Office Cabinet #2: Pin Time

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Blog entry by Tom posted 03-05-2021 03:41 PM 289 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Dovetails! Part 2 of Office Cabinet series Part 3: M&T Frame for the Back: Mostly Pictures »

This part can be stressful. You really need to be warmed up and ready to saw accurately. Try taking some practice cuts. Sharpen up your tools. Avoid distractions and stay focused to avoid miscues. It is really somewhat exhausting, but try to stay calm and relaxed to avoid tightening down on your tool grip. Work to carefully laid out knife and pencil marks. Use a sharp pencil too.

I mark the pins from the tail boards that have been numbered. The numbers for each corner are marked on the inside face which I find helps me to keep track of the orientation. I use a cutting gauge to mark the baseline (you don’t need to mark the ends for the half pins). I use a knife to mark the pin ends from the tails and bring the vertical lines down to the baseline with a square and pencil. I also mark the waste with X’s to avoid cutting out the wrong piece or sawing on the wrong side of the line.

Then I saw out the pins on the waste side of the knife line, but very, very close as possible. I find it difficult to trim the pins without getting caught in the grain, so I prefer to get really close with the saw and risk some fine gap. Sorry, no pictures as my mind was too occupied with sawing. The rest of the process is the same as the tails.

Then it is just a matter of fitting the joint, which is quite tedious on wider boards. I inspect all the pins and baselines so that everything is square and flat. I trim the pins with a chisel or even a rasp if it is necessary. I add a bevel on the inside of the tails but not out to the ends so that it is hidden. I keep fitting the joint and trimming until it comes together. I try to be patient and not beat the joint together with the rubber mallet. If it resists too much, I back off and adjust. The results are decent. Yes there are some fine gaps and couple bigger gaps, but they won’t be too noticeable after the glueing and clamping and staining. I have one or two that need a thin slip to close it up. All pretty normal stuff for an occasional woodworker like me.

When it is assembled it is very solid, even without glue. All the joints need to be driven together, so they are plenty tight without cracking the wood. With the joints assembled, but prior to glue, I usually plane the joints flush to facilitate clamping. But I am gentle with the planing to avoid breaking out the pin and tail fibers. Then I clean up the bench and shop and get everything ready for glue up. This is an exciting part for me. I move quickly and decisively. This is a pretty big glue up to do by myself, but it goes fine.

That was one full day’s work to create the dovetailed case. I am pretty wimpy since I usually sit in front of a computer every day for work, so I was flat out exhausted mentally and physically.

The next day, I planed the joints and they look pretty good. The case is dead square and the inside of the corners are tight, which is an under rated sign of a quality dovetail joint.

Next is the panel and frame back. Until next time… :)

-- Tom

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