Cutting the Joinery

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Use a table-mounted router to cut the joinery. Although you arc making a one-pass cut, you don't need a big-horsepower router. And though the cope and sticking bits are hefty, they aren't large-diameter, so you don't really need to reduce the router's speed. What you do need are two or three hold-downs to hold the stock both flat against the tabletop and tight against the fence.

Rout the sticking on each stile and rail first. Tighten the sticking bit in the router collet, and adjust the bit's height to cut the desired profile. As previously noted, the objective in setting the bit height is to position the profile for its best appearance without getting the groove too close to the back. So long as you are working with stock between lMi>ancl 7/a inch thick, this shouldn't be too difficult. Make test cuts as necessary to establish the optimum bit height.

For a safe operation, set up the wooden fence so the bit is mostly buried in the fence and the guiding edge of the fence is even with the edge of the bit's bearing. The more closely matched the fence opening

Cut the stiles about 2 inches longer than they'll be in the finished frame. After assembly, trim off the excess.

You'll find it easier to assemble the frame if you aren't trying to get the ends of the stiles perfectly flush with the edges of the rails. Scribe pencil lines across the face of stiles where the rails are to align. After the glue dries, you can trim these "horns" and have perfectly flush top and bottom edges.

is to the bit contour, the better the fence will back up the cut and minimize—if not completely eliminate— chipping ahead of the cutter. Using the split fence makes this easy to accomplish. You simply shift the two fence elements toward the bit until they nearly touch it, then lock them down.

Set the hold-downs next. Use a couple of feathcrboards or the springboard to keep the work tight to the fence. Fred's plcsiosaur hold-down

The split fencc allows you to set the fence around the bit, providing baching for the work. Before making the sticking cuts, set up hold-downs to control the movement of the work past the cutter. A good arrangement has two featherhoards clamped to the fence, one on each side of the cutter, holding the work against the tabletop. The featherhoards prevent the stock from Ireing kicked back.

is ideal for pressing the work against the tahletop. (Sec the chapter "Router Table Accessories" for plans for these safety devices.) You can position both of them right at the bit. where you need the pressure.

When everything seems to be set up properly, cut the profile and groove in the inside edges of the stiles and rails. If the frame has an intermediate middle rail or rails, or if it has one or more mullions. these parts must be routed on both edges. One pass should be sufficient to complete each cut.

Cope the ends of the rails. There are a number of setup tasks to perform before you actually make the cuts.

Exceptions to woodworking's many general rules abound, and here's one of them. WJict you are working a curved rail, it's better to cut the cope before the stick. Stick a scrap to mate with the cope (top left), and trim the end as necessary to blend into the curved edge. Then when you cut the sticking (bottom left),you've got solid material hacking up the wood at the fragile end of the cut, as well as stock to maintain contact with the pilot bearing and carry the workpicce safely past the cutter. Since you can't use a fence for this operation, use a starting pin to help start the cut (the rounded edge of the dust pickup served as the start-ing pin here) and guide the workpiece against the pilot bearing.

First you have to replace the sticking cutter with the cope cutter. If you are using a set. you replace one bit with the other. If you're using an assembly, you must loosen the locking nut and switch the cutter and bearing positions on the arbor.

Reset the fence, positioning it as before, hut remove the half of the fence that's to the left of the hit. The reason for this is simple. The bit's pilot bearing controLs the cut. a sled guides the workpiece. and the fence serves only to position the workpiece in the sled. (See "Sled" on page 90 for the sled plan.) The sled ndes against the tabletop's front edge. If the work is against the fence for the full distance you move it in making the cut, the fence has to be perfectly parallel to the tablctop edge.

But it isn't necessary to fuss that much. Just make a practice cut using the sled but not the fence. (Of course, you have to establish a coarse bit-height setting to do this, but it doesn't | have to be perfect for this setup task. Just do it by eye.) With the router switched off. use the cut piece to set the fence. Position the sled at the bit. and slide the piece along the sled's backstop so its leading comer is againsr the bearing. Then bring the vertical edge of the fence into position against the back comer and clamp it to the tabletop.

(With the SY-sryle bit—see "Bit Drawer" on page 202—the work-

To scl the fence as a stop for cope cuts, Fred cradles a square-cut snap in the sled. Hunkering down at tahletop lexel, he sights across the end of the scrap, lining it up with the bearing on the bit. After the toggle clamp is snapped onto the scrap, hell bring the fence—with the outfeed section removed—up to the scrap. The fence must be parallel with the front edge of the table, or the setup won't be accurate; so hell slide the sled back and forth, lining up the fence with the end of the scrap. Only then will he lock it down.

To scl the fence as a stop for cope cuts, Fred cradles a square-cut snap in the sled. Hunkering down at tahletop lexel, he sights across the end of the scrap, lining it up with the bearing on the bit. After the toggle clamp is snapped onto the scrap, hell bring the fence—with the outfeed section removed—up to the scrap. The fence must be parallel with the front edge of the table, or the setup won't be accurate; so hell slide the sled back and forth, lining up the fence with the end of the scrap. Only then will he lock it down.

.4 quick and pretty reliable way to set the height of the cope bit is to match it against a piece of the stiched stock. Set the stock beside the hit, as shown, and adjust the bit to aligtt with it. Check the setting with a test cut, but if you're careful, it should be right on.

Cutting across end grain is perilous because the cutter usually tears splinters out as it exits the stock. The sled's fence backs tip the rail—preventing the tear-out—when the rail's square edge is tucked against it, but that's only half of the cuts. For the others, insert a coped piece of scrap into the stick cut before clamping the rail in the sled, as shown here. For the rail to be properly aligned in the sled, make sure the scrap is at least as long as the sled's fence.

.4 quick and pretty reliable way to set the height of the cope bit is to match it against a piece of the stiched stock. Set the stock beside the hit, as shown, and adjust the bit to aligtt with it. Check the setting with a test cut, but if you're careful, it should be right on.

Always have the rail firmly clamped to the sled when making a cope cut. With the sled tight against the table-top edge, slide the rail up to the fence and loch the toggle clamp. Feed the sled past the bit. making the cut. When the cut is done,you can simply ease the sled away from the edge of the tabletop and thus the work from the bit. You don't have to pull the work back across the cutter.

Make your frames a little oversized. In the long run. it can save you extra worry and work. Fred does it all the time.

If you are making a door, for example, crosscut the rails and stiles so the assembled frame will be ]Ao to V* inch longer and wider than your specs call for. The final step is to trim the door, not to the specified dimensions, but to fit. If a door opening is slightly large or slightly out-of-square, yoifve given yourself a margin for error. You have some room to trim the door to fit.

Making the frames slightly oversized can free you from some of the cares of woodworking, too. No more fumbling with cauls to protect the frame edges from clamp jaws. So what if you get a crease or two! The damage gets irimmed off.

piece may not touch the bearing because it's above the cut. Instead of butting the test cut against the bearing, you butt it against the deepest recess of the cutting edge. It's particularly important for you to get the fence set carefully with this style of bit—and to lock the workpiece in the sled with a toggle clamp. Otherwise. you shorten the rails as you make the cope cuts.)

Now to fit a workpiece in the sled, you merely have to slide it along the backstop until it butts against the fence. Flip the toggle to lock it down, and you're ready to cut. But not yet.

You first need to refine your coarse bit-height setting through test cuts. The cope cutter is designed to cut a profile that locks into the sticking cut. Fit your test cut to one of die stiles. Keep adjusting the bit height until the stile and rail surfaces are flush when assembled. (If the coped piece is proud of the sticked piece, lower the cutter. II the stickecl piece is higher, raise the bit.)

When the proper bit height is set. rout a cope along the edge of that backer strip 1 suggested you set aside. The sleds backstop serves to prevent the cutter from blowing out chips as it exits the good stock. But because the backstop has a square edge, it can only do this when the flat edge of the rail is against it. For half your cope cuts, you'll have the sticked edge against the backstop. So use this coped-edge strip as an auxiliary backstop.

Finally, you have to trim the rails to finished length before coping their ends. The width of the profile is what you must account for. For example, if you are making an 18-inch-wide door and using \¥+-inch-wide stiles, the distance between the stiles is M'/i inches. But the rails must be long enough to overlap the sticking profile. If that's ¥» inch wide (which seems to be the standard), then you need to add Y* inch to the length of the rails (Ya inch for each stile, or mice the width of the profile). The easy way to measure the profile is to stick a title into the groove and see how deep it is; the depth of the groove will match the width of the profile.

One critical issue is whether or not the coping cut actually shonens the rail. If the cut is controlled by a bearing on the bit. you shouldn't be concerned about this issue. The cut won't shoncn the rail. If the bearing on the bit is strictly for template-guided cuts, you 'd better check. The best way to determine is with test cuts, followed by close measurement.

With your setup tested and the rails trimmed to length, you should be ready to cut. One final caveat: The sled we use has a big toggle clamp. The clamp is important. The cutlers have a tendency to pull the workpicce as the last corner clears the bearing. It's the same effect you experience when routing an edge with a hand-held router. As you get to the corner, you have to be very careful that you clear the comer without slipping around it. If you are using your fingers to hold the work on the sled, you may not be able to prevent this kind of self-feeding. The clamp can. So use it, and save yourself extra work.

As with the sticking cuts, the cope cuts should be completed in one pass. Repeating a pass can enlarge the cut and create a loose fit. Fred argues that a second pass can enlarge the cut only if there's some movement in your setup. In that case, you'll find some (not all, but some) of the joints coming out less than flush when clamped tight.

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