Wednesday, February 6


I had a few administrative type chores to take care of this morning, but then got to work laying out the grid work pieces.

Most of the front of this piece of furniture is a grid that houses and supports the front ends of the 9 drawers. The pieces that form this grid are joined with half-lap joints where the vertical pieces and the horizontal pieces intersect. Rather than cutting each piece individually – which can lead to some errors that will throw alignment of the other parts off – I bundle all like pieces together and cut them as one piece. I also incorporate into the bundles a thin strip of scrap wood on each face to prevent tear-out as the blade exits the rear of the bundle.

Lay-out is critical. There is no “slop” in this drawer arrangement, so all the parts have to fit like they’re supposed to or something just won’t fit at all; usually it will end up being a drawer that binds. Drawers that bind are very frustrating, and I try hard not to frustrate the good people who purchase our furniture. So we want to avoid drawers that bind.

Because fit is critical I make sure I calibrate the miter fence to the blade I’m using. Because saw blades are not all the same thickness, this can create (small) errors in the parts I’m making. We don’t want that. To do this I set the fence stop at exactly 12”, then fit a precision steel ruler between the fence stop and the edge of the blade and adjust the fence alignment screws to remove any error.

When the fence is calibrated I set it to my first offset and make the first cut. Because these parts are symmetrical I can flip the bundle around end-for-end and make the same cut on the other end. Set the fence stop back 1/8th of an inch and make another pair of cuts. Do that for 6 cuts per end and I end up with a ¾” wide dado. The final cut may need to adjusted depending on the blades exact thickness. This one is thin so I added 1/32nd of an inch to the final cut to make it work out right. The thin blade is also what causes the fins of waste in the cut, these are easily removed with a chisel. The same process is used on the vertical parts, though they have four dadoes to create, the process is exactly the same.
Why not use a stacked dado blade to do this? Two reasons. First is that I'm only going to make 6 cuts, the time it would take to mount and tune the dado head to produce a precisely 3/4" wide cut is more than is warranted for the 6 cuts. I can nibble them out with a saw blade more quickly and more precisely. Second, a 3/4" wide dado head RIPS through the wood with such gusto that when cutting across the garin like this it is very difficult to keep it from tearing up the joint you're making. Nibbling yeilds much cleaner edges. Just be sure to use a blade that leaves a clean, flat bottomed cut. I use and ATBR (Alternate Top Bevel with Raker) blade. Most others will leave extra channels or triangular ridges that cause problems.

Once all the cuts are completed I break apart the bundles, sand away the fuzzies and test the fit… perfect!
Now… to see about those stain sample boards.

See you tomorrow!


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