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Is this something I can do with a Ryoba japanese saw?

Posted by demit (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 4, 08 at 9:56

I ordered a wall cabinet along with my Ultracraft vanity for my impending bathroom reno. It's the standard 12" deep (13" with door). I plan to recess it between studs in the wall behind the toilet. What I'd like to do is reduce the depth of the cabinet to 7" so that it will only jut out from the wall 3" (well, 4" with door). It's 15x30, and constructed of 5/8" melamine-on-particleboard.

The way I envision this being done is: take off the door and, without taking the box apart, slice the box lengthwise into two parts, toward the back. Then cut again, cutting off 5" from the larger half. Clean up the cuts with my palm sander then glue the two sections back together. The join would only be visible from the inside of the cabinet, if at all, which wouldn't bother me.

Is this something I can do with a Ryoba japanese handsaw? I've read that it makes very clean cuts and the action is easier to do. Is it something I could do myself? I'm not a carpenter. I'm a graphic designer with pretty good hand control and hand-eye coordination. If a carpenter (not a cabinetmaker) did it, what would he use?

Is there a better way to approach what I want to do? I would take the back off and just make one cut, then put the back back on, but I can't see how it is joined. The website says the cabinet box is "dowel-and-glue joinery with machine-fitted back panel."

Even if I end up not doing this, for fear of ruining the cabinet altogether, could someone with more experience tell me how they might approach it?

Thanks, Vicki


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Is this something I can do with a Ryoba japanese saw?

No -- all you'll do is ruin your nice Japanese saw, and very quickly. I suggest you wait until you actually have the cabinet so you can see how it's put together before making a game plan. Most likely you'll use a table or handheld circular saw to cut the carcass to the appropriate depth, remove the back panel from the back section of the carcass and tack it back onto the front section.

One thing's for sure - cutting a section out of the walls and gluing front and back halves together is not going to fly.


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RE: Is this something I can do with a Ryoba japanese saw?

Something else occurs to me. Typical stud construction is 16" on center, and with each stud being 1.5" thick there's only 14.5" between studs. Furthermore, that's not an especially precise dimension; studs can be bowed or twisted, making that typical opening larger or smaller. Are you prepared to modify the wall framing to fit this cabinet into place?

You might also want to make sure that the sink's vent pipe won't interfere.


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RE: Is this something I can do with a Ryoba japanese saw?

Thanks, jon, for your speedy reply! I have the cabinet already. I just can't tell from looking at it how it's put together.

To clarify: the wall the cabinet is going into is not the sink wall. Also, the vent pipe is not on this wall, it's across the room. The cabinet will hang over the toilet (which is why I want it to be shallower than it is now).

The bathroom is going to be a total gut, all walls open, with other wall reframing work being done, and I know there has to be some reframing to recess this cabinet (I cut a section of drywall out & can see that one stud has to be cut so that I can center the cab where I want it). I was assuming the carpenter would be adding a header and footer to attach the cabinet securely to.

Question: If you were doing thisare you saying that you could pass the whole carcass through a table saw? Or do you mean you'd knock down the cabinet into all flat pieces first? Or, if you were using a circular sawcan you walk me through how you'd do that? Would you leave the box intact and brace it somehow, then use the saw freehand? Would you put in a blade with finer teeth first?

I would have ordered the cabinet at the depth I wanted but that would have doubled the cost of it. At the time, I kind of thought it would be something that other people had had donegetting the depth reduced onsite. I'm checking here first, before I ask the carpenter to do it, to hopefully understand the process.

Lastly, I'm curious: why would this ruin the Japanese saw?


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RE: Is this something I can do with a Ryoba japanese saw?

I would prefer to saw all the way around with my table saw, though on a job site I could do it with a circular saw with a nice, fine-toothed carbide blade and a guide board, clamped to each side in turn, to run the saw along. Glued and doweled joints mean you can't disassemble this cabinet into flat pieces without destroying it.

The biggest question in my mind is whether you'll be able to free the back panel from the carcass sides once the back half of the cabinet is free. It sounds as if the back might be let into a dado (groove) just inside the back edge of the carcass sides. If it is, and if it's glued into that dado, then your success in freeing the panel may depend on the particular glue they used. Often this is done with a hot-melt adhesive that's fairly easy to get off. You might post a picture of one corner, taken from the back.

Particle board and melamine are tough materials, and can quickly wear out even some carbide-tipped power saw blades. Your ryoba is probably a nice saw, but its steel blade is meant for solid wood -- not this stuff. If you and Tom Hanks were stuck on a desert island and you had to cut down a melamine cabinet to build a boat and save your lives, I'd say go ahead and use that saw. In ordinary life, though, it would just be a waste. Even if the cabinet were built from ryoba-friendly materials it would take a lot of practice before you'd cut a neat line freehand. Hand-eye coordination only helps after you have an understanding of how the saw behaves. Course-corrections are considerably more difficult than with a pencil.


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RE: Is this something I can do with a Ryoba japanese saw?

Ahh! That's the information I needed!! Thanks for the specifics. I'll print out this thread for consulting with the carpenter.

Yes, I wanted to sidestep the issue of disassembling the back panel. That's why I thought of taking out the 5-inch 'slice' and glueing the edges up. I figured once the newly shallow cabinet was seated on/attached to the framing in the wall, there wouldn't be any stress on the joint.

I think you're right about the back panel being glued into a dado in the carcass. I looked again, and there was a slight gap along one side of the panel, so I slid a credit card into it. The card stopped halfway in. And the panel is rigid; it doesn't float.

I take your point about the Ryoba learning curve. I understand the concept, but have never worked with one, and this doesn't sound like the project to practice with it on. Maybe I'll wait for the Tom Hanks scenario :)

You have made the project sound doable, though. Hopefully the carpenter's skills are up to it. I had carpenters in to install wainscoting once, and when they built a little box unit for over my radiator, as an extra, and I asked for mitered corners instead of butt joints, the old man looked at me in horror and said, "Lady, I'm a carpenter, not a cabinetmaker!" I never forgot that, and I'm wondering if this project might a case of what the difference is. If I get another look of horror, I'll know I either have to go to a woodworker, or live with a fat cabinet looming over the toilet.

Thanks again!


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