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CD Rack Routing Project

CD Rack Routing Project
  A simple desk mounted CD rack in contrasting woods, made from offcuts of Maple and Wenge.

There is always something particularly rewarding in effectively making something for nothing. I continually hoard offcuts of both timber and MDF in the hope of getting a small job that will use a few of them up and give me a better profit margin into the bargain.

A recent request for a desk mounted CD rack in contrasting woods was just such one of these jobs and I managed to dig out some suitable scraps of Maple and Wenge, It was also a good chance to give my new multiple grooving jig a thorough testing. The grooves on a job like this have to be perfectly spaced for it to look right; any slight discrepancy is immediately obvious.

The design is very simple with the backboard raked back at 10 degree. It is dovetailed into the base for strength and the contrasting feet and lippings are simply glued and biscuited in place. Nevertheless there is quite alot of fiddly work involved, for instance it is quite tricky to get the sliding dovetail to fit well, so work carefully.
     
Material Choice and Cutting
  1. There is always a temptation to cut all the pieces dead to size before you start, but I have always found that where there is a lot of grooving work to do you are better leaving them all a little oversize to allow for any spelching or grain splitting to be trimmed off later.

Material Choice and Cutting
  2. However you do need an accurate edge for the bottom of the backboard, this needs to be cut at 10ˇ off the vertical to form the slope. I cut it on my chop saw initially, and then ran it over the planer with the fence angled to get a really true edge. DonŐt worry if it chips as you come off the end of the cut, this is why you have left it oversized; getting it dead straight is the main priority.
Material Choice and Cutting
  3. The dovetail housing in the baseboard is cut next, ideally using a router mounted under a table, but be careful because the whole cutter is exposed at the end of the cut, so use a push stick where necessary.
Material Choice and Cutting
  4. A groove like this in hard maple actually requires a lot of wood to be removed, and because of the dovetail shape you have to do it in the one pass, This is fine if you have a big router with plenty of power, but if yours is slightly lacking in grunt use a smaller diameter cutter and make two passes side by side to open out the groove.
     

Routing Application

Routing Application
  5. The angled backboard now has to have a matching dovetail machined on it so rig up an angled sub fence on your router table. I formed this sub fence by angling the fence on the planer 10ˇ and making several passes until the whole face was planed. Hold it in place on the router table using a couple of F cramps.
Routing Application
  6. You can use the same router and cutter set up as for the base but you will need to bury some of the cutter into this fence. This is not as dangerous as it seems, so start the router up and gently pull the fence onto the cutter, burying it totally to give yourself some clearance.
Routing Application
  7. Then set the fence to start the dovetail in the right place, I wanted a bigger shoulder on the back side to give more support so trial and error is the only answer here. Keep the timber hard up against the fence as you push through and use a featherboard to keep the bottom end against the fence.
Routing Application
  8. This should give you the necessary straight cut, but run it again to make sure the corners are really clean.
Routing Application
  9. The other side of the joint is a little more difficult in that the timber now has to be passed the Ôwrong sideŐ of the cutter. The danger in doing this is that the router could snatch the timber and drag in, so always avoid this situation where possible. When you cannot, take several light cuts to minimise the danger and use push sticks to keep you hands well clear. You will need to take light cuts anyway and then keep checking for fit.
     

Grooving and Sloting

Grooving and Sloting
  10. Ideally the joint should slide together with gentle hand pressure. It is too tight if it needs anything more, remember that it will swell slightly when you put glue on it and you donŐt want to be struggling with it then.
Grooving and Sloting
  11. Once this joint is OK you can make a start on putting in the CD grooves. For the first groove use the side fence on the router, taking a second lighter cut to clean up any burning from the first one.
Grooving and Sloting
  12. Surprisingly there seems to be some slight variation in the thickness of CD cases, I assumed they would all be the same. After some experimentation I found that a groove of 10mm accommodated virtually all of them. They need to push in firmly and not droop when you let go. If the 10mm cut seems too much at first it will tighten up by the time you have brushed on a couple of coats of finish.
Grooving and Sloting
  13. The rest of the slots can now be cut using the grooving jig, so machine up a guide bar to be a sliding fit in the first one, and adjust the spacing to leave a 10mm section between each slot.
Grooving and Sloting
  14. It is then a rather laborious and messy job to rout all the other slots, particularly having to do them all in two passes, but this will save time in the long run as the cleaning up process is then minimal.

As well as taking care of dust with extraction and/or a suitable mask do remember your ears as well. Cutting very hard timber like this with a relatively narrow cutter can set up some high pitched noise that you donŐt always appreciate until it stops! So wear ear defenders as well if you donŐt already.

     

Assembly

Assembly
  15. The rest of the grooves do actually soon appear. Using just a simple jig like this makes the repetition foolproof and providing the cutter is sharp you should not have to do a lot more. Using an orbital sander with some very fine paper to work over the face of the slots should be enough.


Assembly
  16. The edges however will be a different story with a fair amount of spelching at either end of each cut.
If you have left enough spare on the width you can now plane the edge carefully to remove all this and leave the corners of each groove really crisp. You can similarly trim the baseboard to width as well but leave it wide enough to accommodate the side strips of the back.


Assembly
  17. This is the main part of the rack completed and you could almost leave it at that if you want a really simple project, just put a smear of glue on the dovetail joint and the job is finished. However I wanted to add some contrasting detail in the form of feet and lippings.

The feet are attached using biscuits, but really the material is too thin so cut shallow grooves with the router mounted biscuit cutter and then cut the biscuits down in width to fit. If you want to be technically correct, this is now a loose tongue joint, but a cut down biscuit joint seems more accurate to me.


Assembly
  18. The problem with grooving thin timber is not only holding it but also having enough surface to run the router along. You can overcome this by leaving the pieces over length and clamping them to a wider piece to give the necessary support, in this case I cut the slots for each foot while it was still one strip and then separated them afterwards.
Assembly
  19. Mark the radius on either end of the foot using a suitable template, then cut off the bulk of the waste on the bandsaw before shaping to the line on a disc sander.
     

Finishing Touches and Presentation

Finishing Touches and Presentation
  20. To form the rounded over edge you will again have difficulty holding such a small piece and I donŐt like using the router table either. Instead use double-sided tape to stick them to a piece of scrap held in the vice, and then it is a simple job to run all round with a bearing guided cutter. Just watch that you donŐt tip the router into the work as you go round the end.
Finishing Touches and Presentation
  21. The matching groove in the baseboard is a simple job with the same grooving cutter set-up, but remember to work from the face side on either end.
Finishing Touches and Presentation
  22. Cut the crown off a couple of biscuits and try it for fit. Before you finally glue the feet in place though, radius off the front and back edges of the baseboard.


Finishing Touches and Presentation
  23. Now use the superglue again to fix the back into the base and the two feet onto the ends of the base.
Finishing Touches and Presentation
  24. The side lippings are cut a fraction wider than the backboard then just glued in place. The overhanging top is biscuited and glued in place in a similar fashion to the baseboard ends.

To finish I brushed on several coats of thinned down pre cat lacquer, flatting down between coats with 400 grit paper. Beware of getting polish build up in the grooves, so brush out the lacquer thoroughly to make sure it is evenly spread and canŐt run.

Cutting List
1 back board 350 x 255 x 22
1 baseboard 271 x 190 x 20
2 feet 215 x 32 x 14
2 side edging strips 350 x 30 x 8
1 top edging strip 290 x 35 x 14

     
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