my glue-ups, all of my chiseling, sanding, etc. When I do big glue-ups, I just use the saw horses to hold the pieces at a comfortable height. This arrangement is far from optimal, and I'll do something about it one of these days. For now, I just make do.

This work table normally sits butted up against the only unbroken long wall in the garage. For this operation, I wanted the saw horses in the middle of the garage with two of the 2x4's on it. This would let me get to all sides of the sheet & keep me from cutting into the top of my work surface (something I've done in the past).

Using my new panel carrier (shown in the picture below), I carried a sheet of my oversize plywood from the shed to the garage by myself. This was pretty cool since I needed my wife's help to get the sheet out of the van & carry it into the shed when I brought it home. Lifting with the carrier was much easier than trying to lift the sheet up so I could get one hand under it. All I had to do was lift one corner & slide the the channel underneath. Once the sheet was in the channel, I grabbed the top edge of the sheet in the middle with my left hand, held on to the handle of the carrier with my right, bent my knees & lifted. Piece of cake!

I did get a little assistance putting the sheet up on the saw horses. I was afraid that I'd drop the sheet & mess up the good face, knowing my butter fingers & how Murphy likes to look over my shoulder. Thankfully, Mary & I were able to get the sheet up on the sawhorses & 2x4s without trouble.

Now I referred to my pattern for the top / bottom shelves. I measured it's width & length, then added 1/4" to each dimension. This is the size of the blanks I needed to cut for the shelves. This turned out to be 18 5/8" x 33 1/4".

Starting at one end of the sheet, I cut two pieces 33 1/4" long by the width of the sheet using my circular saw & home made cutting guide. Before I made the cut, I did use my speed square to ensure that the corners of the plywood were really square.

I carried another sheet of plywood out of the shed into the garage and set it up on the sawhorses & 2x4's with my son's help (he's only 8, but he's a big boy!) I then referred to my drawings for the rough dimensions of the back pieces. These turned out to be 22" x 26" for the base cabinet and 22" x 41 for the upper cabinet. I then repeated the steps I used to cross cut the parts for the shelves and cross cut two pieces for the wide backs.

After cleaning up, I put the saw horses back in their normal position & set my work table back up. Then I pulled out my table saw & ripped the four pieces of plywood into the blanks I needed. The large pieces left over from cross cutting the sheets with the circular saw went back into the shed. They were a lot lighter going back than they were coming out!

With the rip cuts done, it was time to cut the shelves to rough shape. I placed the pattern onto a shelf blank and clamped it down so the pattern wouldn't move. I placed witness marks on the blank so I could relocate the pattern in the same spot when I was done rough cutting.

I then took a 1/8" wide strip I had left over from another project that was lying around the shed. I cut a length about 2' long off of it with a hand saw and placed that next to one edge of the pattern. I then drew a straight line using the strip as my guide. I repeated this on all sides of the pattern. Next I removed the strip, clamps, and the pattern & made a series of cuts to get the blanks to rough shape.

The set up for the first cut is shown below. The 12" K-bodies are holding the blank to my work table so it won't fall or move. The 6" Tradesman clamps are holding the straight edge guide to the blank.

I made a series of similar cuts to get the blank to rough shape & size. I then repeated this process with the other three blanks. When I was done, I had four shelves that were larger than I needed with some tear out. They weren't all the precise shape they needed to be.

Next I chucked a 3/4" flush trimming bit up in my DW621 plunge router. I then attached the pattern to a shelf with double stick tape (see below). I turned the pieces over so the pattern was on the bottom. Next, I set the height of the bit so the bearing bit rode against the pattern & full thickness of the shelf was cut by the cutter. One pass all the way around, followed by some sanding of the edges of the blank with 80 grit paper on a block to clean up the edges, and I had a finished shelf.

The last thing I did last weekend was to plane the white oak I got from Condon's that will become the 6" wide front sides to thickness and ripped them to rough width. With some luck, I'll get back into the shop this weekend and make some more sawdust!

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