It’s All About Details

In yesterday’s blog, I asked you to tell me where you are having problems in your woodworking projects. I am not certain that you fully understood my question, or better put statement. What I need is input in order to give output, here is an example.

Yesterday I was putting together my doors for this entertainment center….cope and stick, raised panels…. not a difficult task, unless you don’t understand it, then it’s not so easy. Like Mike, he understood the basics, but it was those pesky details that make it work far better. Things like when you run the stiles (sides). You know, where you cut a grove and form a profile that the rails with tenons on the end and a reverse profile of the stiles fits into, thus whats called a cope. Mike’s problem was two-fold.

First, when he ran the stiles he did the full cut in one pass, very typical. He got tear out or chip out, which ever you prefer to call it. So he filled and sanded his “butt”‘ off trying to clean it up. If he had left the stiles (and rails) about a 3/16 wider than what he was going to need ,then did his cut, trimmed them again on the table saw, removing the 1/8″ to 1/16″ and re-ran them he would have had a very nice clean cut. OR he could have run them vertically over the table saw blade making a blade wide groove not quite as deep as the router cut would be (usually 3/8″ so saw set to about 5/16”), at the approximate center of where the router would cut the groove and remove some of the “meat” so the bit can operate easier and there is more room for chip deflection. It would have helped immensely. In really tough woods both techniques are use. The goal is to get a very nice smooth cut that requires very little sanding. The above means of sneaking up on it does just that. Now, he also could have taken several light passes and this would have helped. A cope and stick operation removes alot of wood ever how you do it and chip out is always an issue.

The second problem was that Mike didn’t know that the bits often have to be adjusted. That is when you remove the top securing nut and in between the bearings and cutters you will find very thin washers (shims), and often they need to be played with a little to get the tenon thickness correct. Usually they are pretty good, but occasionally you need to adjust them especially after sharpening and you have to tinker with height adjustment on the bits to insure you get a flush fit. It takes a minute or two. When cutting the tenons often chip out will occur where the bit exits the back of the wood so a backer is needed to help prevent this, but as is often the case, you may have already ran the profile on the edge of the rail (top and bottom), I prefer to cut the tenons first then run the face profile because it gives me a flat surface from which I can use a simple flat backer. But in the event you have already ran the profile, a flat backer will be of no use and as the bit passes through the profiled portion it will tear out in the corners. An easy way to avoid this is to run a long piece on the tenon cutter which will cut the reverse profile, or cope as mentioned, and now it will fit into the profiled edge and provide a backer and prevent chip out.

Now here is what I wrote all that about. When you glue the doors together, clamp them up enough to pull the joints together, clean off any excess glue, put a piece of tape on the top and bottom, sit it in your opening, (I usually cut the stiles to just fit in the case height, can trim later), then simply clamp the door to the case, insuring it fits snugly, and be sure it’s flush with the face frame (this is
for inset doors), if not, then you can twist it around a bit, and pull it flush, (go past a little (3/16″) and let the glue dry. Keep an eye on it and insure you don’t over bend too much. What you will get is a door that fits perfectly in your opening….compensates for any slight out of square, and sits flush with your face frame. Do the same with the second door and as you can see in the pics, a couple wedges can be used to hold the two where you want them, and let them dry well….

Having written all this, a 10 min video and you would perhaps comprehend what i have written or if you have struggled with doors you may understand now. All of what I have written is very easy and simplistic, but in the written word it’s difficult to explain. It’s an example of techniques that insure good results but are typically not part of the normal instruction. Here is where years of doing them come in, it’s those little details that make a world of difference…

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7 Responses to It’s All About Details

  1. Mike Galloway says:

    Yep my next cope and stick doors will look a lot better after my lesson this past weekend. Here are a few more things to do when you make the doors. First have plenty of set-up stock so that you can run enough test to get a good fit. If you are having problems getting the rails and stiles to be flush, get the front flush and leave the back be off so that if you need to sand them flush you do it on the back side. Next watch your corners when you do any sanding. I dipped my corners so we had to run the doors through the thickness sander to get them flat again so I lost some of my profile detail. Ed suggest that I use a trace coat so that I can see that I am sanding level. Also be sure to sand the profile well before putting the doors together so you don’t have problems when you goto put the finish on.

  2. Ace Holeinone says:

    Beautiful work….what glue did you use?


  3. intheworkshop says:

    Tightbond III, you have to work fast, it sets quick, for slower I often use the bottled hide glue, or the powdered plastic resin, ( weldbond), its an often overlooked glue, but its strong, just dont try to mix too far ahead , it will thicken and set up , I like plastic resin for veneers as well, of course yellow glues and even plain old white elmers will do the trick

  4. Terry Hennessy says:

    Charles –

    I pretty much understand what you are saying here, except for one part:

    “If he had left the stiles (and rails) about a 3/16 wider than what he was going to need ,then did his cut, trimmed them again on the table saw, removing the 1/8ā€³ to 1/16ā€³ and re-ran them he would have had a very nice clean cut.”

    Are you talking about running the profile, and if you get tear out, then you can trim that off by the 1/8″ to 1/16″ extra and then run the profile again, or are you talking about making the groove for the raised panel?

    And yes, a quickie video would really be a help.

    Thnaks as always for all you help and instructions.


  5. intheworkshop says:

    the profile and groove are cut at the same time..thats whay tearout is almost inevitable, so yes run the profile (and groove) , then trim off an 1/8 or 3/16 (1/16 ), is a typo…and rerun the profile…its all about skim cutting the already ran profile, and rerunning it…it dramatically reduces the amount of material being removed , and allows hte cutter’s to do a much cleaner cut, I have actually ran them 3 times on very stubborn woods, like high figured tiger maple for example….again…SNEAK UP ON IT”…Merry Christmas…to all

  6. Ben says:


    Question about the glue – that detail thing..

    Can you give me some more details about the glues you mention above like brands you like to purchase of the types you mentioned above. Since I’m usually not interested in speed (do this as a hobby) most of the time, I’m really interested in your recommendations for glues that dry slow (both for light and dark woods/stains) that would give me plenty of time to glue up a cabinet draw and confirm everything is square and then let it dry over night. To date, i’ve used these glues: CA, epoxy, white and Titebond III. BTW, for stick and cope I’ve had the best luck sneaking up on the cut with about 3 passes per piece with the last cut a skim cut for the most part. Also, make sure your cutters are sharp and not excessively worn/dull. Higher priced cutters seem to hold their edge longer, but wood density plays a big part as well. Jatoba dulls them quickly. Appreciate all your assistance and educational material you put up on video and your bolg. Also enjoyed your router DVD set – good stuff! Ben

  7. Ben says:

    Edit for above: should read cabinet door, not cabinet draw. Can you tell I’m from the South??? šŸ˜‰

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