Step 9: Scribing Tips

Illustration: scribing
Illustration: Harry Bates
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Making a tight, gap-free fit between the side trim of a cabinet and the wall — a process called scribing— is one of those critical skills that separates the real craftsmen from those of us who rely on caulk. But it's not that difficult, once the cabinet is plumb and fastened in place.

1. Decide how you want the trim to cover the gap.

2. Set the compass to the widest part of the gap. Rest its metal point on the wall and the pencil point on the spot where you want the edge of the trim to land on the cabinet. Your trim must be at least this wide.

3. Plumb the trim piece. Hold the trim against the wall with a level on one edge, and adjust the trim until it's plumb and still touching the wall. Tack or clamp the trim to the cabinet.

4. Mark the edge to be cut.Without changing the compass setting, rest the compass' metal point on the edge where the level was. Keep that point and the pencil point level relative to each other and make a mark on the trim in the vicinity of the widest part of the gap.

5. Scribe the edge to be cut. Reset the compass to the widest distance between the mark and the wall. Without changing that setting, hold the metal point against the wall and the pencil point on the trim and run the compass the entire length of the trim to make the scribe line. Be sure to keep both points level the entire time.

Now take the trim piece down and cut it with a jigsaw along the waste side of scribe line. That way, you'll have some material to sand or plane down for a perfect fit. — Mark Powers
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    Tools List

    • circular saw
      Circular Saw
    • speed square
      Speed square,
      to guide circular saw as you cut support pieces
    • scribe
      Scribe,
      for transferring irregularities of the wall onto the trim so you can cut it to fit snugly
    • mallet
      Mallet,
      to coax tight-fitting shelves into slots
    • studfinder
      Stud sensor,
      to find where to attach bookcase to wall
    • jigsaw
      Jigsaw,
      to cut scribed trim pieces
    • 16-foot tape measure
      Measuring tape
    • hammer
      Hammer
    • nailset
      Nailset
    • four-foot level
      Level
    • drill
      Cordless drill
    • utility knife
      Utility knife

    Shopping List

    1. 3/4-INCH VENEER PLYWOOD

    Calculate how many 8-foot-long boards you can get from one sheet and use that to figure out how many sheets you will need to get enough board feet. (A plywood sheet is 4 feet wide, but keep in mind that a saw blade takes off 1/8 inch per rip.) You’ll need at least 3 sheets for a 4-by-8-foot bookcase.



    2. 5/4x4 TRIM

    for masking plywood edges around the perimeter of the bookcase front. Measure the length of the two legs, plus the width of the case, then add 10 percent for waste.



    3. 1x TRIM

    to make nosing for the front of the shelves. For more support, use thicker stock. Take the length of one shelf and multiply it by the number of shelves (including the bottom shelf). Add 10 percent for waste.



    4. YELLOW WOOD GLUE

    5. 1-INCH DISPOSABLE BRISTLE BRUSH

    for applying glue neatly to plywood edges



    6. 1 1/4-INCH (3D) FINISH NAILS

    for nailing the supports in place



    7. 2-INCH (6D) FINISH NAILS

    for nailing trim in place



    8. 1 5/8 and 2 1/2-INCH WOOD SCREWS

    9. SHIMS

    or leveling the bookcase



    10. WOOD PUTTY OR WAX PENCIL

    in a color to match the wood, to fill nail holes



    11. STAIN OR PAINT

    12. BUTCHER'S WAX OR POLYURETHANE