I built this wall-hanging cabinet with a door on the front that opens upwards (plain old hinges on exterior face, not installed yet) (there's space on the back for a cleat, not super apparent in images below):
It did not assemble well. It is not usable. It was assembled like so; consider the following drawing:
- I built the side and door frames. Pocket hole joints used for frame components because I had to assemble to chamfer inner edges before finishing, but had to disassemble to insert the screens after finishing.
- I cut the three panels and glued them together, just butt joint. When gluing I clamped around the outside in line with the vertical panel and inserted spacers as well.
- I then glued the side frames on.
The frames are pine and the panels are 7/16" ply.
Now, I had designed, measured, followed the rule of cutting to reality instead of design, dry fit and dry fit again, followed all the rules I've discovered (make all same-length cuts at once without adjusting settings, all that, etc), but still I ran into the following issues:
The top and bottom panels weren't glued at perfect right angles. I had to apply significant force to hold them true when gluing the sides on.
Panels were too short vertically, and it was inconsistent (some corners looked OK, others were way off):
Biggest of all, the door, despite looking fine throughout the whole process, was somehow magically a good 1/8" or so too wide at the end, and with gaps on the sides:
Also the top panel was bowed downwards in the center, mostly as a result of the forces applied to the edges trying to make it straight when gluing the sides on; problematic because the hinges need to go there:
Now, I think the frames (sides and door) came together well, and almost all of the problems were due to various issues with the panels. I shouldn't have even proceeded to glue it up to begin with after noticing that the panels weren't 90 degrees. I also didn't do that one final dry fit. I'm not sure where in the building and finishing process I lost material on the panels. The frames are sized consistently with each other.
I have since cut the sides off, removed the panel stubs, and refinished the sides, so I have a second chance at this. I now have the frames, assembled and finished, ready to go again.
So my question is: How could I have designed this differently from the start (particularly joining the panels to the frames) that could have both avoided all these problems and also lessen the tolerances that I needed to cut things to?
And how can I salvage it given that I have the sides detached again?
As far as salvaging goes: What I am thinking is rabbeting the top and bottom of the side frames, and cutting a slot in the side frames for the vertical, and also cutting a slot in the top and bottom panels for the vertical. Then the top and bottom will be flush, and any slop / inaccuracies in the back can be hidden in the slots. And I won't glue the panels to each other first, instead I'll glue the sides and panels all in one shot. My side frames probably aren't flat any more anyways due to sanding so even if I wanted to butt them against the panels I don't think it would work now. Does this seem reasonable? The minor downside is just aesthetic; it will make the side frames appear thinner than the door from the top and bottom, and you'll see the rabbets with the door open. The other alternative is biscuits, although the plywood feels a bit thin for that.
How would you have built this cabinet, from the start, to avoid the problems?