Every woodworker makes a mistake sooner or later, but the good ones know how to fix them. That’s what really matters. And that’s what you’ll get here: real-world tips for fixing your real-world woodworking problems.
1. Removing Router Burn
Hard, light-coloured woods such as oak and maple are great to work with in most ways, but there’s a problem: both have a tendency to burn when edge-routed. And once the dark brown marks are on these woods, it’s surprisingly difficult to sand them off. In fact, it’s almost impossible. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a complicated routed profile.
You can remove router-burned edges in a matter of seconds with this easy fix. Simply adjust the depth of cut on your router bit a smidgen deeper than the cut that burned your wood in the first place. If you take off about 1/64″ to 1/32″ of extra wood while moving your workpiece past the bit relatively quickly, you’ll mill off all the burned wood without causing further damage.
2. Tightening Sloppy Mortise-and-Tenon Joints
Mortises and tenons are mainstays of good woodworking, but they need to fit snugly to perform right. And that doesn’t always happen, especially when you’re learning. If you cut a mortise-and-tenon joint that wiggles, even a little, don’t just glue it up and hope for the best; you’ll probably be disappointed. Instead, take the time to cut thin pieces of wood to glue and clamp to the sides of the tenon. If you orient the grain of your patch to match the grain of the undersized tenon, you’ll get another shot at cutting the tenon, and the joint will still be strong.
3. Eliminating Gaps in Face Frame Joints
Face frames are the narrow pieces of wood that cap the front edges of cabinet bodies, and it’s easy to miscut face frame rails so they don’t fit tightly with their neighbouring stiles. If the gap is 1/32″ or less, don’t toss the piece of wood into the scrap heap. Instead, get your pipe clamps out. You’d be surprised how far you can pull in a set of stiles so they fit tight and gap-free against the ends of an otherwise loose rail between them. As added insurance that these joints stay together after the clamps come off, reinforce them with 1/4″ dowels. Drill a hole down the middle of the joint, swab in some glue, then tap the dowel into place. The result is an easily cut, simple tenon that helps keep rails and stiles united, even if you did need to draw them together under a bit of pressure. It’s an easy way to create a kind of tiny mortise-and-tenon joint.
4. Adjusting a Too-Deep Hinge Pocket
When you are installing small butt hinges, it’s easy to chisel the hinge pockets too deep. In fact, it’s quite likely you’ll make this mistake as you’re learning to install cabinet doors. Cardboard pieces from cereal boxes make excellent shims for raising hinges to the level they should be. Set one or two into place, then drive screws right through the cardboard and into the door frame. If you cut the shims to the right size, no one will ever know.
5. Removing Mystery Glue Smears
Some of the nastiest finishing surprises often don’t appear until you’re putting stain or sealer on wood. That’s when hidden bits of smeared glue become very obvious, because they don’t absorb finishing liquids at the same rate as the surrounding bare wood. In fact, they might not absorb any at all, leaving you with a bright, ugly and conspicuous blemish that needs attention fast. Considering some sandpaper? Forget it. If it’s fine enough to be effective, it’s sure to get clogged with stain or urethane after just a few strokes. No, what you need is a sharp cabinet scraper. A few scrapes will get rid of the glue, even if the area is covered in wet varnish. The resulting curls of wood are easier to clean up than sanding dust would be, plus the cleaned area will match the colour of the surrounding wood more closely.