Getting Tight Joints with a Corner Stapler

Corner staplers make fast work of frame assembly. For joints that are tight on the front face, elevate the pieces on blocks and clamp carefully. April 20, 2008

After years of dowels, then biscuits, and then pocket holes, I have added a Senco SC1 to the shop for face frame assembly. It works well. I am having a little trouble with getting consistently tight joints on the face of the frame. The joints on the back of the frame, where the fastener enters, are consistently tight. I am gluing and clamping before fastening (before glue has set) with the SenClamp, and using a flat cast iron table as a fastening surface. Anyone out there use a SenClamp and have a thought about this? Anybody build a jig to further speed assembly with the SenClamp?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
Just curious why you abandoned the pocket holes? If you are looking for speed, they are by far faster and more accurate than the Senclamp. I've been thinking of purchasing a Senclamp gun to assemble some picture frames, but would need a very tight joint on the front (opposite the Senclamp). Is this possible with one?

From contributor T:
I also wonder why you abandoned the pocket holes? Yes, the Senclamp works well with picture frames.

From the original questioner:
I haven't abandoned the pocket holes yet - but experimenting with the Senclamp. The idea is to exchange milling the pocket holes, gluing (I am a tight joint freak - sorry), clamping, and screwing for glue, clamp, staple. One less operation. Problem is, though, with the Senclamp, I'm getting less than invisible joints on the faces of the face frames. Nothing more than hairline when the problem is there - but I don't want hairlines in my joints. Thanks for your thoughts!

From contributor O:
I have tried every method there is for face frame assembly. I own the Senclamp and the mitre clamp, and did dowels and biscuits in the beginning. The fact is the pocket screw with a dab of glue is the fastest, tightest joint you can get, not to mention the least expensive if you have a frame table and pocket hole machine. I used to make frames by the hundreds, so I tried the Senclamp, but the results were too inconsistent, while the screw with a dab of glue was 98 percent of the time perfect.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. Given the cost of the Senclamp, I'm not too happy seeing my concerns about consistency confirmed or at least echoed in your response. I agree with you on the pockets - fast and consistent beats dowels and biscuits for me. The Senclamp is (was?) an experiment to push the envelope on "fast." I wonder how those guys at Schrock get their good results - I know they use Senclamps for their face frames. Oh well - I'll experiment a little more and then decide which way to go.

From contributor R:
I have been using the Senclamp for years, and I get perfect joints. The secret is to get your frame up off the table by using blocks. I use 3/4 x 6 x 6 blocks. I put one at each joint. This allows your clamp to go past the face of the frame, making your joint tight in the front as well.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for your thoughts. I don't understand the part of your help that mentions the clamp going past the face of the frame. I'm using the butt joint driver and that pretty much limits the depth of penetration to the height of the fastener - give a little for momentum. Even if I were to use a longer driver, I wouldn't want the tip of the fastener to emerge from the face of the frame... The idea for me is to have the fastener entirely concealed from view when looking straight at the frame. Can you help me better understand that part of your answer?

From contributor R:
I mean you have to get your frame on blocks so your bar clamp will close the front of the joint. If you just lay your frame on the table, then your bar clamp won't close the joint.

From the original questioner:
I now understand your method. I had been using K-bodies lying on their sides. I will try your method. Thanks, everyone, for being so generous with your help. If contributor R's method doesn't work out for me, I figure I'll go back to pocket holes.