Box with hand cut finger joints #1: Making the cut

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Blog entry by Sanman posted 12-23-2011 05:59 AM 4714 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Box with hand cut finger joints series Part 2: Sanding and finishing what I started »

I decided I was going to get some free wood from a local retail store that had left over pallets laying around. After getting permission, I borrowed a pick-up truck and got a load of pallets home. Trial and error taught me you can not just hammer them apart and expect to have any usable wood. I finally used a handheld circular saw and carefully missed the nails as I disassembled the pallets.

I managed to get four small pieces that looked like they could make a box. I cleaned up the edges on the table saw and marked my lines where I wanted to cut the finger joints being careful to keep each sided aligned by labeling them A-D.

I used a saw from a miter box and a coping saw to make all the cuts for the finger joints.

I had to use the vice which is attached to my workbench. The sawing wasn’t pretty, the workbench was shaking and items from the top shelf were falling on me, but I got through.

All of the joints didn’t fit, two of them had to be chiseled to get them together.

Other joints, you can see through.

Over all, I enjoyed making something (box). I need a lot more practice. I don’t know if the saws could be improved on or if I’m just that bad with them? I had a REALLY hard time with the coping saw and getting a straight cut across. It was tough, that’s the hardest I’ve worked in a while. I’m very sore

I took a well deserved break

-- I'll get it done when I get a-round-tuit.

5 comments so far

View JoeyG's profile


1275 posts in 3710 days

#1 posted 12-23-2011 06:12 AM

In my experience the coping saw never gives a straight cut. What I do is leave the line and may 1/32 -1/26, just don’t cut your line. Then go in with a sharp chisel and work your way back to the line. As with all things, just keep practicing, it will come to you and begin to feel more natural. In my experience, when it feels wrong it usually is and I need to find a different way to achieve what I want. Don’t be scared to ask for advice either. If you have questions, you can always message me and I will get back to you as soon as I can.


-- JoeyG ~~~

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 3586 days

#2 posted 12-23-2011 02:36 PM

Which way is your blade on the coping saw? I was always taught that the blade should be set to cut on the pull stroke, and only very recently learned that, in fact, the saw can be used on either the push or the pull stroke. It seems that you pull the saw to cut very thin material and push it to cut thicker material. I must admit that I still need to try that myself though.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View Sanman's profile


78 posts in 3442 days

#3 posted 12-23-2011 08:08 PM

Thanks JoeyG, I plan to continue practicing. After all, my wood is free for now.

Thanks Tootles, I was pulling so I could try to watch the line. I may need a new blade in the coping saw as it was looking all out of whack while I was sawing. I also had a terrible time with the miter saw sticking in the wood, causing the entire work bench to shake violently. I thought I was going to break the 1/2 inch piece in half before it cut.

-- I'll get it done when I get a-round-tuit.

View JoeyG's profile


1275 posts in 3710 days

#4 posted 12-23-2011 09:22 PM

Your welcome, I’ll give one more tip. If you don’t want to just end up hating woodworking, you MUST have sharp blades. There is nothing more discouraging than try to make a good cut with a dull knife/blade. It is virtually impossible to get a good, clean, straight cut with a dull tool. Which means your joints won’t line up correctly. Keep making sawdust and you will get there.

-- JoeyG ~~~

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4797 days

#5 posted 01-04-2012 07:47 AM

A saw binding (or sticking) may be due to the saw being twisted as is being sawed through the wood. Try to keep the saw straight up and down (don’t lean the top to either the left or right) and don’t swing the handle to the left or right either. You basically want the saw to be either perfectly perpendicular or parallel to the different faces of the wood (e.g. the top, side, or end).


-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

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