Finger Joints, my way #1: Making finger joints....

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Blog entry by bandit571 posted 03-09-2017 06:50 PM 2256 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Also known as Box Joints. Not saying this is the “perfect” way to do these, but, this is how I do them.

First off, I get the four sides all milled to size. Nice when they are the same width and thickness

So, for this little “How to”, I have these Pine boards. I made them about 3/8” thick, and all are about 3-1/2” wide.
Boards can be about any size, but they need to be close to the same size no matter how thick or wide they are.

I start with the “long” sides. I clamp them up inside to inside faces. I then first mark roughly the thick ness of the shorter board on one end of the stack. Then square a line across…

AsI have a bit of trouble holding the two square to each other. Next, I get out a chisel, and use it to mark the fingers out..

For this project, I used a 1/4” mortise chisel, but, about any width chisel can work. I start on one end, and work my way across. You can also start at each end and work towards the middle, adjusting the middle to fit. The chisel will also be the one to chop out the waste. I then use a square, and layout the cut lines down to the Base line. I keep the sides pieces together for this, as I want them to match. Then I lower the two sides a bit in the vise, and get a saw out..

I have this little back saw for the job, but about any saw can work as long as it can cut straight. You can even do this with a bandsaw, just try to split the lines is all. Next I take the sawn boards, and open them up like a book,

These are the “insides” of the box. I also mark which is the top and bottom edges.

helps later with the fitting. I can then set aside one of the sides, for now. I grab the square and a knife..

About 3-5 passes with the knife along the base line. Makes a “knife wall”. I do this to both faces. On some of these joints, I can saw the corners off..

Since the saw is handy. Next, a bit of chopping is done. Nothing real fancy, but..keep the bevel of the chisel pointing away from the knife wall. I start by peeling a layer off towards the wall, starting about halfway back…then a chop in the wall area. The peeled off part gives a place for the bevel to go. Keep this up until..

You get about halfway down. You can either leave the end on, or off..

As long as you give the knife wall one more chop…do not get greedy, all you want here is for the waste to snap off..LATER. If it does at this point, you will get “blow out” on the other face. Ok, do the entire side, then flip the board over, and repeat…

If you remove the end piece of the waste, it will tip down like this, a second hit will remove the little block. If you do leave the end in place, that little block will fly back at you. I then can pare the finger until they look spiffy..

Happy with the look? Ok, remove this board from the clamp, replace it with a short side board ( marked for “Inside” Top and Bottom and a corner number). Tricky part next. I hold the completed fingers where they will be going, I take a sharp pencil, and trace on the short board where the fingers will go…

Supposed to look like this after squaring the lines. I also include the base line. Then, this time around, you want to saw on the waste side of the lines, LEAVING the lines. Much easier to pare a bit to fit. Then, just chisel away the waste, like before. One face 1/2 way, flip over, and complete the chop. test for fit..

IF it is a bit too tight, a pass with the sharp chisel to pare to fit. One corner done, three to go. Takes about the same amount of time as it did to read this blog.

Remember, use a sharp chisel, with the bevel away from the base line, knife wall. First time through, you can split the lines, but the matching fingers need to be sawn on the waste side, leaving the lines.
Best thing? I can use this shop tool..

And work sitting down on the job. Any questions?

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

7 comments so far

View bandit571's profile


24402 posts in 3290 days

#1 posted 03-11-2017 07:01 PM

Ok…I kept working on this little Pine box project..

Inside of the corners looked decent enough…

Outside, the fingers were a tad long. Which is ok, as I can trim these down after the glue up. Better than having them too short? Laid all four sides out, just un-folded it..

Here you can see why it is important to have a SHARP pencil….the joint closest to the camera, the pencil was a bit dull. Sharpened up the pencil, joints became tighter. I then made a jig, first a backer board.

Just a 1×1 attached to the benchtop…a bench dog was going to be a “stop”..

But the Stanley 45 was rocking a bit too much. I trimmed the rear hold-down into two pieces, and tried again..

Worked well enough that I could cut the groove right through a knot…

Then, just to see how the grooves for the box’s bottom panel line up..

I would do a Blog about building this project, but…it would just be yet another “Box Project Blog” ....

May show a few other details, as I build this box. Lid will be split off from the box, using grooves made by the Stanley 45….so, I will need to mill a few more grooves, and then one after the glue up has cured. You can stay tuned IF you like….

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View MerylL's profile


73 posts in 1978 days

#2 posted 03-11-2017 07:14 PM

Interesting read. And I learned more! I looked at some of your pics in your profile. Nice work! Following.

View CFrye's profile


10828 posts in 2447 days

#3 posted 03-12-2017 08:58 AM

Thanks for sharing, Bandit!

-- God bless, Candy

View bandit571's profile


24402 posts in 3290 days

#4 posted 03-13-2017 08:14 PM

Well, had two more lines of grooves to mill. Same jig. I rotated the parts to mill from the top edge, instead of from the bottom edge.. One for the top’s panel to sit in..

And the third one maybe an inch lower. It will be to help split the top off, after I glue the box together…

had to reset the fence for the third groove. Test fits..

Mainly to make sure the plywood panels were the correct size. I had to plane a bit off the long edges, was a hair too wide. Was keeping the fingers from closing up tight. I also made a mark, showing where a groove around the outside will go..

Offset from the inside groove. When the lid is split off, it will leave a lip all the way around. Like a dust seal. Need to set the Stanley 45’s fence to make this groove, just in case I sand the marks off after the glue up ( normal luck)

Will have some long fingers to trim back. Now then..

Once this comes out of the clamps, will this be the “Top”, or..

Or will this one be the top…...stay tuned…

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View bandit571's profile


24402 posts in 3290 days

#5 posted 03-14-2017 06:49 PM

Ok, a picture of my “work area”, before the mayhem began..

Nice and clean and orderly…....for a few moments, anyway…then the fight began…

Used a bunch of clamps, a bit of carpenter’s glue, and a lot of cussing….

Details….details. Will let this sit for a day…..stay tuned.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View bandit571's profile


24402 posts in 3290 days

#6 posted 03-16-2017 05:20 AM

Ok, after a repair of a broken end piece..

Finally got to where I could run the Stanley 45 around the outside..

The inside and outside grooves were not a perfect match, I wanted them to “miss” each other. otherwise, the box would break apart while I was cutting the last groove. Once the groove was run all the way around, I could finish the “split” with a knife, Then the fun can begin. Needed to thin the lip a bit, to fit inside the lid..used an old shoulder plane for that..

Ran it along the side of the lip, testing the fit of the lid as I went..

Once it did fit, I could clamp the box and lid together, sand away all marks, add the latch and hinges…hinges needed a pilot hole, for them tiny screws..

Used a push drill, with the smallest bit it had..

Spokeshave and plane for detail work, getting rid of high spots. Time for a PIP?

This is the lid’s top panel. I choose for the way the grain looks. Just plywood

Front view, showing the latch…

This is the end that was repaired, repair is along the bottom edge…

And this is the non-repaired end. Needs a rub out, and a second coat….should be about ready to post as a Project?

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View MerylL's profile


73 posts in 1978 days

#7 posted 04-05-2017 03:38 AM

I love how you did this! Great job. Glad to see it finished. I especially appreciate the hand-work that went into this. Glad you got if finished!

Just re-read it again (4th time?). Really a great post. Totally by hand. Simple box, simple joints, but it all requires skills with the hand tools AND sharp hand-tools.

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