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Jim Morgans Wood Profits

Jim Morgan's Wood Profits

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i lind mitened dovetails combine the look of >a miter joint with the strength of dovetails. The dovetails remain totally hidden in the finished joint as though you had assembled a through-dovetail joint and covered it with Win. thick veneer mitered at the corners. While the joint may appear complicated, each step in the process is simple and straightforward.

Blind mitered dovetails (also known as secret mitered dovetails or full-blind dovetails) are most often used for carcase construction where solid-wood sides must join a solid-wood top but where the design doesn't allow exposed joinery. The silver chest in the accompanying article is a good example.

In addition to chisels, mallets and layout tools used for hand-cut through dovetails, I use a Win. Forstner bit in the drill press to remove waste, a tablesaw for cutting the initial rabbet and a shoulder plane for final trimming of the miter.

STEP 1: Scribe the miters first, then the rabbet and baselines on both the pin and tail pieces. The 45° miter must intersect the outside comer of the board exactly. The corner of the rabbet should just touch the miter line. The baseline must meet the inner end of the miter line exactly.

STEP 3: Lay out the pins. Mark the wide part of each pin on the inside corner of the pin piece and mark the waste areas with a penciled X. Measure from the front or "face" edge of the board. The row of pins begins and ends with a mitered section, then a half pin, then alternating tail sockets and pins.



STEP 2: Cut the rabbet on the tablesaw, with a router, or with a backsaw and a shoulder plane. The corner of the rabbet should just touch the miter line. If it falls short, the dovetails will close before the miter closes. If it goes beyond, you will have a visible gap at that spot.

STEP 4: Lay out the tails. Mark the narrow part of each tail on the baseline with the same measurements used for the wide part of the pins. Again, measure from the "face" edge of the board. Mark the waste areas. The row of tails begins and ends with a mitered section, then a socket for the half pin. then alternating tails and pin sockets.


STEP 5: Double check the layout by holding the pin layout up to the tail layout. The pin marks should line up with the tail marks perfectly. Separate the two pieces a fraction of an inch and check that the waste Xs alternate.


STEP 7: Square down the faces of the pins and across the ends of the tails.

STEP 8: Chop out the waste between the tails. I remove as much waste as possible with a H-in. Forstner bit in the drill press, then I chop and pare the remainder with chisels. Place the chisel directly in the scribe mark for the last cut. Clean each recess thoroughly. A different perspective often reveals that the sides of a recess are slanting inward, so check from different angles.

STEP 9: Chop out the waste between the pins with the same "drill, chop and pare" technique used for the tails. Continued

STEP 5: Double check the layout by holding the pin layout up to the tail layout. The pin marks should line up with the tail marks perfectly. Separate the two pieces a fraction of an inch and check that the waste Xs alternate.

STEP 7: Square down the faces of the pins and across the ends of the tails.

STEP 6: Set a sliding bevel to the angle of the dovetails (1 use an angle of 11 and scribe the ends of the pins on the wide surface of the rabbet. Keeping the same adjustment on the sliding bevel, scribe the faces of the tails on the inside surface of the tail piece.


STEP 10: Cut ihe miters at the ends of the joint on both the pin and tail pieces. I saw safely outside the knife line with a small hacksaw, and then I pare to the line with a razor-sharp chisel. The cuts must be square with the edges of the boards.

Trial Fitting

Trial fit your dovetails. They should tap together snugly. If they don't go together, check to see where a pin or tail needs some trimming. Pare off small amounts as necessary. If they go together but don't fully close, check for pin or tail sockets that taper toward the bottom or haven't been completely chiseled out. A little study and careful trimming should make things mesh.—J.C.

the top. and down the other side. (See AIV, # 17 for more on edge joining.) You can make the bottom of the carcase from a separate piece.

The ends of the top, bottom and sides of the carcase must be perfectly square. Make sua* both ends of each board are square by checking that the boards are exactly the same length on each edge, exactly the same width on each end and that the two diagonals of each board are exactly the same length.

Cut the drawer parts, runners and foot parts to size. By sawing the drawer fronts to the dimensions in the drawing. they will fill the opening tightly from top to bottom. When you fit the drawers, you will trim them with a plane to give uniform clearance all the way around. I cut the drawer bottoms and the carcase back out of pine.

Carcase Joinery

With all the parts cut to size, you can start cutting and fitting joints. The runners that support the upper drawer fit in stopped dadoes in the carcase sides as shown in Fig. I. You can cut these dadoes with a router and square the ends with a chisel. I prefer to work with hand tools, so I laid the dadoes out with a knife, drilled out the waste, cut to the lines with a chisel and cleaned the bottoms with a router plane. Whichever way you cut them, finish the dadoes first, and then plane the runner* to fit tightly.

Next, lay out and cut the blind mitered dovetails that join the carcase sides to the top and bottom. The sidebar on page 42 describes how to cut this joint. Once the miters are cut. be careful when handling these pieces so the delicate edges of the miters aren't damaged.

Dry assemble the carcase and check that the front and back edges are flash at all the corners. Correct any small discrepancies with a smooth plane.

With the dovetails cut and the corners flush, cut the grooves for the back panel. (See Fig. I.) I cut them in two passes on the tablesaw with a flat-top grind rip blade. I also cut the grooves for the drawer bottoms at this time while the tablesaw was set up for the job. Note that the groove in the upper drawer front is further from the edge than the other grooves.

Thin the edges of the back to fit in the grooves by planing a bevel on the back side of the panel on all four edges.

Decorative Carving

I decorated the front edges of the carcase with a series of scallop-shaped cuts that left a series of diamond-shaped fields. The photo on page 40 shows the visual effect. Fig. 2 gives the dimensions that produce that effect. Lay out the centerlines of the diamonds with light pencil lines. The diamonds air 1 V& in. ccntcr to center. Measuring up the carcase sides, eight of these spaces come out to exactly the height of the sides. Across the top and bottom of the carcase you need to fudge in. to bring the total length of 19 spaces down to 1 9,7/j2 in. If you fudge '/m in. on four of them, nobody will notice and youU come out right. Layout the centerline that runs the length of the edge and the depth line that runs along the side.

Carve the scallops with a #5 sweep gouge, the wider the better. I used a 1 -in. wide gouge. Place the gouge midway between two diamonds and cut toward the centerline on

STEP 11: Payoff the waste along the long narrow pan of the miters. I begin freehand with a shaip chisel and finish with a shoulder plane. A board sawn at 45° and clamped along the edge will serve as a guide. Work carefully and plane up to the corner but not beyond.

Cut scallops #5 gouge.

the edge of the board as shown in Fig. 2. Take several light cuts for each scallop. The curve of the gouge will produce the desired shape. Work up to the last cut. which should just touch the depth line and the diamond centerlines running across the board edge. The cut should fall just short of the diamond centerline running the length of the board edge. This will leave a narrow flat between opposite scallops.

You might want to practice your carving on scrap oak. Carving the scallops is a somewhat tedious job but easy once you get the knack. Erase the pencil marks when you've finished the carving. (White oak lends to smudge when pencil marks are erased with a pencil eraser. I use a Faber-Castcll "Magic-rub" with good, clean results.)

Assembling the Carcase

With the carving complete, you can assemble the carcase. Apply glue sparingly to the sides of the pins and tails with a narrow brush. Avoid getting glue on the surfaces of the miters. Assemble the two sides to the bottom, slip in the back (making sure the bevels are facing out) and fit the top on. Clamp from top to bottom, keeping the pressure directly over the line of the dovetails. Use plenty of clamps (you need pressure all along the miters), but don't over-tighten. Too much pressure or poorly positioned clamps will bow the boards inward and open the miters. Double check that the assembly is square.

Making the Drawers

The drawers for the chest are quite conventional. The fronts join the sides with half-blind dovetails, and the backs join with through dovetails. The drawer bottoms fit in grooves in the sides and the fronts. (See page 52 for more on drawers.) Notice in Fig. 1 that the upper drawer front extends below the drawer sides to cover half of the drawer runner, and the lower drawer front extends above the drawer sides to cover the other half of the drawer runner. Fig. 1 provides all the necessary dovetail dimensions to accommodate these differences. Label the pails clearly to keep from getting them confused.

When you've finished the dovetails and have them trial-fit together, bevel the front and side edges of the drawer bottoms as you did for the carcase back so they'll slide into the grooves without difficulty. Then hand plane the bevels on the drawer fronts as shown in Fig. 1.

Glue up the drawers on a flat surface, measuring their diagonals to be sure the drawers are perfectly square. When drv, insert the bottoms and fix them with a small brad at the center of cach drawer back.

Secure each drawer runner in its dado in the carcase side with a single screw near the front. (See Fig. I.) Since the front ends of the runners act as drawer stops, be sure they are exactly Vi in. from the front edge of the carcase sides. Leave the rear of the runners free to allow the sides to expand and contract as the moisture content of the sides changes. Don't glue the runners into their dadoes.

Fit the drawers by inserting them in the carcase and noting the clearance at the ends, top and bottom of each drawer. Plane the top and bottom edges of the drawer fronts to make the clearances the same all the way around both drawers. Don't be in a hurry; you can't put wood back. Take a stroke or two and reinsert the drawer to judge your progress. When planing the bottom edge of the bottom drawer front, hold the plane at an angle to create a bevel; along this edge you are only trying to create the appearance of clearance. (See Fig. I.)

Finishing Touches

The chest stands on two "feet" that are separated from the chest by spacers, giving the impression that the chest is floating above the feet. I carved the end grain of the feet with a gouge to give them a hewn appearance, and I planed a small bevel around the edges on the ends of the feet as shown in Fig. 1. Next, I glued the spacers to the feel and screwed the assembly to the chest.

The only finish on mv chest is wax. For the first coat, I melted Butcher's Boston Polish, an amber wax. in a double boiler and wiped it on hot. 1 also put a coal of this melted wax on all the interior parts except the drawer bottoms and the back. Wax is cxtremelv flammable so use extreme w caution. Always melt wax in a double boiler—never put the wax pot directly on the burner. I use an electric hot plate on low, not an open flame.

I followed the amber wax with successive coats of Butcher's Bowling Alley Wax (a white wax). I applied the white wax with a soft cloth at room temperature, buffing between applications with another soft cloth until I was satisfied with the depth of the finish.

With the finish complete, I mounted the pulls. (Style H-115, "bright" finish available from Norton Brasses, Nooks Hill Rd., P.O. Box 95, Cromwell. CT 06416, 203-635-4400). Notice on the drawing that the pulls are positioned xh in. above the center of the drawer.

The final step is to install the silverware insert in the lower drawer. The insert consists of a piece of heavy poster board with attached fitments for knives and for stacking forks and spoons. It's covered with lamish-resisting cloth and has a flap of the same cloth to drape-over the silverware. The insert should just press into the drawer snugly. ▲

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Jonathan Clarke is a woodworker, furniture maker and limber f'ramer whose main job is single-handedly raising his eight-year-old son.

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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