Kitchen Utensil Box #3: Cutting the joinery

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Blog entry by JSOvens posted 05-31-2015 02:16 AM 1550 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Milling the components Part 3 of Kitchen Utensil Box series Part 4: Shaping the corner posts »

So here comes one of the more exciting parts of the project: the cutting of the joinery. If you saw the first post in this series, you would have seen the interlocking mortise and tenon style joinery I planned to use. Since I accidentally cut the Padauk posts 1/2” too short, I had to redo the sizing for the mortises and tenons. To make the rest easier to follow, I will repost the image of the test run here:

I began with the mortises, since they are generally easier. I have not made/purchased any fancy mortising jigs, since I seem to do well enough with a plunge router equipped with a fence and some scraps laying around the shop. In order to help balance the bulky router, I cut a groove in a planed 2×4 to the exact width of the 1” pillars. I cut it such that the depth is just over 1”, so that the surface of the pillar sits just below the surface of the 2×4, as shown below.

I didn’t use any physical stops to determine the mortise lengths (they are not all uniform so it would be a hassle). I find that I am quite good at stopping the router at the mark. With everything set up, I just needed to do the cutting.

I have heard some say that they feel it’s easier to round the tenons to fit the rounded mortises, but I feel differently. Thus, I took a 1/4” chisel from my new Narex chisel set and got chopping. This is another reason why it is not critical to use positive stops to determine the mortise length with the router, as I will be doing that with a chisel. The Veritas square chisel also helped for the mini 1/4” tenons.

With the mortises done, I moved on to cutting the tenons. The first step is to cut away the shoulders. I did this on my router table. I cut off 1/16” from each side, resulting in a large 1/4” super-tenon.

To mark the individual tenons, I created a “story page” on a piece of paper. I then nicked the piece with a striking knife. The letters “A” and “B” denote the two different arrangements of interlocking tenons (see the first photo above).

I then cut the tenons using a Dozuki and cleared out the majority of the waste with a coping saw. I finalized the joints with a chisel. Since these woods are so hard on the chisel, I found I had to resharpen almost after every set of joints, as my chisel would have noticeable nicks in the blade. I have heard that the steel on the end of a new chisel is sometimes the worst quality, and gets better after a few resharpenings. I’m not sure if this is part of the problem, but more practice with sharpening certainly didn’t hurt.

With a little bit of finessing, I was able to get a snug fit in nearly all the joints and was finally able to put this box together for the first time. Below are a few photos of the assembled (but not yet shaped) box.

I am thrilled with how the Wenge looks, with the light-dark gradient (top to bottom) and the way the book-matched cathedral grain wraps around the box. I am very excited to proceed with the remainder of the build.

Next I will be tackling the shaping of the pillars, which will require me to manufacture some new router templates.

Thanks for reading.

-- Jeffrey S. Ovens, Canada

2 comments so far

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1315 posts in 2324 days

#1 posted 05-31-2015 02:18 PM

Informative and well written blog so far- keep up the good work. Looking forward to follow this build!
Thanks for sharing

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View JSOvens's profile


78 posts in 2267 days

#2 posted 05-31-2015 11:06 PM

Thanks for the comment, this build has been fun, I’m really looking forward to the end product!

-- Jeffrey S. Ovens, Canada

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