Wood Shop Bottlenecks: Drilling Holes in Cabinets

By Jared Patchin | Posted: 03/05/2013 9:06AM


J Alexander Fine Woodworking Jared Patchin My last few blogs have focused on the new equipment we bought for the shop as our  business continued to grow. But with that growth, the bottlenecks in our production began to make themselves apparent. One of the main culprits, was the process of drilling the system holes in cabinet sides and bookcase sides.

As mentioned in previous blog entries, we were using a Blum MiniDrill, which could drill 9 system holes at once. The part would then be moved left or right, an indexing pin would be pressed into the last hole to ensure proper alignment, and another 9 holes would be drilled. There were three reasons that we had outgrown this machine and needed to look at upgrading.

The first was the fact that drilling only 9 holes at a time was very time consuming. The second was that drilling only one row of holes at a time was also very time consuming. Every part had to be handled twice, once for the front row of holes, and again after the drill fence was changed for the back row of holes. The third reason had to do with the accuracy of the hole spacing. In theory, the indexing pin ensures that each hole is drilled at 32mm centers, but in practice it is quite different. If one set of 9 holes is slightly off, then every set of 9 holes after that will be off. We build quite a few bookcases and entertainment centers, and when drilling a 7′ row of holes, it was nearly impossible to get all four rows of holes within a cabinet perfectly even.

click image to zoomGannomat Format 42 drilling machine Jared Patchin That is where the Gannomat Format 42 comes into the picture. This machine has two drill heads, each with 21 bits. A cabinet side can be drilled with one cycle of the machine, rather than taking 6 cycles with the previous machine. The spacing between the front and back row is incredibly easy to adjust, which is so nice, since we are regularly building cabinets of varying depths, and constantly switching between three different types of drawer slides. The final feature that is an improvement over the previous machine is the fact that the spacing between each set of holes is aligned using stop blocks, rather than an indexing pin. While it initially took some getting used to, we have found the stop blocks to be more user friendly and so much more accurate for long drill runs. The Format 42 ran us $2800 from Coby at Advanced Machinery Systems in SLC, UT.

As mentioned above, along with the Gannomat Format 42, we picked up an older Davis & Wells 5hp table saw for the sweet price of $400! We already had a sliding table saw for cutting sheet goods and an older Rockwell cabinet saw for ripping solid lumber. The Davis & Wells table saw was going to be used as a dedicated dado table saw.

The process of switching from a rip blade to a stacked dado blade set isn’t a lot of work, nor does the task take a particularly long time, nevertheless, it was turning our cabinet saw into a definite bottleneck. Beyond the time and energy it takes to switch out blades, whenever the dado set was installed, no one could use the saw for a rip cut. It was also frustrating to have to install the dado set for just a few dado cuts, which meant we would try and wait to build up an inventory of stock before switching out the blades, which was just inconvenient.

We purchased the saw and, when we went to set up the dado set, we realized that the arbor was 3/4″, not the standard 5/8″ arbor. To have our current dado blades bored out was going to cost almost the same as a brand new set, so I decided to just order a brand new set from Forrest Blades. After installing a baby powerfeeder from Grizzly and the new set of dado blades, we were off and cutting!

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About the Author

Jared Patchin J Alexander Fine Woodworking Network

Jared Patchin

Jared Patchin started woodworking professionally in 2008 when he set-up J.Alexander Fine Woodworking in Boise, ID, where he builds custom crafted furniture and cabinetry. He started building furniture at the age of seven when his father bought Shutter Crafts. He has developed his craft since then, moving from making wooden swords for himself and his friends to building some of the finest furniture and cabinetry available. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two young sons, who have taken over the sword making side of things.

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