Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Back to Drawers

My boards all glued, planed and cut to final size.

These photos were taken the day before I left on vacation but I saved them until now. What you see above are a stack of drawer sides on the left, drawer fronts and back in the middle and parts for the drawers that will go with the Murphy bed unit. I have years of experience of making box joints on my tablesaw and could have done that here but I decided to go with dovetail joints. The biggest reason is safety because my filing cabinet drawers will be 22" deep and that is pushing the limits of what I can safely hold steady upright as I run it through the blade of my tablesaw. I have done longer but always with clamps which makes it a slow and tedious process for just a single board much less two and a half stacks.

As a treat to myself and to use up some gift certificates given to me for my birthday, I bought a dovetail jig a couple years back. I used it for the first and only time thus far when I made the display bookcase for my bedroom wall awhile back. On that, I used half blind dovetails which meant I cut both mating parts at the same time. This time however, I wanted full dovetails which meant I had to cut all the tails on the drawer sides and then go back and cut all the pins on the front and back pieces.

I read the directions, set up the jig and routed all the tails. Everything looked great so I set up and cut my first board with pins and after a few adjustments, got them to fit only to realize my tails weren't deep enough. A lot of sanding would make this unnoticeable but would make my drawers wider than they can be to fit in my already made cases. I scratched my head awhile and kept making adjustments to get it right and then recut all my tails for a second time. I checked my board with already cut pins several times in the beginning and it everything looked great. However when I finished the entire stack the second time, I was quadruple checking and found that the last ten boards or so were back to being not deep enough again.

Frustrated, I quit for the day and it came to me as it always seems to in the early morning hours when I suspected that my router was the culprit. There is a lock lever that holds the bit height adjustment at a set position but a quirk of this router means that unless I force that lock into position with a bit of pressure, it can and has slipped in the past. I have especially noticed this when using the router mounted to a router table and the weight of the router acts against the locking mechanism. So I undid all my jig adjustments from the day before, reset the router bit height making sure to apply pressure to the locking mechanism and recut the ten boards for the third time.

The problem with recutting things like this is that no matter how well I tried to align things perfectly, the subsequent passes don't precisely end up following the earlier passes. That means that no matter how well I cut my pins, they weren't all going to fit nice and tight as they should and there will be gaps in them on some of my boards. The gaps will be small and won't effect the strength of the joints but they do hurt my pride a bit. Fortunately, they will be mostly hidden since they are on filing cabinet drawers and won't be obvious. The plus out of all this is that I learned an important lesson so when I go to make something again with dovetails that will be highly visible, I should be able to turn out something attractive.

Dovetail jig in action. The vertical board is the one I am cutting and contains the dovetail pins that will form the joint. The board that my router is resting on is a scrap board added to reduce splintering of the wood.


Kelly said...

Look for the positives - the mistakes won't show, they won't compromise the integrity of the units, and you learned from them. The latter probably the most important!

That blade looks serious. Not something you'd want me to handle!

Bob said...

Ah, back to the workshop! Loved all the photos from your recent trip to the Buffalo River, by the way, as well as your narratives. That is in fact some serious looking blade and I'm sure you'll make great use of it. I'm not too concerned about the supposed imperfections of which you speak. The drawers will look great like the rest of it. You have come a long way since I became a regular reader here!

Weekend-Windup said...

Drawers will come out good...

Ed said...

Kelly - It is not really a blade but a template. My router has a collar that follows along those fingers and that is what makes the dovetail joints. It is actually very safe to handle.

Bob - As I write this, the drawers are already installed and completed and the imperfections aren't noticeable because you aren't looking for them when opening a drawer, the only time they are visible. I'm happy with the results and learned what to do for the next time when I want to make something with highly visible joints.

Weekend-Windup - Thank you!