This weekend, the weather’s been so nice that I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday afternoon that cutting up a sheet of dust-ridden 18mm MDF on the drive!
Staddons must’ve received their delivery later on Friday afternoon, as they had a sheet ready to cut to size by the time I arrived on Saturday morning. After studying a cutting sheet I’d set out using the components in Google SketchUp, I asked them to crosscut the sheet at 1600mm, leaving <840mm x 1220mm on the other end. I was a bit optimistic when I assumed that this would fit to my small van with ease… It did fit but, the larger half was angled at a position that meant it resting against my head during the short journey back to the workshop! I wish I’d taken a photo!
Cutting Sheet – Google SketchUp
I was using the Skil Saw that I purchased second-hand a few months ago, with a home-made MDF saw guide, about 100mm longer than the width of a 4ft sheet. It worked relatively well although, I somehow managed to damage my reference edge that provides the ‘perfect’ line of the saw cut… At times, it felt as though the saw wasn’t resting firmly on the MDF jig and was inclined to wobble as I ran it along the guide. There was only one occasion where I strayed far and away from the guide but, I was able to work around that:
This blade was also brand new and came from Summit Saw Blades, through their eBay shop. For a 40t blade I think it performed very well. Affordable yet, not cheap and nasty or noisy, as are some of the other cheap blades available to day. I think the picture below speaks for itself, if you look closely at the finish achieve on the end-grain of this 2in thick lump of beech:
From Summit Saw Blades
It took less than two-hours for me to convert my two part-sheets of 18mm MDF in to component pieces, finished to pre-determined dimensions. It’s quite long and slow process; certainly not as efficient or quite as accurate as if I was to use a dimension saw but, the saw guide helps a lot …Even when the edge is damage and you have to reposition the guide several times to cut closer to you pencil line!
Perhaps a development of this idea is on the cards for a future workshop project… One more akin to the plunge guide rails and tracks; where the saw is unable to tip and locates positively over a length of aluminium channel…
Short Cuts with a Long Guide
As I worked my way through the cutting sheet and down to the smaller sizes, I found it was best to support the far end of the saw board with a scrap of MDF. It worked well and, it was easier than making a shorter guide!
Those were my only offcuts (excluding strips of waste).
I’d decided to construct this carcase using biscuits and pocket screws. As the sun was still shining at this point, I decided to continue working outdoors as I milled away all those slots for no.20 biscuits. Working off the base of the tool (as opposed to using the fence) places the biscuit slot almost perfectly central to the workpiece’s thickness, when working with something between 18mm and 20mm thick (¾in).
Kreg R3 Jig
This also meant that I was going to have to break out the Kreg R3 pocket-hole jig for the very first time. What a joy it is to use… So simple! Such an excellent design. Needless to say, I didn’t have any problems with this, even when using a ‘cheaper’ clamp from Rutlands. I’ll have to review this properly in another post some time. Every woodworker should have one!!
That was where I left things for Saturday, as my thoughts turned to feeding the dog and getting a take-away, later that night. On Sunday afternoon, I was back outside of the workshop again…
Before the assembly, I decided to each component a ‘primer’ coating of a 50/50 cheap emulsion/water mix. You can buy a clear sanding sealer designed especially for MDF but, I’ve been looking to use this paint up for a while and, as it’s only a first coat, it doesn’t really matter… Thankfully, as I couldn’t find my small foam roller and my “cat-scratch” approach to using a brush that hadn’t been cleaned properly last time leaves an awful lot to be desired!
That didn’t take very long to dry at all and, by the time I had tried to coat one surface, the previously ‘wet’ texture on another board was already dry enough to handle.
Getting ready to assemble and glue it all together:
Do you think I cut enough biscuit slots?!?
Although not perfect, all parts were successfully cut to within a tolerance of +/- 1mm, which seems good enough to me, on a job like this! I was hoping that the pocket screws would ‘bite’ a little more and help to extinguish some of the gaps between joints that I am left with but, this is MDF I’m working with (0very soft) and, I learnt from my test pieces that over-tightening even washer-head screws will lead to trouble.
I started by screwing the shelf to the back and then, adding the two dividers above. After this, I attached the sides, one at a time, before securing the base from below:
I couldn’t see any reason to biscuit or glue the base on as it’s going to retain most of the weight from above. It’s simply fitted with a 25mm (1in) overhang all around and each of the four corners has been rounded off, with all arrisses rounded-over and eased for comfort.
That’s how it’s looking at the end of play. There are a couple of narrow pieces resting on top that will fit in behind the upper skirting, once that’s been cut, planed and fitted. Before I attempt a second coat of paint (possibly a cheap gloss-finish, if I can find one) I’ll try to fill the holes; probably just using ordinary wood filler. I was hoping to have a pocket hole plug cutter by now but, Rutlands couldn’t confirm when it would be available again so, I cancelled that from my order some time ago.
MDF edges are always tricky to finish although, I’ve heard that a 50/50 mix of water and PVA glue does a good job, prior to a light sanding and painting. Some of the edges need to be levelled off, where my cuts were that accurate or consistent and, where the back panel joins each side, it’s a shame to see that they have moved slightly out of alignment, even though I did add the biscuits to help with any alignment issues. Oh, well. You live and learn, I suppose. Perhaps I should’ve searched harder to find my 90° corner clamp.
There’s still a lot of work to do and I hope you’ll continue you to follow me as this all comes together.
Thanks for reading.