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Face frame assembly table w/ clamps--- Opinions?3/2
We build mostly euro boxes, but when we do build a face frame cabinet, it's almost always a large beast (such as bookshelves with arched tops, etc).
It's enough that I'm considering buying a vertical face frame assembly table with the pneumatic clamps on a roller gantry.
I've used them before at a previous shop, but that was 10 years ago and I have no idea the manufacturer.
I see offerings for 4X8 tables from Kreg, Castle, and WoodTek. Kreg is around $3,400. Not sure of the price on Castle or Woodtek.
Looking for opinions. I definitely want a 4X8, with a good clamping system. Pneumatic clamps are nice, but I'm ok with manual (lever style) clamps.
I don't think it would be worth the space it would take up for an occasional use. I use a pair of vise grips and a flat bench or piece of melamine. Not perfect but I am also an euro shop and don't do it often.
Space is actually the very reason we want one. We do them often enough, and large enough, that it occupies our raw wood assembly table more than we prefer.
I have exactly what you are talking about already.
I have the Kreg 4X8 table with pneumatic clamps and have been very satisfied with it. Very seldom have I needed anything larger. I probably have been using it for 12 -15 years with no problems. I did not like the coiled hose on the screw gun so I replaced it with a short straight air line. I also added a shelf just below the table to hold screws and drawer opening spacers.
Matt, don't know where you are or if bigger would fit in the space you have, but I picked up a used Ritter 5x12 for $1000 a few years ago and I've seen 'em for less since.
Parts might be a concern going forward though, I think Ritter closed their doors and their clamping rams were proprietary if I'm not mistaken.
I have a castle 4x8. Castle makes an extension for wider than 4' face frame.
We have recently put a lot of resources into face frame manufacturing. Most of our work is flush inset and a lot of that uses fully mortised butt hinges. This is a lot easier to do if the face frames are really square.
Our wide belt sander is 42 inches wide but about 20% of the frames we build seem to not fit within that constraint. Rather than have some of the frames hand sanded and some of them wide belted we developed systems to make it so that no face frames had to be wide belted after being pocket screwed. We do have to have to kiss the joint with a random orbital sander to deal with grain raise from wiping glue but this is way better than also having to sand the cross grain marks off the frame. It's also easier for inexperienced people to be successful.
Our protocol is to polish sand the exposed face on the wide belt then, with this face oriented down, we run the stick through a dedicated planer that always produces 24mm thickness. This planer has a spiral head so produces a fairly clean face. With this system we know that every part is the same thickness every time.
The cross grain dimension is wide belted to thickness as needed. This is the weakest part of our system so far but we can usually absorb minor variation at this step. We have an idle shaper that will eventually be set up with a fence away system for controlling the cross grain width.
After the parts have been chopped and drilled for pocket screws the sticks go onto the face frame clamp. We have a Ritter that we bought from one of the other guys on this forum. The Ritter beam came with three clamps but we only use the bottom one. The other two are actually in the way. Eventually we will will pull them off and use them in some other process.
The Ritter Clamp easel is made out of steel with a grid of holes to position. This seemed to work but any excess glue that was left on the table seemed to weld itself to the steel.
These lumps of glue, albeit small, were the root cause of needing to wide belt the frame after assembly. Our solution was lay a piece of plastic laminate onto the table and glue a strip of laminate to the three fences. The plastic laminate makes it really easy to clean up glue after the frame is made.
We replaced the air pistons that push sideways with magswitch clamps. These have about 150lbs pull and reach right through the plastic laminate like it wasn't there. The clamps hold the parts in correct alignment and the endgrain always lines up perfectly with the side grain.
The extra attention we pay at this phase makes door fitting quite a bit simpler as well. We added a bunch of new clamps recently to facilitate building these frames in a bucket brigade. An experienced person sets up the parts while an inexperienced person drives the screws home and mops up the glue.
This bucket brigade approach has helped us add inexperienced people to respond to the current surge of customers. The new people become useful on their first day.
Cabmaker, fantastic info and I appreciate that you took the time to respond in such detail.
Assuming your parts are already pre-planed to size, you don't need a $3-$4K table setup...
All you need is a right angle setup like below (table is laminate for flat surface and easy glue squeeze-out clean-up)... hand pressure is all that's needed...
Best of luck... 8^)
We do pre-plane. Your corner squares are a simple thing, I'll give those a try. Not something I ever thought of to be honest with you, looks like a great idea.
We would have to set it up vertically like the pre-fab tables, but I can't see why that wouldn't work.