Text Resize

  • -A
  • +A
  • No votes yet

    Part II: Practice Your Dovetails with a Tool Caddy

    more on woodworking safety

    Tools and Materials

    In Part I of this three-part series, I covered the layout and cutting of "proud" dovetail joinery that can add beautiful visual appeal to a variety of projects. Now in Part II, it's time to add grooves to the tool caddy's sides in preparation for a bottom. Then we'll glue-up the dovetailed box and prepare the caddy's center divider--drilling and routing for a handhold, adding some gentle curves, and preparing the divider for a pinned dado joint that's rock-solid.

    If you've ever wanted to practice dovetail joinery, this is a perfect project. Made of poplar, one of the softer hardwoods, and finished with traditional milk paint, most minor innaccuracies are easily hidden from view.

    Read Part I of this three-part series to learn how to cut basic dovetail joinery.

    Read Part III of this series for tips on how to acheive a distressed, antique finish.

    How to Make

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeChamfered dovetails

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edges: Remember, our dovetails are “proud.” To make them more visually appealing and prevent folks from getting cut on the sharp edges, I use a block plane and a bit of sandpaper to gently chamfer the edges of the dovetail joints. It makes a huge difference in the final appearance.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlarge

    Cut the Grooves for a Bottom--1: Now it’s time to groove for a drawer bottom. I’m using a dado set on my tablesaw but you could also use a conventional rip blade. If you can find one that yields a flat-bottomed cut, that’s even better, but it’s not a necessity. I made a 1/4-in. wide x 5/16-in. deep groove. When determining where the groove will be placed, you need to remember what the box will look like when it’s assembled. You don’t want to plow straight through a tail, only to find that you can see the groove once the box is assembled. In my case, I began by grooving my shorter pin boards, just to the side of the first pin.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeCutting stopped drawer bottom grooves

    Cut the Grooves for a Bottom--1: These tail boards are a bit trickier. I don’t want to see the groove in the end of the tail after assembly, so I need to make a stopped cut here. First, I determined where the groove would need to start and stop. Next, I marked the start and stop point of my cut on the side of my rip fence. Begin the cut by carefully lowering the stock onto the tablesaw, aligning the end of the board with the mark you made on the fence. Then push your stock through until the other end of your board meets the second “stop” mark you penciled onto your rip fence.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeCutting stopped drawer bottom grooves

    Cut the Grooves for a Bottom--2: Now you can lift the board out of the cut—after the blade has come to a complete stop. Keep in mind, when doing a stopped cut like this, even though the blade doesn’t go all the way through the wood, I NEVER run my fingers over the area where the blade is down below. Just in case.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeDrawer bottom grooves

    Square Up the Stopped Grooves: Now use your chisels to square the rounded ends of the grooves left by the tablesaw. You don’t have to be too precious here, as no one will ever see this groove after glue-up.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeCutting dadoes

    Cut Dadoes for Center Divider: While you have the tablesaw set up for grooving, go ahead and cut dadoes across the center of each of the two short sides. This groove will accept the center divider/handle unit later on. Notice how I taped the two sides together and cut the one groove all at once. This ensures two grooves that are perfectly aligned with one another.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeRabbeted box bottom

    Rabbet the Box Bottom: I also rabbeted the edges of my solid pine box bottom. One thing to note, I ripped this box bottom to a width that would allow for expansion and contraction within the grooves in my box bottom. That is of the utmost importance when crafting a solid wood bottom. And remember, you could always go with a bit of 1/4-in. plywood for your bottom. I just happened to like the look of this knotty pine.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeGluing dovetail joints

    Glue-Up the Basic Box: Now it’s time to glue up your box. I chose to use a product by Titebond called “Extend.” It’s a traditional wood glue that offers a much longer open time. That takes a lot of the stress out of the glue-up phase. Apply just a bit of glue to each tail and pin cheek, but don’t bother about adding any glue to the end grain. there’s no glue strength there at all. Just remember to be somewhat sparing with your glue. Too much glue will cause the wood to swell quickly and can make fitting the joints together rather tough. A little goes a long way. And don’t forget to slide in your box bottom!

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeChecking a box for square

    Ensure the Box is Square: Once the box is assembled, check the diagonals to ensure a square box. The diagonals should come out equal to one another. If they aren’t equal, you can apply some gentle pressure along a diagonal using a clamp, to bring it into square. There’s no need to leave the box clamped up, as the dovetail joint is a strong mechanical joint requiring no additional clamping once the mating pieces are seated.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeUsing patterns in woodworking

    Mark the Pattern's Centerline: Now it’s time to prepare the center divider/handle. After cutting your divider to its final length (remember, it will fit into the slots you cut at the tablesaw into those shorter sides), mark the exact center of the pattern, as well as the exact center of the divider piece. This will aid in placement before tracing.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeTracing a woodworking pattern

    Trace the Pattern: Now trace the pattern's shape onto your final workpiece.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeAdding a radius

    Additional Radius Rounds Out the Design: After making a test fit of the central divider, I thought it might be nice to add one more additional radius at either end of the divider, where it mates with the top edge of the box. This glue bottle happened to offer the perfect radius.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeDrilling with a forstener bit

    Drill for the Handhold: To make the handhold in the center divider, begin by drilling two 1-1/8-in. diameter holes on either end of the handhold opening. These holes are made using a Forstener bit and define the start and stop of the handhold.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeRouter table

    Rout for the Handhold: Now use a straight-cutting bit at the router table to finish the handhold opening. Don’t try to plow through the entire thickness of the material in one pass. Instead, raise the bit in small increments and use multiple passes until your bit has poked up through the top side of the workpiece. And remember to avoid climb cutting—that comes into play here because you’ll be routing a groove along either side of an opening. Along one side of the opening cut, you’ll need to feed the stock from left to right. Along the opposite side you’ll be feeding from right to left. Got that?

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeBandsawing curves

    Bandsaw the Center Divider's Curves: Head over to the bandsaw (you could also use a jigsaw) and cut the final profile out. You can smooth out the rough bandsaw cut using a spindle sander or a spindle sanding attachment for a drill press.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlargeRoundover bit at router table

    Roundover Sharp Edges: To ease those sharp edges, I used a roundover bit over at the router table. You’ll notice that it’s guided by a bearing that rides along the contours of the center divider. Remember, when routing curves like this, you always want to be routing “downhill.”

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlarge

    Drill Peg Holes: Now slide the center divider into the slots on either side of your caddy and use a drill guide to drill two 1/4-in. holes that will house pegs which will lock the center divider to the box. I used 1/4-in. dowels—thus the 1/4-in. holes. The drill guide is just a small scrap of wood. I used my drill press to drill two very straight holes which then served as a guide for my handheld drill. Notice how I’m using a small tape flag to indicate the depth I need to drill to.

    Chamfer the Dovetail Edgesclick to enlarge

    Add Whittled Facets to Pegs: I used a knife to whittle away some nice tactile facets to the end of my dowel stock. Then I cut a dowel to final length, whittled the end again, cut another one to length, and repeated. You’ll need four of these. Check back next Thursday, October 23, 2014 for the third and final installment of this project series as we add a beautiful distressed finish to our caddy and wrap-up the glue-up phase.