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Panels, Space Balls and Inserts

posted Apr 20, 2010, 2:21 AM by Kevin Fodor
One of the trickier steps I thought was the dry-assembly to help me figure out how long to make the inserts for the bottom grooves on both the back and front stiles. The insert is a small 1/4" piece of oak which is used to "fill-in" the grove at the bottom of each side panel where it would otherwise be exposed. The trick is that you need to dry-assemble and clamp the panel together so you can figure out how high to place it without placing it too high such that the top stile will not fit flush with the rails. Once this is done, the inserts can be glued into place and then sanded flush. Sanding flush at this point is easier now since once assembled it will be hard to get too. The photo at the right shows how the insert was glued into the grove while the rest of the panel was dry-fitted.
The side panels need to be able to move slightly with temperature and humidity changes. Admittedly these are pretty small panels and maybe this wont be such a problem on a project this size. However I have heard when making raised panels you need to be cautious about gluing in the panel. As a matter of fact typically you DO NOT glue the panel inside the frame. It should instead be floating to allow for expansion and contraction. That being said I have heard of a product called Space Balls which most woodworking stores carry. They are small rubber BB's which you place inside the grove where a panel is to be inserted. They allow the panel to fit snug and under pressure preventing it from rattling but also allows for slight contraction and expansion. So I figured I would buy a pack and try this out. It's a little tricky to get these things in the grove and to make the same put but it seemed to work out pretty well. You can see on the right how these things are inserted into the grove which accepts a 1/4" panel. When doing dry-assembly with these you need to make sure you squeeze the panel frame together at all the right points or you will end up with a lop-sided frame.

This picture shows how the dry-assembly helped with gluing and clamping the small inserts which will be used to fill in the extra gap at the bottom of each stile.


Here are some examples of those space balls placed inside the grove where the panel will be inserted.