3-in-1 baby bed #4: Building the railing - and a new jig

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Blog entry by JSOvens posted 12-04-2016 06:15 PM 1142 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Beefing up the legs Part 4 of 3-in-1 baby bed series no next part

I felt like it was time to actually build something for this project. I started with a component which I felt was relatively inconsequential. As woodworkers, we should strive to put due care and skill into every component of a build I know, but it can be prudent to try out new techniques and methods on a component which, when talking in practical terms, just isn’t as important as the rest. In this case, that component is the small rail on the toddler bed circled in the diagram below.

This diagram comes from the original version of my design, as can be seen by the double curves on the upper headboard and sideboard panels. Thus, my original intention for mounting the rail is seen, which was to use mortise and tenon joinery to permanently attach the rail to the lower panel and side post. I changed my mind on this, and decided to keep the rail removable in case its presence became undesirable for us or our daughter. My new plan was to add a horizontal piece at the bottom, and a vertical piece on the right which the rail and stiles will join to via mortises and tenons as shown below.

Thus the reasoning for calling this a lesser component: it is quite temporary and removable. If I really don’t like how it turns out, I can choose not to use it. It’s also small, so I can remake it if I so desire as well.

So what new techniques am I planning to use here? It’s not so much a new technique as a new methodology (for me anyways) for cutting tenons. Before beginning this project, I racked my brain for a way to cut tenons on the large boards, particularly the wide headboard and the long side boards for the full size bed mode. My table saw is too small to support such large pieces while using a dado stack, and I’m not comfortable with my hand saw skills to go about it that way either. Thus, I chose to build a router jig based off of the exact width dado jig showcased in ShopNotes issue #76:

Shown below is what my version looks like:

The immediate difference is that mine is much shorter – I don’t need it to be long, I designed it to handle a tenon up to 15” long. I also switched which side the handle was on, but to be honest, I don’t remember why exactly – there was a logical reason I promise!

The idea is, I would use this jig to cut a ‘dado’ at the end of the piece, flip the piece and cut again, resulting in the tenon cheeks and shoulders. The first problem that came to mind was that only half the jig would be supported since there is no other side to the ‘dado’. To account for this, I let the other side of the jig rest on about 1/8” of the workpiece. I then used a hand plane to remove that small amount. This allowed me to tack a ‘stop’ on the underside of the outboard side of the jig to maintain consistency for the tenon length. Finally, the whole jig is self squaring and clamping. I have a close-up photo of a piece mounted in the jig below:

I wish I had more photos of the process, but I wasn’t in a good place to take extra photos at the time, so I will try and photograph more of the process next time I use it for the big pieces later on.

My plan was thus to use the rail, which has a high concentration of mortise and tenon joints, as a test run for the jig in order to ensure consistency of the tenons as well as squareness of the tenon shoulders to the edges of the pieces.

So with the jig constructed, I was able to go ahead and mill the pieces for the rail to final dimensions. I used the same planer sled as before, except I was able to face joint two pieces at a time this time.

After another annoying milling session, I got all the pieces I needed:

I then prepared to cut the mortises in the top and bottom parts of the rail. Since the top part is the same width as the stiles, I ganged them all together to give my router more support.

I was not so fortunate for the lower piece though. I don’t know if this is laziness or creative thinking, but I decided to carpet tape the piece to the edge of my table saw as shown.

The carpet tape I have is very strong, probably too strong for what I usually use it for (templates), so it didn’t budge while routing. I don’t know if I’ll adopt this idea into my regular arsenal, I’d rather make a proper mortising jig for this kind of thing, or use one of my other ideas such as that shown in this blog entry. In any case, mortises were successfully cut.

Next, I cut the tenons using the jig described above. Again, I don’t have any additional photos showing that process, and this next photo showing the result is very poor quality (almost decided not to show it). I used a handsaw and chisels to cut and round the tenon edges.

In the end, the jig worked very well. Of course, for small pieces like this I wouldn’t use the jig normally (it takes quite a bit of time to mount and remount the pieces compared to simply flipping the piece over on a table saw or router table). I glued up the rail with no issues:

There were no major gaps in the joints, they all seemed quite tight. The mishaps I did have were not due to poorly made tenons, but to two other problems. The first does have to do with the jig. As is the nature of using a router for this sort of stuff, I got some major chip out on a couple of the tenons which I wasn’t able to repair. This is despite the fact that I pre-scored the tenons with a marking gauge prior to using the jig. In the future, I’ll probably try to include a sacrificial piece to support those fibres. The second mishap was a chisel slip which created an ugly gouge in one of the tenon shoulders. This I’ll likely be able to mitigate with wood filler when I get to the finishing stage.

This is as far as I took this component. Later on, when it comes time to assemble everything for this project, I’ll cut the rounded corner and finish the piece. I plan to attach it using knock-down hardware – it would have been smarter for me to drill the corresponding holes for said hardware before the glue-up, but these things don’t always cross my mind.

So for some concluding remarks, I feel like there was some frustration during this part of the build, which may have come across in the writing. Looking back, I completed this step back in April, two months before my daughter was born. I think I was starting to fret a bit about getting this project done on time for her to use it. I also didn’t have a clear picture of where I was job-wise at the time. It’s interesting looking back at past progress and seeing how these environmental factors affect how I remember these things.

Things are much more stable now, I know where I’m going to be for at least another two years and have been putting much less stress into when I will get this done. This is also in part why it took until now to actually start writing about this project, I feel like I can write about my progress and experiences from a much better state of mind.

Anyways, I’ve already dragged a relatively simple stage in the build on for quite a bit longer than I expected, so I will end this entry here. Next up will be some final milling for the other major components and some tenon cutting.

-- Jeffrey S. Ovens, Canada

2 comments so far

View CaptainSkully's profile


1613 posts in 4326 days

#1 posted 12-05-2016 11:34 PM

It sounds like this blog is very cathartic for you, as well as educational for us. I always try to convey that blogging is just as much a benefit for the blogger as for the reader(s). I feel your pain with the self-imposed stresses of fatherhood. That’s a good thing – it means you’re a good Dad, which is really the most important aspect of this project.

As far as this entry being long for an “unimportant” piece, you adapted a jig for something very outside the box and used it to create one of the many moving parts of the crib, so it was a VERY important step. You now have proof of concept and can move forward with the “important” pieces. I doubt I ever would’ve thought that a tenon is just a dado floating off the end. Well played, sir. Keep up the good work.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View JSOvens's profile


78 posts in 2424 days

#2 posted 12-17-2016 05:42 AM

I started blogging mostly because other family members and friends were curious when I said I was going to start wood working, now it’s turned into something a bit more. I’ve always appreciated the encouragement and advice from fellow woodworkers. I have and continue to appreciate you interest in my project.

-- Jeffrey S. Ovens, Canada

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