A word about Plywood
I used 3/4″ thick Baltic Birch for this cabinet. It has a thicker, more durable veneer than typical plywood. Like all plywood, however, 3/4″ doesn’t mean 3/4″. For example, Baltic Birch is typically 11/16″ thick. Whatever plywood you use, check its thickness and adjust your dimensions accordingly. Also, Baltic Birch comes in 5′ x 5′ sheets; that dimension is accurate, meaning it’s 60″ both ways with no extra.
Size the cabinet
Benchtop mortisers are similar in size, but you’ll need to do the math first to make sure yours will fit this cabinet. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to adjust some dimensions. I’ll walk you through the steps of how I dimensioned this cabinet.
First, determine how much space is needed on each side of your mortiser, taking into account handles, fences, etc. that protrude beyond the base’s footprint. Second, measure your mortiser’s height and add 2″ – 3″. This is how much vertical space you need inside the cabinet.
Lastly, find your mortiser’s balance point (it’s likely not the center of the base). Mounting the mortiser with its balance point over the pivot rod makes it easier to rotate. To find the balance point, set your machine on the pivot rod and roll it back and forth until it almost balances on the rod (Photo 1). It’s unlikely that you’ll get it to balance perfectly, but close is good enough. Make a note of the distance from the base’s front edge to the balance point.
Once you’ve found the tool’s balance point, you can determine the cabinet’s depth. When the tool is in the “in use” position, you’ll want it closer to the front of the cabinet for ease of use. Figure out how close you want the base’s front edge to the cabinet’s front. Add this dimension to the distance from the base’s front edge to the balance point and then double it. For example, if the balance point is 5″ back from the front edge of the base, and you want the front edge of the base 5″ back from the cabinet’s front, that gives you a total of 10″. So your platform would be 20″ deep. The reason you have to double the measurement is that the pivot rod must be mounted in the center of the cabinet.
Make the platform
The platform assembly needs to be beefy to support the weight of the tool. I used two layers of 3/4″ Baltic birch for the platform’s outer layers (A), and 1/2″ mdf for the core (B). The reason I chose mdf instead of plywood for the core is that the pivot rod is exactly 1/2″ in diameter, and 1/2″ Baltic birch plywood is slightly under 1/2″. MDF is a full 1/2″. I used glue and brad nails to assemble the platform parts.
Make the core in two pieces leaving a 1/2″ gap for the pivot rod. Before attaching the core pieces to the plywood, make a 1″ deep x 2″ wide cutout on one long side of each core piece. When the platform is assembled, the cutouts form mortises for the locking tabs.
Attach one core half to one of the platform pieces. Place the pivot rod in position, slide the second core half against it, and then glue it in place. Attach the second platform piece.
Mark for your tool’s mounting holes and use your drill press to drill all the way through the platform. Install tee-nuts in the bottom face of the platform (Photo 2). Use the largest bolts and tee-nuts that your tool’s base will accommodate.
Build the cabinet
Before assembling the cabinet (Fig. 01), there are a couple pre-assembly steps. First, the sides (C) need to be drilled for the flanged bearings in which the pivot rod turns. These bearings are oil-impregnated bronze, so they never need lubrication. Since the bearings are flanged, they require a stepped hole. To determine the holes’ placement, find the center of the platform’s thickness. Measure that distance from the top edge of each side to locate the holes’ vertical placement (Fig. 02). Center the hole on the sides’ depth minus the back.
Use a Forstner bit to drill a 7/8″ dia. x 1/8″ deep recess. Next, drill a 5/8″ dia. through hole centered in the 7/8″ recess (Fig. 02). Press the bearings into the stepped holes (Photo 3).
Glue up the bottom assembly. The bottom (D) is smaller than the sub-bottom (E), forming for a rabbet equal to your material’s thickness at the assembly’s back and both sides.
|Overall Dimensions: 34″ H x 24-1/2″ W x 24-1/2″ D|
|PART||NAME||QTY||MATERIAL||Th X W X L|
|A||Platform||2||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 22″ x 22-7/8″|
|B||Platform core||2||mdf||1/2″ x 22″ x 11-3/16″|
|C||Side||2||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 23-11/16″ x 30-1/4″|
|D||Bottom||1||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 23″ x 22-1/4″|
|E||Sub-bottom||1||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 23-5/8″ x 23-5/8″|
|F||Support||2||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 11″ x 22-3/4″|
|G||Support cleat||2||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 4″ x 23″|
|H||Support pull||2||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 1-1/2″ x 3″|
|J||Back||1||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 22-1/4 X 30-1/4″|
|K||Platform lock||1||mdf||1/2″ x 3/4″ x 1-1/2″|
|L||Support lock||2||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 1-1/2″ x 4″|
|M||Door lip||1||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 1″ x 31″|
|N||Storage block||3||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 2″ x 11″ (a)|
|P||Door||1||Baltic birch||3/4″ x 24-1/4″ x 31″|
|(a) Glue up three thicknesses of 3/4″ Baltic birch. Size to suit.|
Cut the supports (F) and support cleats (G). The upper edge of each support is beveled at 10°. When the supports are flipped up, the bevel’s point is the only part that touches the platform. Glue and screw the support pulls (H) to the supports.
Attach the supports to the support cleats using butt hinges. Lay one of the sides flat on your bench. Slide the pivot rod through the platform and into the side’s bushing. Make sure the platform is flush with the side’s top edge. With the platform is in its finished position, set the support assembly in place and glue and screw it to the side (Photo 4). Repeat this process for the other side.
Assemble the back (J) and sides using #20 biscuits, glue and clamps (Photo 5). Use the bottom assembly as a template to keep the glue-up square. When the glue is dry, glue and screw the back and sides to the bottom assembly.
On your drill press, use a V-block to drill a 1/8″ hole in each end of the pivot rod (Photo 6). Make sure the distance between the holes is the exact total width of the cabinet. Since this cabinet has nothing connecting the front upper corners, the cotter keys installed in these holes help to keep the cabinet square.
To install the platform, flip up both supports and set the platform in place. Slide the pivot rod through the platform (Photo 7) with a 1/2″ fender washer between each side and the platform. Install the cotter keys to secure the rod.
Mount the platform lock (K), support locks (L), door lip (M) and storage block (N) to the door (P, Fig. 03). Mount the door to the cabinet using a piano hinge or butt hinges, and then install the latch. Lastly, mount locking casters to the bottom and bolt your machine to the platform (Photo 8). Apply whatever finish you prefer.
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