Joining wood at 90 degrees - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 02-27-2019, 11:52 AM Thread Starter
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Joining wood at 90 degrees

Hi all,


I'm attempting to replicate a classic George Nelson cabinet for my home. The challenge is how well hidden all the screws are. As you can see in the photo the wood is joined at a 90 degree with no signs of screws. Was this likely done with biscuits and glue alone? And is that enough support? It's a relatively small cabinet. 24"h 34"w.



Second, I can't find any photos of the back but from the side it appears smooth with no obvious sign of a backboard. Any guess how this was done?



And lastly what's the best method for seamlessly inserting the shelf? Fitting it into a groove possibly?
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post #2 of 17 Old 02-27-2019, 12:03 PM
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looks easy, but it's not ...

That's called a "waterfall" miter joint because the grain flows continuously around:
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The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #3 of 17 Old 02-27-2019, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
That's called a "waterfall" miter joint because the grain flows continuously around:
How to Make Waterfall Corner Joints | Rockler Skill Builders - YouTube
I agree with woodnthings, as to being a difficult joint...and would add, a weak joint if it's racked after being assembled.

Gary

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post #4 of 17 Old 02-27-2019, 01:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElderOnes View Post
Hi all,

I'm attempting to replicate a classic George Nelson cabinet for my home. The challenge is how well hidden all the screws are. As you can see in the photo the wood is joined at a 90 degree with no signs of screws. Was this likely done with biscuits and glue alone? And is that enough support? It's a relatively small cabinet. 24"h 34"w.
Yes, I would suspect that no screws are used. I virtually never use screws in the furniture that I made. A good glue joint is as good as the wood itself. Biscuits add little to the joint strength and are primarily used as alignment aids.

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Second, I can't find any photos of the back but from the side it appears smooth with no obvious sign of a backboard. Any guess how this was done?
From the pictures that you posted it certainly looks like there is a back on the cabinet. I would imagine that it 1/4" or 3/8" plywood inserted into a rabbet that runs around the perimeter.

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And lastly what's the best method for seamlessly inserting the shelf? Fitting it into a groove possibly?
For the shelf I would make a stopped dado. Stop the dado about an inch from the front of the cabinet. Place the shelf into the dado before installing the back panel.


George
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Last edited by difalkner; 02-27-2019 at 10:33 PM. Reason: fixed quotes
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post #5 of 17 Old 02-27-2019, 02:01 PM
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Yes, in a open cabinet, with no back

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmercer_48083 View Post
I agree with woodnthings, as to being a difficult joint...and would add, a weak joint if it's racked after being assembled.

The purpose of the inserted or nailed on back is to prevent racking. Done correctly and glued on, no worries!

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #6 of 17 Old 02-27-2019, 10:09 PM
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I don't see any reason the top, bottom, sides and back couldn't be mitered. If a spline was added to the joint it would be a very strong without using any nails or screws.
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post #7 of 17 Old 02-28-2019, 09:05 AM
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They may have done it by using veneer on top of a plywood box. That would be easier.

You could also look at the Rockler dado blade set that allows you to bend wood at right angles.

https://www.rockler.com/rockler-mite...-dado-set-plus

There are videos on YouTube that demonstrate how it works.


In woodworking there is always more then one way to accomplish something.
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post #8 of 17 Old 02-28-2019, 11:41 AM
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Often it is not how a major manufacturer would produce something but how you would build something similar with the tools available, it would appear your choices would be to join it with miters of some kind or bend it as suggested with the dado blade system mentioned in post #7. Realistically it is an open box with a shelf and doors.

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post #9 of 17 Old 02-28-2019, 03:57 PM
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I would bet it is a veneered panel. MDF? I have a domino machine and would use that. A spline could also be used as suggested. I'd bet as a commercially made product the back is let into a groove. The stopped dado method for home build shelf would be fine and add some rigidity to the design.
There are excellent door track systems available that utilize ball bearing rollers. Check out Hafela. Commercially the door glass would be tempered but remember once tempered it is very difficult to change sizes. Tempered is much stronger and minimizes the risks to a kid falling into it.
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post #10 of 17 Old 02-28-2019, 05:54 PM
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And if miters seem too imposing to you then you can always go with the simple butt joint. It will also work.



George
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post #11 of 17 Old 02-28-2019, 08:03 PM
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Supper Fun Project!!!

Hi ElderOne,

GeorgeC's commnet was "spot on" and I couldn't agree with it more about the big picture of this and most furniture...!!!...

The last time "my path crossed" a George Nelson project was oddly serendipitous...!!!...as one of my students with a huge smile on thier face dragged in a pair of Chairs, a Coffee Table and a Lamp Stand...in a nice Birch (?) hardwood, with yellow heavy cloth upholstery...It was in excellent condition other than needing some cleaning and a a bit of "love" for some loose joints in the chair...He got it for $50 and you don't even want to know what it turned out being worth...the lucky

Anyway...to your query:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElderOnes View Post
...As you can see in the photo the wood is joined at a 90 degree with no signs of screws. Was this likely done with biscuits and glue alone? And is that enough support? It's a relatively small cabinet. 24"h 34"w.
Absolutely...!!!!...no screws or biscuit joints in his work at all...Nor veneers in any I have seen...Its all wood joinery...

I have been told that some of his "Mitter Joints" had been done with high grade hardwood ply woods and the application of a "Miter Fold Dado" but a spline would work just as well to with solid hardwood...



Quote:
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...Second, I can't find any photos of the back but from the side it appears smooth with no obvious sign of a backboard. Any guess how this was done?
It's inset, as others have stated in several I have seen...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElderOnes View Post
...And lastly what's the best method for seamlessly inserting the shelf? Fitting it into a groove possibly?
What GeorgeC suggested or there is a "V" Dado style that is very seamless and of the "post modern" period of furniture...
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post #12 of 17 Old 03-17-2019, 11:57 AM
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Great discussion! As a newbie who hasn't done this, but would like to, I watched the Rockler video to see just how the Waterfall Miter is made.

Obviously, a thin kerf is needed to make this approach work best, particularly the more the grain at the joint foes not run perpendicular to the cut.

On the other hand, the hallmark of the Miter Fold is that the end product will have NO breaks in the surface grain at 2-3 of the 4 corners, assuming the starting board is at least as long as the sum of the lengths of at least 3 sides of the completed box or cabinet.

So, thinking about all that, I'd like to learn why and when one might or might not choose to use this Waterfall Miter vs. using a router to create Miter Folds for 3-4 of the corners of a rectangular box/cabinet?

Is one approach stronger than the other? Is the Miter Fold not appropriate for some sizes of boxes or cabinets, etc.?

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post #13 of 17 Old 03-17-2019, 03:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pdalton View Post
...Great discussion!...So, thinking about all that, I'd like to learn why and when one might or might not choose to use this Waterfall Miter vs. using a router to create Miter Folds for 3-4 of the corners of a rectangular box/cabinet?...Is one approach stronger than the other? Is the Miter Fold not appropriate for some sizes of boxes or cabinets, etc.?...
Hi Dalton,

Great questions...

I'm personally not a fan of either joint...aka the "locking" or "fold" miters. To validate, I'm not a fan of them because I don't care for "plywood" and avoid it whenever I am able to....but...sometimes I can't, and then I would probably then use a spline rather than either of these.

As to stronger...I would offer that with modern adhesives, and either of these joints (which have always been intended for ply material) they are on very close equal footing for structural strength.

From a design perspective, if done well, the "fold" is probably a finer joint, as some of suggested. My own personal observations is it depends on the woodworker, as both look the same when don really well, for the most part.

With more traditional woodworking (my realm and profession) I would be employing a "waterfall" (most likely) in a very large slab design, so my joinery would (again) be splines and/or toggle tenons of some form...even in green wood...

If you can learn to use Sketchup (?) and do some deep digging on the web for examples, you may reveal a much deeper understanding of this joinery system. Perhaps then you may draw some different perspectives than you have now about the joinery, and how to employ it within your own designs...

Good Luck,

j
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post #14 of 17 Old 03-17-2019, 04:15 PM
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Question was posted 2-27-19

No return visit by OP yet? Regardless, in my experience, miters that mate perfectly are difficult to make. The suggestion of using an angle slightly less than 45 degrees and compressing the outermost edge seems reasonable. To make the miter, the piece must be carried by a sled ot miter gauge with a long fence to prevent any, even the slightest twist when making the cut. Any variation in "dead on" 90 degrees to the blade will make the joint imperfect, even sloppy. I have also used the fence for the registration of the workpiece, with fairly good results, but the same caveat applies, no wiggles!


The other issue I see is with a "folded" miter, which implies a very thin section, almost a veneer that remains after two cuts at 45 degrees or a 45 degree router bit is used at the joint. Again, it's very difficult to maintain perfect registration and accuracy of depth with larger panels. It would be easier/better to fully cut through the panel and then mate the two of them together, in my opinion. You would loose the small amount of saw kerf material in this process, oh well. And trying to manage a large panel held together by only a thin veneer us against the Law of Murphy, maybe even the Law of Gravity.


Another method not mentioned as yet, is to make a rabbet leaving 1/16" or so of material remaining for the joint. The thin edge would be barely visible, but not a "perfect" joint. This would be my preference rather than miters.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #16 of 17 Old 03-18-2019, 09:06 PM
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I've always associated the term "waterfall" with a very curved (radiused) corner. Normally carried out by veneering over a sub-straight.

In my shop we will miter fold solid surface or occasionally solid lumber. It is done on a CNC router with a bit specifically designed for the purpose. The problem with doing a miter fold on a veneered panel is that the point of the bit is actually being pushed through the material rather than cutting. The result is the fibers of the veneer are displaced, torn! There is virtually no cutting action right at the point and there is no place for the chips to go if it were cutting. Plywood is typically the worst material to try a miter joint on. Rarely truly flat and almost for sure not an even thickness.

A better solution is a lock miter. They are a PIA to set up. But they make it much easier to do the assembly. We have a shaper setup, complete with two powerfeeds. It never gets changed. Quick and easy to make a set of legs that has the quartered face on all 4 sides. When we have a production run to do we run the parts through the molder, cut so they "pinwheel" together.
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post #17 of 17 Old 03-19-2019, 12:58 AM
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I was also going to post something like that. SUPER hard to do but it world produce the desired product.



-T
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