Monday, May 5, 2014

Easy Box Joints On the Tablesaw

While waiting for the glue to dry on my vanity project, I started a side project for my oldest daughter and thought this would be a great time to show how I'm going to build the drawers for the vanity. For any boxes or drawers, I love to use the box joint because it looks beautiful like its cousin the dovetail, it is so simply to make compared to traditional dovetails, can be made using a cheap crappy tablesaw like the one I have, and has lots of glue surfaces so it a very strong joint. To make the jig you need, I glued a small strip of wood to the bottom of another scrap piece of wood to act as a ledger to support my work pieces over the large throat opening of my tablesaw. Because it is a cheap tablesaw, I really can't make anything to fill the opening when working with my dado blade set so this helps improve safety. Clamp the wood to your miter slide and cut a notch in it with the dado set you want to use for your box joint. Fill that notch with another scrap piece of wood which will help you set the gauge for make all the rest of the notches. Slide the wood over and more permanently attach it to your miter gauge using a piece of your same notch filling material (that should be the exact width of your dado set) to gap the piece you filled in to the dado blade. The jig is now ready to go.

This picture just shows how I bolted my jig to my miter gauge so that I can reuse it on other projects. I also wrote what blades I used in my dado set on the jig face so that I can be sure to set it up the same every time.

To start, you lay the piece down on top of the ledger board on the bottom of the jig and raise the dado blade height so it is just slightly taller than the thickness of your material plus the ledger board. This will ensure that once you do a little sanding, everything will be nice and flush. Then you but the first side of your work piece to the glued in notch stop and make your first pass.

Place the notch you just cut on the notch stop block and make your second cut. Repeat for the width of the board and then flip the board over and do the other side making sure you begin on the same edge of the board on both sides. This way if you end up with a partial finger on one end, things still line up properly.

To cut the side pieces, you take your first piece that you cut and turn it around so that the first full finger is now between the notch block and the blade. You then slide your adjoining piece up next to it and cut your first notch as shown above.

Now you can set that notch on your notch block and repeat down the board like before and flipping it end for end to keep the sides the same like before.

In the end, you should end up with a project like above that I was able to complete in about a half hour from setting up the jig to the test fitting shown above. Note there are two boxes sitting on top of each other.

My daughter has a step stool box that she used when she was younger to be able to reach the bathroom sink to brush her teeth and wash her hands. It has a lid on it that she can open up and put things inside the upper step. When she outgrew it, she moved it into her room and uses the storage space to store her 'secret' things which are little doodads and mementos she has collected over the years. I know enough to respect her privacy and not sort through her saved stuff but my MIL and her sisters who visit can't seem to resist the temptation to sort through it and throw stuff out that is not important to them but very important to my daughter. So in an effort to prevent more future tears, I am making a small chest for my daughter that she can lock up and prevent others from sifting through her things. An added benefit is that we can get the step stool back for our youngest daughter who will be needing it in the near future to reach the bathroom sink. I will show you the completed box when I get it finished in another post.


Ron said...

Very nice! I like that jig. After seeing this, I may have to get a dado blade one of these days. It would be handy to be able to make good drawers or boxes.

Rich said...

I can't help imagining a little girl thinking, "What the Hell Grandma?! Why don't you worry about throwing your own stuff away and leave mine the heck alone!?"

Ed said...

Ron - I just have a cheap dado set that I bought somewhere. I had planned on using them to make rabbits when I make shelves and furniture stuff but since I got a router, I mostly use it for that. Now about all the use my dado set gets if for making box joints.

Rich - My mother-in-law comes from a different country and speaks a different language so there is definitely a language barrier involved too that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

warren said...

You're just a bottom board away from a beehive!

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ed said...

Ron - Somehow I accidentally deleted your comment when I thought I was replying. That link you posted looks like the same thing but quite a bit more labor intensive. He didn't show what you do with the mating piece so that the notches end up mating correctly but I think if you did the same thing I do, it should work also. A brand new dado set like mine runs only $26 and would cut your time on the project to a fraction so if you do a lot of drawers, it would be money well spent.

For the bottoms, you can do a rabbit joint with your dado set or table saw but you will end up with a square hole on the sides of your box that will have to be filled. Not a problem usually for drawers because they aren't seen. If you plan the box joint right, you can cover up the two square holes with the drawer front and the only two exposed are at the back of the drawer which will never be seen unless you pull the drawer all the way out. For decorative boxes where they will be seen and noticeable, I use a plunge router to stop the rabbit short of the end so that it isn't seen.

Warren - I hadn't thought about that but you certainly are right!

Ed said...

Ron - You don't need a plunge router as I stated. Any router will work. A table saw will also work but when you stop short on it, you have a lot of chiseling to square up the rabbit near the end of the joint. With a router and a small bit, I can get close enough to the end to avoid all chisel work.

Ed said...

Ron - When I start making my vanity drawers, I will take some pictures to more clearly illustrate the method of doing the bottom on a table saw which is how I plan to do these.