The Rabbit Hutch – Part 2

In my last post, I made the two frames and the doors that will make up the front of the rabbit hutch.  The next step was to make the sides.  When I started this project, I didn’t have a fully drawn out plan, and as I mentioned in the earlier post, this is hindering me a little.  I have a fairly good idea of where I’m going and what I’m planning on building, but the finer details are being designed on the fly.

For the sides, I decided to have legs that would carry the weight of the hutch and also serve as stiles that the cross-rails could mortise into.  When I made the two front frames, I used bridal joints for the corners and left the tenons long so that they would mortise into the legs. I suppose I should add a link to the earlier post incase you need to see what I’m talking about.  You can see that post here:  The Rabbit Hutch – Part 1

I started with the front legs and chopped the mortises to house the tenons on the front frames. I then chopped mortises in the front and back legs to house the cross-rails.

I started on the sides by laying out all the joinery on the "legs" that will be the edges of the side frames.

I started on the sides by laying out all the joinery on the “legs” that will be the edges of the side frames.

I needed a grove in the upper half of the legs to hold a panel.  I figured that the best available way to make this was with my plunge router.  A couple of years ago, while building my workbench, I wrote about a plunge router that died in use.  I didn’t replace it until this past January.  As a replacement I decided upon a Triton 2 ¼ HP plunge router.  I had heard nothing but good things about Triton routers and planned on someday purchasing its bigger brother for use in a router table.  Though I purchased  the router back in January, I had not used it until I started this rabbit hutch project.

Happy to put the new router to use, I got it out and set it up with a ½-inch spiral upcut bit.  I routed three of the grooves, but just as I was finishing the fourth, the router died.  It started spluttering and there was a little flashing from around the armature, then nothing.  I quickly switched it off and unplugged it.  I let it sit for a few minutes and then plugged it back in.  When the power switch is turned on… nothing.  Dead as a door knob!  As you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed.  Ok, I had the tool for 10 months, but this was the first time I used it.  And it’s not a cheap tool.

I contacted customer service for Triton and the lady I spoke with couldn’t have been nicer.  She asked for a bunch of information and then sent me a shipping label.  I have since been told that it is being repaired, but it’s been nearly seven weeks now and still no router.  It’s a good job I’m just a hobbyist, as I’d be screwed if I were a professional shop.  I’d have had to buy another router if that were the case.  I must admit, I’m getting pretty annoyed at how long it is taking.  If it is going to take months to repair, I think they should ship a replacement instead.

The deeper mortises will house the tenons on the cross rails. The grooves will house the tongue and groove panel.

The deeper mortises will house the tenons on the cross rails. The grooves will house the tongue and groove panel.

All of the stock in this project is coming from ten  2″x6″x12’s that I bought and my local building supply place.  This ended up being a very good deal for some pretty nice lumber.

1.5 inches X 5.5 inches X 12 feet = 8.25 board feet per board.

$7.30 per board ÷ 8.25 board feet = $0.88 per board foot.

I milled some more of the stock and made the eight cross-rails.

I cut tenons on the cross rails at the table saw.

I cut tenons on the cross rails at the table saw.

Testing the fit.

Testing the fit.

So far, so good. Now some of the cross rails are going to need grooves.

So far, so good. Now some of the cross rails are going to need grooves.

With all of the stile (leg) and rail joinery cut, I had to give some thought to the panel that would fill in the top-half of each side.  I already had grooves cut in the legs, but the cross-rails needed the same.  With my plunge router out of commission, I had to cut all of this with my Rigid laminate trim router.  Not the best choice, I know, but that’s what I had available.

You can see in the photo below my first major design flaw.  Had I designed all of this joinery ahead of time, I’d have caught this mistake.  I should have made my tenons narrower and not the full width of the cross-rail.  I could have made the mortises narrower to match.  I could have then cut these groves with a stacked dado set at the table saw and could have been done in a third of the time.  The tenons should have been no wider than the width of the cross-rail minus the depth of the grooves.  I knew this, but didn’t catch my mistake until after the mortises were already chopped.  Oh well, you live and learn.

I used a router to cut grooves in the cross-rails.

I used a router to cut grooves in the cross-rails.

For the panel, I decided to use the material that I had on hand.  Namely, the bunch of 2x6s that I bought for the project.  I milled some more of these to make a tongue and groove panel out of.

I jointed and planed some more 2x6 stock to make the tongue and groove panels.

I jointed and planed some more 2×6 stock to make the tongue and groove panels.

Re-sawing at the bandsaw.

Re-sawing at the bandsaw.

Fresh from the bandsaw.

Fresh from the bandsaw.

After resewing, I ran them though the planer until at the desired thickness.

I planed them until they fit the groove in the legs.

I planed them until they fit the groove in the legs.

I cut a small tongue and groove joint at the table saw.

I cut a small tongue and groove joint at the table saw.

Cross-cutting the pieces to final length.

Cross-cutting the pieces to final length.

The two panels ready for installation.

The two panels ready for installation.

I then cut two smaller pieces to fill the gap between the two center cross rails.

I then cut two smaller pieces to fill the gap between the two center cross rails.

In hindsight I don’t think that I would do this again.  Not that I plan on ever building a second rabbit hutch, but if I did, I would just use a plywood panel here.  This did work, but was rather time consuming.

A dry fit to test the progress so far.

A dry fit to test the progress so far.

I deliberately left the legs over length at the top, as I hadn't designed the roof yet.

I deliberately left the legs over length at the top, as I hadn’t designed the roof yet.

When I laid out all the initial mortises, I knifed in a line for the top and bottom, but didn’t cut the legs to length at either end.  The bottom has about an extra 2 inches and the top has an extra 8 or 9.  I’ll leave the bottoms for now and focus on the top.  Since this hutch is going to be a free standing outdoor item, it needs a pitched roof to shed water.  I milled up some stock to the same dimensions as the legs (1 ½” x 2 ½”), and experimented with the pitch.  I was sure glad that I had left the tops way longer, as this came in handy.  Another two or three inches in the front legs would have been better, but I can live with this.

Experimenting with the pitch for the roof.

Experimenting with the pitch for the roof.

Once more, I turned to the bridal joint to attach the top rail to the side panels.  After deciding upon the pitch, I set a bevel gauge to the angle and used this to lay out and cut a corresponding angle on the ends of the top rails.

After finalizing the pitch, I laid out a bridal joint for the top.

After finalizing the pitch, I laid out a bridal joint for the top.

And the corresponding layout on the top of the legs.

And the corresponding layout on the top of the legs.

I cross-cut then chiseled out the bridal joint.

I cross-cut then chiseled out the bridal joint.

A quick test that the two joints were spaced correctly.

A quick test that the two joints were spaced correctly.

I was quite happy with how this turned out.  Cutting the second one went a little quicker.  Everything is still in dry fit at this point and nothing has been glued up yet.

First one done, time to repeat the process.

First one done, time to repeat the process.

Of course, now I had a new gap in the sides that had to be filled.  It was wider than a 2×6, so re-sawing another small panel was out.  I went to my sheet good rack to see what scraps I had.  I found some ½-inch CD plywood that would do the trick.  It’s rough stuff, but it’ll get sanded and painted.

Cutting some plywood to fill the top gap.

Cutting some plywood to fill the top gap.

Now I needed a grove for the ½-inch ply to sit in.  With the new plunge router still out for repair, I chopped the grove with a chisel.  This took forever.  If you add up the lengths of the top angled cross-rail, the top straight cross-rail and the edges, each side had about 60-inches of groove to cut.

Since my router was out for service, I had to chop the grooves by hand.

Since my router was out for service, I had to chop the grooves by hand.

Test fitting the plywood panel.

Test fitting the plywood panel.

The first one went well, time to chop more grooves.

The first one went well, time to chop more grooves.

Alright, it was finally time for a glue-up!

With all the parts done, I proceeded to the glue up.

With all the parts done, I proceeded to the glue up.

So, now I have two front frames, that mortise into two sides, but no back.  My plan had evolved no further than this.  I decided that four stretchers running across the back would work well.  I could then screw a plywood back to these stretchers.  I decided to attach the stretchers to the sides with wedged through mortise and tenon joinery.

Next, I had to chop some through mortises for the back stretchers.

Next, I had to chop some through mortises for the back stretchers.

Tenons cut on the ends of the back stretchers.

Tenons cut on the ends of the back stretchers.

The mortise and tenons will be wedged to keep them tight.

The mortise and tenons will be wedged to keep them tight.

You guessed it, another dry test fit.

You guessed it, another dry test fit.

This is the first time I got the chance see in real life what I had been seeing in my head.

This is the first time I got the chance see in real life what I had been seeing in my head.

It still needs a lot of work, but you can finally see it starting to come together.

It still needs a lot of work, but you can finally see it starting to come together.

The back stretchers have a ½ inch offset to allow for the plywood back which will be installed later.

The back stretchers have a ½ inch offset to allow for the plywood back which will be installed later.

Before I could glue up this carcass, I had to install the hardware cloth (wire mesh) in the lower opening on the sides.  I’ll also install oak strips that will serve as runners for the poop drawers that I’ll build in a later post.  It is much easier to do these things with the sides laying flat on the workbench, than after assembly.

Since this post is getting rather long, I’ll end things here and hold the rest for the next installment.

Stay tuned.

 

– Jonathan White

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