Today was very much more of the same – I broke down the last 2 sheets of 2400×1200 MDF (one 12mm, the other 16mm) using a circular saw and a guide.  I really have a very low opinion of circular saws – dislike using them at the best of times.  The real danger comes with kickback, and unlike a tablesaw where the kickback results in the piece of timber being thrown, when you are using a handheld circular saw, and it tries to kickback, it is the saw that jumps and bucks, and tries to rip out of your hands.  It doesn’t take much to cause that to happen either.  The blade only has to bind just a little in the cut for the blade to stop doing what it is meant to, transferring the power of the motor into the cutting tips of the blade, and instead transferring the motor power into a rotational force that your hands and arms have to resist or risk a runaway saw (and potentially serious damage).  Even if you get away with it, your large sheet can incur some significantly horrendous scars.

I hate circular saws.  It kicked back more than once on me – each time I twisted the blade slightly during the cut.  It was a moderately powered saw – 1800W with a thin kerf blade, so I don’t know what was contributing to the (user caused) problem.  Was it that the blade was thin, so could distort under incorrect loading easier and therefore bind? Was it the saw itself was too powerful vs its weight? Not powerful enough, so it stopped cutting when conditions were less than ideal?  Whatever the cause, there is an underlying cause – I didn’t cut perfectly straight.  I got past that task, but I’ll be happy if I never have to use a circular saw handheld again (and with the imminent arrival of the Torque Workcentre, which has a circular saw mount and can cut a full 1200 wide panel, I’m hoping it means I will never have to).

You might ask why I am using a handheld saw if I dislike them so much, when I have a large tablesaw?  Simple answer – I might have a big saw, but a small shed – I have to break the sheet down smaller to be able to handle it in there.  There is another reason – single-handedly managing a sheet that size through a tablesaw can still result in twisting the sheet (and having the sheet stop contacting the fence), and there is every potential of a kickback in that situation too.  In future, if I have to do it by hand again I am going to take Marc Spagnuolo’s approach, and have the sheet resting on the ground, with a sacrificial board underneath (he uses polystyrene) – it will take more of the variables out of the picture and result in more ability to focus on, and control the saw through the entire cut. (I found I was overreaching near the end, and that is when things were going pear-shaped).

Despite the couple of….issues during the breakdown, things were pretty productive and I got both fridges made, as well as all the doors and tops cut.  Now they are getting close to needing the finer details made and fitted – taps, knobs, handles and the small things that take the build from the ordinary just up to the next level.


All coming together

Some of the additional details I want to add include the fridge door- adding a shelf (on the inside obviously, like a real fridge), and an egg holder shelf.  It is little, easy details like that which will elevate the overall build to a level I will be happy with giving these to friends.  I still need to cut the stove elements, and the sink cavity, make the stove knobs, door handles etc etc – now that hard work (not necessarily the heavy work) begins.  I’m really looking forward to this part of the project – when it comes to life.

While I was working today, I found myself using one tool (other than the Domino) a number of times – one I find really useful.  It is the Black & Decker PowerFile.  I’ve had it for a number of years, and it is great for getting into areas, minor shaping, quick hinge mortising etc.


B&D Power File

It is a belt sander, running a finger-wide belt with an exposed end.  Not very clear in the photo, but the notch seen here in the MDF to fit around the cabinet upright was cut on the bandsaw.  I then needed to round the edge, and that is where the power file came into its own.

13 Responses

  1. Hi Stu,

    This is coming along nicely. As this is for a kitchen, were you not tempted to use MR (moisture-resistant) MDF? It would have cost a bit more, I’m certain.

    Do you have any photos or information on your circular saw setup?

    I totally understand WHY you do it this way before approaching the table saw. If the saw is binding though, this can often be caused by insufficient sheet support – most people will either use Marc’s idea or, build a ‘knock-down’ frame from 3″x2″ timber (with interlocking notches), which would probably be easier to store in a small workshop…! That’s certainly what I intend to do, some day.

    I guess a Festool plunge saw with guide rail is out of your budget, too! Assuming your following a roughly marked link ‘freehand’, you may be better off making something that’s known as a “saw board” – one straight-edged length of timber or sheet screwed on top of the other. When you run the saw against this edge, the blade trims the lower piece to give you the correct offset from blade to edge of the plate.

    It’s a good way to get a straight cut but, in terms of efficiency, it’s no way to replace a table saw!!

    Keep up the good work!


    • Hi Olly,
      Thanks for the comments!
      – MR MDF: Didn’t think it was necessary for kids play furniture – it is unlikely to be exposed to much water, and paint will provide enough of a seal for the occasional spill (if any!)

      – How I was using the circular saw was seen in this earlier article

      – Insufficient sheet support – definitely a major contributor in this case. Needed to work a bit smarter.

      – Festool Plunge Saw – maybe one day. The Festool rail I was using was only a loaner. The Saw Board sounds like an interesting concept – will investigate.

      Needless to say, the massive rail of the Torque Workcentre will give me huge amounts of control over my cuts in the future!

  2. Is your circular saw a 7 or 9″?

    Iv found the 7″ saws much nicer to use.

    I use a straight edge with the sheet goods sitting on sacrificial 55x90mm pine on the ground – then you can crawl over the sheet as you move over it rather than stretching

    Never had the saw try to kick back

    • 7 1/4″ Triton 1800W (the newer Chinese version). Strange to say, but I never had a problem with my old 7 1/4″ GMC that I bought for $35!

  3. Hi Stu,

    They look great so far!

    Did you design the kitchens in sketchup or anything before you started? If so have you considered making them available for your readers?

    • Hi Shane,

      Sorry, but no designs for these ones – I had a rough outline sketch on paper initially to get the concept into my head, and from that point on I have been building directly from my mental picture.

      Rough dimensions – narrower units are 400 wide, wider stove is 500 wide (all in mm obviously). All units are 400 deep, and 1200 high.

  4. Thanks Stu, that’s pretty much the key measurements I was looking for!

    Two more questions if that’s not two much trouble…
    What sort of hinges are you using for the doors?
    And why are you using 12mm and 16mm MDF?

    The reason why I ask is I was thinking of making my daughters one out of 12mm but believe I would need 16mm for cup hinges and was wondering if you had any thoughts on this at all…

    • Good questions!

      MDF in general, because the recipients are going to paint the units, and MDF will make that task easy, and low project cost (cf timber).

      Hinges – I’ve gone for a non-mortise hinge, which I now don’t like but I have a box of them, and I am still cutting mortises for them 😦 Inside the units, I have placed a pine strip for where the hinges are – a lot more strength so the screws don’t pull out. I haven’t determined if I need to do something extra for the doors – if I do, I might use small bolts through the door for added strength. Hmm – this has got me thinking. If I have to cut mortises, I might as well replace the hinges I have with stock-standard (and much stronger) ones.

      I’d go cup hinges if I wasn’t trying to keep the costs down for them. However, on another toy project I went some auto-closing decorative hinges that worked very well.

      The doors and the main working surface of the sink and stove are 16mm MDF, the rest is 12mm (not that there is any real difference in cost, but significant weight difference).

      Also, one thing I do with the oven door is make the handle large enough so it rests on the floor when the oven door is open. So if the child decides to crawl inside (sitting on the oven door), it has some chance of surviving – being supported at both the hinge and the handle! Saves the door being ripped off by over-exuberant play.

  5. Thanks Stu,

    Good thoughts about the door, I will have to see how I can manage something similar on my daughters one!

    I think I might have to rethink my hinge ideas now, so many decisions to make…. 🙂

    Keep up the good work, your site and the progress you show is my motivation to have a go at something like this!


  6. Sorry to bother you Stu but another question if thats alright, how high did you make the tops of the sink/oven?

    I was thinking of making them either 500 or 550 but would like to get a second opinion…


  7. Thanks Stu, you are a legend!


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