Drawers - Pin the dovetails

I've been slowly working on  the drawers for my kids desks.  In past posts, I've shown and talked about the groove for the bottom and cutting the dovetails.  I think that next time I cut dovetails, I'm going to take some scrap and practice first.  The second drawer turned out much better.

Once everything was cut, it was time to glue up the drawers.

Glue up of the dovetails for the drawers

Glue up of the dovetails for the drawers

I  set out all the clamps and glue and measuring tools I'll need.  I then paint on the glue on all the dovetails on both sides.  I think I'm getting better on how much glue to use because squeeze out wasn't too bad.  I use my diagonal measuring tool to see which side I need the diagonal clamp on to ensure the drawer is square and then place the clamp on.  A few more measurements and a few turns on the diagonal clamp get it square.  I leave it clamped overnight.

Installing pins in the center of the tails of the drawers

Installing pins in the center of the tails of the drawers

The dovetails were a little loose (more on the first drawer than the second) so I decided to do a little over engineering and put pins in the center of the tails on the the sides.  This takes away all stress from just the glue and puts some of it on the pins..

First I mark the centers of the dovetails.  I am using  1/4" hardwood dowels so I drill a quarter inch hole that goes through the tail and about a half inch into the drawer front (and the back for the back tails).

Pins in the tails cut flush and sanded down

Pins in the tails cut flush and sanded down

I have let the dowels glue dry overnight and then I used a flush cut saw and then a bit of sand paper (I think the above picture is after the saw but before the sand paper).  I then take the opportunity to do an initial sanding of the drawer with 80 grit.

QUICK NOTE: one of the power tools I still use is a Festool sander.  I really should stop using this.  I tend to oversand with the power sander and hand sanding would likely minimize that.  I may pack the sander away and see if I can go to only hand planes and hand sanding for the next project.

Next I need to cut the plywood bottoms for the drawers and then choose what kind of drawer pull I am going to use.

Dovetails for drawers

My family and I were on vacation for the last 1 1/2 or so.  We went to my brother's wedding and visited with friends and did a bunch of tourist activities.  All in all it was a great vacation.

Now that I'm back at home, I realize how close the 2 desks I'm working on for my sons are to being completed.  I have to finish the drawers and then flatten and attach the tops and then finally put a finish on the desks.  I may actually get these puppies done before the boys school starts in September.

I decided to do half blind dovetails on the front of the drawers and full dovetails on the back.  The groove I cut the last time will allow to slide in the plywood bottom from the back and attach to the back.

Marking dovetails

Marking dovetails

In the picture above, I'm marking the full through dovetails for the back on the sides of the drawer.  I am ganging the 2 sides together.  I use a wheel marker for marking the depth of the tails.  I use a knife to mark across the end of the board and the angle marks on the side of the board.  I then follow up with a pencil to darken the lines.

Cutting the through dovetails

Cutting the through dovetails

After marking, I use my Bad Axe saw to cut the walls.  I then use a coping saw to cut out between the tails.  I follow up with some chisel work to clean up the bottom between the tails and some minimal clean up on the walls.  The above picture is the tails that will go with the half blind pins.

Cutting half blind pins

Cutting half blind pins

I cut the walls on an angle joining the mark at the edge of the board to the mark on the side.  I then follow up with my attempt at slow controlled chisel work.

The end result were a little loose so i'll have to work on cleaning them up when I'm ready to glue up the pieces.  I may even put a pin through the tails to give the joint some additional strength.  I expect that drawer number 2 will be a bit better.

Groove for Drawer Bottom

Almost time for some dovetails.  The drawer sides are all cut to finished dimensions.  I also chose to go with 1/4" plywood for the drawer bottoms.

I did a few tests to make sure that the groove for the drawer bottom was the proper size.

Working on groove for drawer bottom

Working on groove for drawer bottom

I created the groove on the drawer front and sides.  I then did a superficial groove on the back so that I could finalize the height of the drawer back.

Next steps will be dovetails.  I am doing half blind dovetails on the drawer front and full through dovetails on the drawer back.

Drawer Parts

Now that I've got the slides and rails for the drawers cut and installed, it's time to work on the the drawers.  I've got a drawer front made of maple with the sides and back out of poplar.

The first step is to cut to rough length.  I've always liked crosscutting wood but I've also got nicely tuned up saws and I think my technique is getting better so my cuts are straighter and more precise.

Crosscutting drawer parts to rough lenght

Crosscutting drawer parts to rough lenght

Next is to rip the boards to their proper height.  I've found that I'm getting better with rip cuts and the better I get at them the more enthusiastic about the cuts I get.  Again I have nicely tuned saws and I think my body mechanics and technique are getting better so that following a line is easier.

Ripping drawer parts to the correct height.

Ripping drawer parts to the correct height.

Next I use my hand planes and square up the edges and get the parts to the correct finally length and height.  The sides fit in between the slides really well as you can see from the preview below.

A quick preview of how the drawer will look.

A quick preview of how the drawer will look.

I need to go and get some wood for the bottom.  I will use a 1/4" plywood probably though until I get the wood, I may go to glued up panels.

The drawer fronts will be attached to the sides with half blind dovetails and the drawer backs will be with full dovetails.

Installing Top and Bottom Drawer Slides

For each desk, I'm installing a single drawer.  It's in the center of the desk and is about 1 1/2" shorter than the apron.  As I talked about, I installed rails on the outer edges of the drawer opening using pocket holes and screws.  My next step is to install the top and bottom drawer slides.  This provides a simple opening that is nearly the exact width and height of the drawer so that it can slide without falling through the bottom or tilting upward.

I first installed a lower slide.  I'm using glue only since we are talking about a long grain to long grain glue bond, which is about the strongest glue bond there is.

Installing the lower drawer glides

Installing the lower drawer glides

The next step is to install the top slide using the same overall strategy.

Installing the upper drawer glides

Installing the upper drawer glides

While installing the glides on the first of the two desks, I realized I could use a few of the compression style clamps in a small size.  I took my wife to the local Home Depot and bought a few.  She likes to make fun of how many clamps I have but as others have said, you can never have too many clamps.

Installing interior drawer rails

After prepping the drawer rails and slides (see previous post), it was time to install them.  I decided to use pocket screws.  Eventually I'd like to do pocket screws with a bit and brace but until I acquire the correct bits, I'll have to use my cordless drill and Kreg bits and tools.

Drilling pocket holes using a Kreg jig

Drilling pocket holes using a Kreg jig

I'm probably going overboard but I'm using 4 pocket hole screws for each end.  Given that it's end grain, glue won't help much so I'm relying on the strength from the screws.  I use the Kreg jig to drill the initial pocket holes.  I follow that up from pre-installing the screws and removing them so that I've got a specific location for the attach point.  I even take a drill bit and make sure that the screw hole is perfectly sized for the screw.

Next I use a couple of right angle clamping brackets to help me install the screws into their pockets.  I attach one in each end and then fine tune the fit as needed.  I'm going for square and no twist.

Installing the rails using angle brackets to ensure squareness

Installing the rails using angle brackets to ensure squareness

I repeat the process on the other side of the drawer and then eventually the other desk.

Both rails on either side of one of the desk are installed

Both rails on either side of one of the desk are installed

I was going for a flush fit to the side edges of the drawer opening that I created when I created the front apron with the matching drawer front.  Obviously, I'm also going for parallel between the matching drawer rails.

The drawer rail from the drawer front

The drawer rail from the drawer front

My next steps will be to fit the drawer slides, first to the bottom and then the top of the rails, which will give the drawer a track to slide in and out of and ensure no tipping.

Drawer support and slides

Over the last week or so I've been able to get back to my shop for a few productive periods.  That means that I'm back to working on the boys desks.  I've got the legs and aprons assembled so it's time to turn my attention to working on the drawer supports and slides.  The bodies of the desks are maple but I'm using poplar for all the interior pieces.

The first step was to cut the board to rough lengths.

Cutting the poplar board to rough lengths

Cutting the poplar board to rough lengths

After the rough breakdown, I have 4 rough cut boards - 2 for each desk.  The next step is to square up one of the ends so that I can measure and cut to final length.

Square up one end of the rough cut board

Square up one end of the rough cut board

Now I'm able to use the desk to mark the final length for the board and make the final cut.  Instead of using my large crosscut saw, I use my miter box and miter saw to get a closer to square cut.  This will require less work to clean up the end.

Using a miter box and saw, I cut to final length

Using a miter box and saw, I cut to final length

After the cut, I use hand planes to take small shavings until the board has a friction fit (meaning it won't fall out but isn't so tight as to bend the aprons).  This takes several passes.

Quick test fit - goal: to achieve a friction fit

Quick test fit - goal: to achieve a friction fit

Next it's time to get the width of these rails to match the width of the aprons.  The friction fit helps me get a nice mark for the cut.  I then get out my rip saw and go at it.

Rough cut to width/height

Rough cut to width/height

I forgot to take pictures of the next step but I use a smoothing plane to square up the edges and repeatedly test fit until I have a perfect match with the aprons.

My next step will be to work on slides that can attach to the top and bottom the rails I just prepared.  The rails purpose is to keep the drawer from racking side to side and the glides are to keep the drawer from falling to the floor or tilting up into the desk top.

Chip Carving

Lately, life has been busy and I haven't been in the shop or posting here.  I did find some time though to join some of my Modern Woodworking Association friends (Seattle chapter) in a class at our local Woodcraft.  Before the class, I decided to get the Hock Chip Carving Knives though I did order them from Tools For Working Wood since they offered a nice packaged set.  The class was all about Chip Carving.  In addition to Mike (our chapter leader) and Marilyn and myself, we had 3 other brave souls in the class.

The class started off with a practice board.

Chip Carving basics on a practice board

Chip Carving basics on a practice board

Our teacher had put grid lines across the board (1/4" grid lines) and drew a few different sizes of triangles.  She then showed us how to approach each triangle in order to get the most crisp shape.  We did quite a few of these (this was my second practice board that I worked on more after I got home).

Next was a practice board with stamps on it of different practice shapes.

Different shapes for chip carving

Different shapes for chip carving

Some of the shapes were different triangles and some had curves to them.  By the time we finished, the only shapes I felt like I would have liked to cover would have been letter carving.  Fortunately, our teacher gave us a ton of references including one called My Chip Carving.  This site sells tools, supplies and has an account on Youtube with lots of videos that give some more specifics to chip carving.  It was very helpful and I highly recommend it.

One of the things that I got from My Chip Carving was some more practice boards.

Practice board results from My Chip Carving

Practice board results from My Chip Carving

I noticed that there was some significant difference in the wood.  I was able to get a much crisper outline from my practice shapes.  Both the wood from the Woodcraft class and the practice boards from My Chip Carving are bass.  I'm guessing that there is a difference in the quality of the board maybe from dryness and any imperfections in the wood even though they are the same species.

This has been a fun diversion and I hope to try some more chip carving.  I suspect that I will eventually be happier with other forms of carving (maybe using chisels and gouges like another MWA friend, Badger) given the greater flexibility in wood.

New Marking Tool - Veritas Dual Marking Gauge

I keep trying new marking tools.  My favorite for marking lines tend to be the wheeled cutters.  They generally slide easy and cut well (as long as you keep sharp wheels in the cutters - and yes, they do get dull).

Wheeled marrking tools

Wheeled marrking tools

I do have a lot of them but I'm always short, it seems so I will often have them all on the bench during the layout phase of my projects.  In the rack above, you will see 2 older style Veritas marking gauges (these don't have the wheels flat on the end), 2 newer style Veritas marking gauges (these are flat on the end), and 2 different mortise and tenon marking gauges.  I've gone with the Veritas gauges instead of Tite-Mark because of the cost benefit.  The Veritas are about half of the cost of the Tite-Mark.

The M/T gauges are what I'm talking about in this post.  I originally bought the gauge on the far right.  I got it from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.  Lie-Nielsen carries the Tite-Mark brand of marking gauges.  They have the highest reputation but cost a decent amount.  I got the M/T cutters for the Tite-Mark with the hope of being very useful.

The tool works well enough but I found 2 big limitations with the method. 

  1. These cutters are fixed to the width of mortise chisels.  This sounds great on paper but I cut the tenon's first (it works great for me when it comes to fitting though I know most cut the mortise first).  Cutting the tenon first means that the needed mortise may not be the exact size of the mortising chisel.  In fact it almost is never the size of the chisel.
  2. The cutters must be used at the same time.  It's actually quite difficult to cut two parallel lines at the same time while ensuring proper positioning.  I usually fail.

When Veritas came out with a new M/T gauge, I was intrigued.

The marking gauge allows you to mark two lines but cut them individually and the two lines can be any distance apart.  This solved my big issues with the Tite-Mark gague.

In practice, it was nearly perfect and I would recommend this tool.

Tool in use

Tool in use

It was simple to keep each line where it needed to be.  The face on the gauge is larger than the standard though not on all sides.  The larger surface gives a great registration surface though my one small complaint on the tool would be to have the larger surface equal on all sides.

I marked all the tenon's for all the aprons on the 2nd desk.

Putting it together

As I showed you in my previous post, the tenon's inside the mortises overlapped due to their length.  I decided to go with an interlocking tenon (i.e. a finger joint) to add some strength to the over all assembly.  I'm sure it wasn't necessary but it was simple to do and didn't really add much additional work.

Now it's time to add another bit of over engineering.  I want to pin the tenon's into their mortises with dowels.  I will put two dowels into each tenon which will give the joints a mechanical lock in addition to all the glue.  I used my brace and a bit to make the holes.  I first clamped up the base so that the pins would help pull the joints tight.

Drilling pin holes for dowels to mechanically lock in tenon's inside their mortises

Drilling pin holes for dowels to mechanically lock in tenon's inside their mortises

After all the pin holes for the dowels were drilled, I cleaned up the joints a bit with sand paper and a lot of blowing and trying to get all the remaining bits of wood dust and shavings out of the glue joint.

As with most glue ups, they start off nice and slow and easy and end up frantic so I don't have any pictures from the actual glue up.  Here is a shot after the glue up was finished.

Base of desk 1 all glued up

Base of desk 1 all glued up

I have done a rough sanding with 80 grit and cleaned up all glue squeeze out.  My next steps will be to build the second desk base and then work on the interior drawer slides/support.