how to do a panel with hand tools

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20 Feb 2005
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I've decided that a machinist's tool chest is my next project. I had wanted to make it with paneled lid and sides, but without digging out my 'lectric router i'm pretty much at a loss as to the best method to proceed.

I'd planned on 1X red oak for the framing, and to use 1/4 inch oak ply for the panels, as I don't have a panel raising plane.

Whats the best way to cut the channels the panels would rest in?

I have chisels, saws, and a few wooden planes, but not a router plane yet.

I could cut a shoulder into the sides of all the framing pieces, then place the plywood in the center and use quarter round to rebuild what I'd removed.

I could use my 1/4 inch mortise chisel to cat a mortise along the sides of the panels, and let the panel ride in that.

I could pitch it all and just use solid wood for the sides, might have to glue some up to get the right widths though,

Is there a relatively inexpensive good other method to use that I'm missing?
Hi jim

Welcome to the forum.

Why not simply use the electric router to cut the slot if you have no hand tool suited to the task?

Failing that, you could attempt to saw the sides of a dado and then chisel out the waste in the middle; or look around for a router plane at tool sales etc.

I love using hand tools and 80+% of my woodwork is with hand tools, however, sometimes a powered tool is the only/best way.

No doubt other members with experience of this kind of work will come along shortly :wink:
You need a plow plane for cutting grooves, Jim. Common ones are the Stanley #45 & #50 and the Record 044 and 043. The Record 043 is the smallest and most simple and the Stanley #45 is the largest and most complex of this group. Any of these will do 1/4" grooves easily.
Thank you both for your help.

Thank you Tony for the welcome. I've been lurking here and the oldtools list trying to pick up what I want to know. The router was a gift, and it hasn't been out of it's box since I ripped the gift wrap off. Fraknly a handheld router scares me. On another forum of the guys uses as a sig line that he prefers hand tools as they operate at the same speed as his mind. I prefer them, because I want to be able to count to ten on my fingers until they box me up.

Then I guess I better save for a plow plane from ebay. Or else get busy buying or making a router table, or else just resign myself to solid wood construction.

Thanks for the Help, and I'll continue lurking.
Hi Jim,

Welcome! Please ask away on anything you want to know. Usually, there is somebody here with the answer, whatever the question.

I reckon your philosophy regarding hand tools sounds about right to me. After all, anything can be achieved with hand tools so long as you have the time - just look at bygone days! Of course, it's a different matter for those using wood to earn their living when time is of the essence, or for any who might just be impatient. Otherwise, machinery and tailed devils are not absolutely necessary (I do use some). (Should be safe saying this as it's on the Hand Tools Forum - don't want to start an argument now, do I). :wink:



Final idea aimed at keeping your fingers :D

Mount the router in a piece of 19mm MDF (underneath it) to make a very cheap router table and then fix a second, smaller piece of MDF above it and perpendicular to the large piece to make a fence
Support the fence with a couple of other pieces at the back (perpendicular to the fence piece) for stability.
You can then run your rails and styles across the cutter in the same way we use a router table - this is the safest way to use a router

This is how I first used my first router about 10 yers ago and the whole assembly was held in a black & decker workmate - sort of sawbench with a vice.

Whatever you do, have fun and stay safe :wink:
Welcome, Jim.

You've sorted the lack of a panel raiser, but for future reference this page might be handy.

A plough/plow plane's the obvious solution, but not always the cheapest. You could try something using a chisel and making a simple router plane, or even a basic fixed-fence plough/plow (erm, more of a fillister I suppose?). Needless to say I can't find a picture of the sort of thing I have in mind :roll: although here's a description of the sort of idea.

Cheers, Alf

If you want to use ply for the panels - which doesn't expand or shrink much at all, you need only a shallow groove (3/16 inch would be fine) in the stiles and rails. You can make such a groove in no time at all with a scratchstock that takes fifteen minutes to make and costs nothing.

Ignore these well-meaning but ignorant people :p and follow your own recommendation (which I think is exactly what I would do given your limited range of tools):

I could cut a shoulder into the sides of all the framing pieces, then place the plywood in the center and use quarter round to rebuild what I'd removed.

Perfect. :D

Regards from Perth

Thank you all.

I figured any of the methods I mentioned would work, I am looking for the best method, or one that I didn't think of.

Tony, I think that you just came up with a winner, I start a vacation after work tonight, I might just have to scarf (pick up) a piece of MDF and see what I can come up with.

Derek, I saved your comment for my wife when she starts commenting on the growing selection in the garage. I found a basic tool list off and have been steadily marking off what I didn't have. It's mostly complete. Some things that didn't sound usual, plus some I added on from other places are still needed.

Waterhead, Thank you, when I get off work tonight I'll start looking up a scratch stock, although the chisel holder idea sounds good. I have an old yellow plastic handled stanley I got cheap...

Alf, From that page I could use my trusty #4 to work the panel. That might be fun until I can afford a #10, they are kinda pricy.
After all, anything can be achieved with hand tools so long as you have the time - just look at bygone days!

Chuckle. A full time professional carpenter acquaintance of mine was explaining that the bevels on raised panel all have to be the same width, otherwise the arrises won't meet in the corner.

After a bit of "grilling", it turns out that this is because his panel raising blades for his spindle moulder only do fixed angles, whereas an asymmetric panel would require "custom" angles; easily made (of course), with plough and rebate planes.

Power tools quicker on a job? Not when they can't do the job at all, they're not.

Not when they can't do the job at all, they're not

A little unfair. All he needs to do is drop a thousand or two on a tilt-head moulder or a massive selection of knives, and the power tool could do the job. Not at the same cost, of course.

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