Insanity 2: The Back

Last week, after deciding to apply the cabinet back directly to the rear edge, I spent most of a day rehearsing and mentally preparing myself for the glue-up.

In this assembly, I only glued together the cabinet sides, top and bottom. I used 3/4″ x 3/4″ stickers as cauls to force the finger joints together as I applied inward pressure with band clamps. I used bar clamps to apply pressure to specific areas that needed some persuasion to close.


Once the glue dried, I planed the rear edge so that the back could mate well against it. I then laminated the back from three 1/8″ sheets of Baltic birch plywood as I’d done for the other cabinet parts. To give the back some shape, I stacked a few big blocks of wood in the middle of the cabinet and placed a thick piece of foam over top so that it was higher than the cabinet was deep. I applied glue between the three plies and clamped them to the back of the cabinet, over the foam.


After the back panel was created, I trimmed it flush with the cabinet and cut a series of 5mm mortises along the edges of the cabinet and back panel with my Domino Joiner.


Because of the curvature of the panels, I wasn’t able to accurately locate the mortises if I used my Domino Joiner’s full fence as I would normally. Instead, I made a custom fence with limited surface area. This compromised my ability to register the tool on the face of the panel, so I needed to focus on steadying the tool as best I could. (This was nerve-wracking and very difficult with the smaller DF500 and would have been even harder with the DF700.)


With the mortises cut, I readied 17 Domino floating tenons and began the glue-up. Because of the many parts involved in this glue-up, it took a long time and the glue began setting before I got all the clamps in place. However, the tenons added strength and positive alignment, so I still felt they were worth the extra stress.

Finally, I finished trimming the back panel even with the cabinet.  I used a spokeshave, card scraper, and sandpaper.


Here’s what the cabinet looked like from the back with the rear panel installed.


What’s next? Let’s see what the doors look like on the cabinet!


6 thoughts on “Insanity 2: The Back

  1. OMG what a great idea to (as I understand it) use the cabinet as the form to make the back panel! I was worried about how you were going to get the shape of the back to match up with whatever the sides and top were… because I figured you would do something interesting with the back curve, thus causing what could have been a big match up problem. I love watching projects develop…rock on! great job

  2. Like Ralph said, “Insanity” is right!

    Pushing the limits turns my crank too, although I’m not quite to your stage yet. Thanks for the ideas Chris.

  3. Chris,

    I am not sure I like the raw edge look of plywood on the back. Just seems unfinished and you might as well as nailed it on….
    unless you plan on applying an interesting veneer to the entire cabinet. That would add visual interest, esp if using a linear veneer where the lines really show the distortion of the cabinet. Dark color to offset the white cabinet door, perhaps, wenge?

    1. Morgan,

      I’m really unsure where I will go from here. I’ve thought about selectively veneering, painting or staining it.

      When I decided to attach the back panel directly to the rear edge of the cabinet, I was thinking of a face frame which would have provided some symmetry with the plywood edges visible on the sides. I actually did consider attaching the back panel with pocket holes from the inside and covering them up with veneer (or something) later.

      Hmm. I just thought of an interesting idea. I could drive a nail or screw into the back panel and have the other end appear to protrude elsewhere in the cabinet, as if it went right through. Hmm…

      One idea I’ve had for a while is to create veneer “ribbons” that consist of several plies bent in ribbon-like shapes that sit on the cabinet in some areas and also curve away before returning. Lots of possibilities, and Insanity 2 won’t be done until it’s done.


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