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Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1


By popular demand, here's the details on how to cut the fishtail joint. For this example, I decided to make a small sliding top box.

This is a somewhat complex joint to cut. There are a lot of steps to explaining it, though it goes a lot faster once you've done it. (There are a lot of pictures in this explanation as they will probably explain the process better than I will.)

The place to begin explaining the joint is with the tools used to make it. The essential tools are a plug/tenon cutter and forstner bit in the same size-in this case 1/2" (I use CMT plug cutters-they work beautifully). Also, you'll need a drill press-I use a 60 year old Shopsmith 10ER which allows me to bore horizontally & vertically, but you should be able to accomplish all the cutting needed on a vertical drill press. A bench top drill press may be challenged with the end borings since the plug cutters are very long. This won't leave of lot of room for your work piece, but I imagine some creativity could overcome that too.



Next you need to understand how the plug cutter behaves. It will bore a perfect 1/2 tenon up to 3" deep. The cutter also strips away 3/16" of waste around the tenon that it cuts. This is important for spacing the pins on the joint-3/16" is the minimum allowance between pins and that would be pushing the limits. A 1/4" space is better. So, a 1/2" pin with a 1/4" space between gives us a spacing of 3/4" for each pin & tail. (You could vary this with larger spacing as you see fit.)

To form the fishtail, the pins need to have a flat on them-not a fully cylindrical tenon. So, the plug cutter is setup to cut 1/16" off the edge of the work piece.


[The drawing shows the pin placement in both 3/4" and 1/2" stock on the right. Spacing for drilling the holes is on the right. The graph is shown in 1/4" squares.)

With all that in mind, here's how I setup to cut the pins:


I'm cutting horizontally, using both the fence and the miter (clamped to the table) to give a stable square setup. You can see I have a test piece with a piece of scrap underneath. You should be able to accomplish the same on the drill press-a vice on the table would be a big help.

WARNING: use the clearest grain pieces for your work and your scrap blocks. If the plug cutter encounters something it doesn't like, it will chew it up and fling it at you.


This is the first test boring:

From this I see that the pin is too high-it doesn't drop off the bottom of the piece leaving a flat. Also with the test boring I can determine the spacing needed to cut the first pin. The first pin is cut on the right end of the piece, not the left. Having set the proper depth for the pins, I'll next set the miter to cut the first pin on the actual work piece so that it will be 1/4" from the right end.

When I setup to bore the actual workpiece, I have a scrap block the same length as the workpiece. I set the table so there's a 1/4" between the cutter and the work piece (using a piece of scrap 1/4" stock). Then I set the depth gauge on the quill to bore just over 3/4"-that will cut 1/2" into the work.

First boring looks like this (though I actually had a clamp on top of the work).


For the next two cuts (there are 3 pins on this piece) I use 3/4" thick spacer blocks between the miter and work piece. This gives me a perfect 3/4" offset between the pins.


And, the third pin (note the two spacer blocks between the miter and the work piece. Also the scrap block & clamp on top of the work.)


And, here's what the completed end boring looks like:


As an added challenge, since I'm making a sliding top box, the two end pieces are different heights to allow top to slide out one end. So the other end piece only has 2 pins and they are 3/8" from the edge of the piece instead of 1/4" (but there is still a 3/4" on center spacing for the pins.) I'm able to use the same setup with a different spacer block. Because this piece is narrower I don't begin the first pin with the work directly against the miter. Instead I use a 5/8" thick spacer to align my first pin (that big board I'm using as a spacer is a 5/8" piece I had on hand for another project.)


Then I can use the 3/4" spacer block to align and cut the 2nd pin. So, all the pins are cut…


NEXT: Cleaning up the pins, drilling the tails and putting it together
 

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Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1


By popular demand, here's the details on how to cut the fishtail joint. For this example, I decided to make a small sliding top box.

This is a somewhat complex joint to cut. There are a lot of steps to explaining it, though it goes a lot faster once you've done it. (There are a lot of pictures in this explanation as they will probably explain the process better than I will.)

The place to begin explaining the joint is with the tools used to make it. The essential tools are a plug/tenon cutter and forstner bit in the same size-in this case 1/2" (I use CMT plug cutters-they work beautifully). Also, you'll need a drill press-I use a 60 year old Shopsmith 10ER which allows me to bore horizontally & vertically, but you should be able to accomplish all the cutting needed on a vertical drill press. A bench top drill press may be challenged with the end borings since the plug cutters are very long. This won't leave of lot of room for your work piece, but I imagine some creativity could overcome that too.



Next you need to understand how the plug cutter behaves. It will bore a perfect 1/2 tenon up to 3" deep. The cutter also strips away 3/16" of waste around the tenon that it cuts. This is important for spacing the pins on the joint-3/16" is the minimum allowance between pins and that would be pushing the limits. A 1/4" space is better. So, a 1/2" pin with a 1/4" space between gives us a spacing of 3/4" for each pin & tail. (You could vary this with larger spacing as you see fit.)

To form the fishtail, the pins need to have a flat on them-not a fully cylindrical tenon. So, the plug cutter is setup to cut 1/16" off the edge of the work piece.


[The drawing shows the pin placement in both 3/4" and 1/2" stock on the right. Spacing for drilling the holes is on the right. The graph is shown in 1/4" squares.)

With all that in mind, here's how I setup to cut the pins:


I'm cutting horizontally, using both the fence and the miter (clamped to the table) to give a stable square setup. You can see I have a test piece with a piece of scrap underneath. You should be able to accomplish the same on the drill press-a vice on the table would be a big help.

WARNING: use the clearest grain pieces for your work and your scrap blocks. If the plug cutter encounters something it doesn't like, it will chew it up and fling it at you.


This is the first test boring:

From this I see that the pin is too high-it doesn't drop off the bottom of the piece leaving a flat. Also with the test boring I can determine the spacing needed to cut the first pin. The first pin is cut on the right end of the piece, not the left. Having set the proper depth for the pins, I'll next set the miter to cut the first pin on the actual work piece so that it will be 1/4" from the right end.

When I setup to bore the actual workpiece, I have a scrap block the same length as the workpiece. I set the table so there's a 1/4" between the cutter and the work piece (using a piece of scrap 1/4" stock). Then I set the depth gauge on the quill to bore just over 3/4"-that will cut 1/2" into the work.

First boring looks like this (though I actually had a clamp on top of the work).


For the next two cuts (there are 3 pins on this piece) I use 3/4" thick spacer blocks between the miter and work piece. This gives me a perfect 3/4" offset between the pins.


And, the third pin (note the two spacer blocks between the miter and the work piece. Also the scrap block & clamp on top of the work.)


And, here's what the completed end boring looks like:


As an added challenge, since I'm making a sliding top box, the two end pieces are different heights to allow top to slide out one end. So the other end piece only has 2 pins and they are 3/8" from the edge of the piece instead of 1/4" (but there is still a 3/4" on center spacing for the pins.) I'm able to use the same setup with a different spacer block. Because this piece is narrower I don't begin the first pin with the work directly against the miter. Instead I use a 5/8" thick spacer to align my first pin (that big board I'm using as a spacer is a 5/8" piece I had on hand for another project.)


Then I can use the 3/4" spacer block to align and cut the 2nd pin. So, all the pins are cut…


NEXT: Cleaning up the pins, drilling the tails and putting it together
Great post.

I love to see joints made using homemade jigs instead of $400 purchased jigs. And besides, yours makes a very unique joint.
 

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Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1


By popular demand, here's the details on how to cut the fishtail joint. For this example, I decided to make a small sliding top box.

This is a somewhat complex joint to cut. There are a lot of steps to explaining it, though it goes a lot faster once you've done it. (There are a lot of pictures in this explanation as they will probably explain the process better than I will.)

The place to begin explaining the joint is with the tools used to make it. The essential tools are a plug/tenon cutter and forstner bit in the same size-in this case 1/2" (I use CMT plug cutters-they work beautifully). Also, you'll need a drill press-I use a 60 year old Shopsmith 10ER which allows me to bore horizontally & vertically, but you should be able to accomplish all the cutting needed on a vertical drill press. A bench top drill press may be challenged with the end borings since the plug cutters are very long. This won't leave of lot of room for your work piece, but I imagine some creativity could overcome that too.



Next you need to understand how the plug cutter behaves. It will bore a perfect 1/2 tenon up to 3" deep. The cutter also strips away 3/16" of waste around the tenon that it cuts. This is important for spacing the pins on the joint-3/16" is the minimum allowance between pins and that would be pushing the limits. A 1/4" space is better. So, a 1/2" pin with a 1/4" space between gives us a spacing of 3/4" for each pin & tail. (You could vary this with larger spacing as you see fit.)

To form the fishtail, the pins need to have a flat on them-not a fully cylindrical tenon. So, the plug cutter is setup to cut 1/16" off the edge of the work piece.


[The drawing shows the pin placement in both 3/4" and 1/2" stock on the right. Spacing for drilling the holes is on the right. The graph is shown in 1/4" squares.)

With all that in mind, here's how I setup to cut the pins:


I'm cutting horizontally, using both the fence and the miter (clamped to the table) to give a stable square setup. You can see I have a test piece with a piece of scrap underneath. You should be able to accomplish the same on the drill press-a vice on the table would be a big help.

WARNING: use the clearest grain pieces for your work and your scrap blocks. If the plug cutter encounters something it doesn't like, it will chew it up and fling it at you.


This is the first test boring:

From this I see that the pin is too high-it doesn't drop off the bottom of the piece leaving a flat. Also with the test boring I can determine the spacing needed to cut the first pin. The first pin is cut on the right end of the piece, not the left. Having set the proper depth for the pins, I'll next set the miter to cut the first pin on the actual work piece so that it will be 1/4" from the right end.

When I setup to bore the actual workpiece, I have a scrap block the same length as the workpiece. I set the table so there's a 1/4" between the cutter and the work piece (using a piece of scrap 1/4" stock). Then I set the depth gauge on the quill to bore just over 3/4"-that will cut 1/2" into the work.

First boring looks like this (though I actually had a clamp on top of the work).


For the next two cuts (there are 3 pins on this piece) I use 3/4" thick spacer blocks between the miter and work piece. This gives me a perfect 3/4" offset between the pins.


And, the third pin (note the two spacer blocks between the miter and the work piece. Also the scrap block & clamp on top of the work.)


And, here's what the completed end boring looks like:


As an added challenge, since I'm making a sliding top box, the two end pieces are different heights to allow top to slide out one end. So the other end piece only has 2 pins and they are 3/8" from the edge of the piece instead of 1/4" (but there is still a 3/4" on center spacing for the pins.) I'm able to use the same setup with a different spacer block. Because this piece is narrower I don't begin the first pin with the work directly against the miter. Instead I use a 5/8" thick spacer to align my first pin (that big board I'm using as a spacer is a 5/8" piece I had on hand for another project.)


Then I can use the 3/4" spacer block to align and cut the 2nd pin. So, all the pins are cut…


NEXT: Cleaning up the pins, drilling the tails and putting it together
those horizontal borers sure do come in handy
 

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Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1


By popular demand, here's the details on how to cut the fishtail joint. For this example, I decided to make a small sliding top box.

This is a somewhat complex joint to cut. There are a lot of steps to explaining it, though it goes a lot faster once you've done it. (There are a lot of pictures in this explanation as they will probably explain the process better than I will.)

The place to begin explaining the joint is with the tools used to make it. The essential tools are a plug/tenon cutter and forstner bit in the same size-in this case 1/2" (I use CMT plug cutters-they work beautifully). Also, you'll need a drill press-I use a 60 year old Shopsmith 10ER which allows me to bore horizontally & vertically, but you should be able to accomplish all the cutting needed on a vertical drill press. A bench top drill press may be challenged with the end borings since the plug cutters are very long. This won't leave of lot of room for your work piece, but I imagine some creativity could overcome that too.



Next you need to understand how the plug cutter behaves. It will bore a perfect 1/2 tenon up to 3" deep. The cutter also strips away 3/16" of waste around the tenon that it cuts. This is important for spacing the pins on the joint-3/16" is the minimum allowance between pins and that would be pushing the limits. A 1/4" space is better. So, a 1/2" pin with a 1/4" space between gives us a spacing of 3/4" for each pin & tail. (You could vary this with larger spacing as you see fit.)

To form the fishtail, the pins need to have a flat on them-not a fully cylindrical tenon. So, the plug cutter is setup to cut 1/16" off the edge of the work piece.


[The drawing shows the pin placement in both 3/4" and 1/2" stock on the right. Spacing for drilling the holes is on the right. The graph is shown in 1/4" squares.)

With all that in mind, here's how I setup to cut the pins:


I'm cutting horizontally, using both the fence and the miter (clamped to the table) to give a stable square setup. You can see I have a test piece with a piece of scrap underneath. You should be able to accomplish the same on the drill press-a vice on the table would be a big help.

WARNING: use the clearest grain pieces for your work and your scrap blocks. If the plug cutter encounters something it doesn't like, it will chew it up and fling it at you.


This is the first test boring:

From this I see that the pin is too high-it doesn't drop off the bottom of the piece leaving a flat. Also with the test boring I can determine the spacing needed to cut the first pin. The first pin is cut on the right end of the piece, not the left. Having set the proper depth for the pins, I'll next set the miter to cut the first pin on the actual work piece so that it will be 1/4" from the right end.

When I setup to bore the actual workpiece, I have a scrap block the same length as the workpiece. I set the table so there's a 1/4" between the cutter and the work piece (using a piece of scrap 1/4" stock). Then I set the depth gauge on the quill to bore just over 3/4"-that will cut 1/2" into the work.

First boring looks like this (though I actually had a clamp on top of the work).


For the next two cuts (there are 3 pins on this piece) I use 3/4" thick spacer blocks between the miter and work piece. This gives me a perfect 3/4" offset between the pins.


And, the third pin (note the two spacer blocks between the miter and the work piece. Also the scrap block & clamp on top of the work.)


And, here's what the completed end boring looks like:


As an added challenge, since I'm making a sliding top box, the two end pieces are different heights to allow top to slide out one end. So the other end piece only has 2 pins and they are 3/8" from the edge of the piece instead of 1/4" (but there is still a 3/4" on center spacing for the pins.) I'm able to use the same setup with a different spacer block. Because this piece is narrower I don't begin the first pin with the work directly against the miter. Instead I use a 5/8" thick spacer to align my first pin (that big board I'm using as a spacer is a 5/8" piece I had on hand for another project.)


Then I can use the 3/4" spacer block to align and cut the 2nd pin. So, all the pins are cut…


NEXT: Cleaning up the pins, drilling the tails and putting it together
very nice

 

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Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1


By popular demand, here's the details on how to cut the fishtail joint. For this example, I decided to make a small sliding top box.

This is a somewhat complex joint to cut. There are a lot of steps to explaining it, though it goes a lot faster once you've done it. (There are a lot of pictures in this explanation as they will probably explain the process better than I will.)

The place to begin explaining the joint is with the tools used to make it. The essential tools are a plug/tenon cutter and forstner bit in the same size-in this case 1/2" (I use CMT plug cutters-they work beautifully). Also, you'll need a drill press-I use a 60 year old Shopsmith 10ER which allows me to bore horizontally & vertically, but you should be able to accomplish all the cutting needed on a vertical drill press. A bench top drill press may be challenged with the end borings since the plug cutters are very long. This won't leave of lot of room for your work piece, but I imagine some creativity could overcome that too.



Next you need to understand how the plug cutter behaves. It will bore a perfect 1/2 tenon up to 3" deep. The cutter also strips away 3/16" of waste around the tenon that it cuts. This is important for spacing the pins on the joint-3/16" is the minimum allowance between pins and that would be pushing the limits. A 1/4" space is better. So, a 1/2" pin with a 1/4" space between gives us a spacing of 3/4" for each pin & tail. (You could vary this with larger spacing as you see fit.)

To form the fishtail, the pins need to have a flat on them-not a fully cylindrical tenon. So, the plug cutter is setup to cut 1/16" off the edge of the work piece.


[The drawing shows the pin placement in both 3/4" and 1/2" stock on the right. Spacing for drilling the holes is on the right. The graph is shown in 1/4" squares.)

With all that in mind, here's how I setup to cut the pins:


I'm cutting horizontally, using both the fence and the miter (clamped to the table) to give a stable square setup. You can see I have a test piece with a piece of scrap underneath. You should be able to accomplish the same on the drill press-a vice on the table would be a big help.

WARNING: use the clearest grain pieces for your work and your scrap blocks. If the plug cutter encounters something it doesn't like, it will chew it up and fling it at you.


This is the first test boring:

From this I see that the pin is too high-it doesn't drop off the bottom of the piece leaving a flat. Also with the test boring I can determine the spacing needed to cut the first pin. The first pin is cut on the right end of the piece, not the left. Having set the proper depth for the pins, I'll next set the miter to cut the first pin on the actual work piece so that it will be 1/4" from the right end.

When I setup to bore the actual workpiece, I have a scrap block the same length as the workpiece. I set the table so there's a 1/4" between the cutter and the work piece (using a piece of scrap 1/4" stock). Then I set the depth gauge on the quill to bore just over 3/4"-that will cut 1/2" into the work.

First boring looks like this (though I actually had a clamp on top of the work).


For the next two cuts (there are 3 pins on this piece) I use 3/4" thick spacer blocks between the miter and work piece. This gives me a perfect 3/4" offset between the pins.


And, the third pin (note the two spacer blocks between the miter and the work piece. Also the scrap block & clamp on top of the work.)


And, here's what the completed end boring looks like:


As an added challenge, since I'm making a sliding top box, the two end pieces are different heights to allow top to slide out one end. So the other end piece only has 2 pins and they are 3/8" from the edge of the piece instead of 1/4" (but there is still a 3/4" on center spacing for the pins.) I'm able to use the same setup with a different spacer block. Because this piece is narrower I don't begin the first pin with the work directly against the miter. Instead I use a 5/8" thick spacer to align my first pin (that big board I'm using as a spacer is a 5/8" piece I had on hand for another project.)


Then I can use the 3/4" spacer block to align and cut the 2nd pin. So, all the pins are cut…


NEXT: Cleaning up the pins, drilling the tails and putting it together
I saw this link on the 10er users group post…I guess I missed it here. As a fellow 10er guy, always great to see good work being done with the old "Smiths", and this isn't just good, it's outstanding. Way to go!
-Shopsmithtom
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1


By popular demand, here's the details on how to cut the fishtail joint. For this example, I decided to make a small sliding top box.

This is a somewhat complex joint to cut. There are a lot of steps to explaining it, though it goes a lot faster once you've done it. (There are a lot of pictures in this explanation as they will probably explain the process better than I will.)

The place to begin explaining the joint is with the tools used to make it. The essential tools are a plug/tenon cutter and forstner bit in the same size-in this case 1/2" (I use CMT plug cutters-they work beautifully). Also, you'll need a drill press-I use a 60 year old Shopsmith 10ER which allows me to bore horizontally & vertically, but you should be able to accomplish all the cutting needed on a vertical drill press. A bench top drill press may be challenged with the end borings since the plug cutters are very long. This won't leave of lot of room for your work piece, but I imagine some creativity could overcome that too.



Next you need to understand how the plug cutter behaves. It will bore a perfect 1/2 tenon up to 3" deep. The cutter also strips away 3/16" of waste around the tenon that it cuts. This is important for spacing the pins on the joint-3/16" is the minimum allowance between pins and that would be pushing the limits. A 1/4" space is better. So, a 1/2" pin with a 1/4" space between gives us a spacing of 3/4" for each pin & tail. (You could vary this with larger spacing as you see fit.)

To form the fishtail, the pins need to have a flat on them-not a fully cylindrical tenon. So, the plug cutter is setup to cut 1/16" off the edge of the work piece.


[The drawing shows the pin placement in both 3/4" and 1/2" stock on the right. Spacing for drilling the holes is on the right. The graph is shown in 1/4" squares.)

With all that in mind, here's how I setup to cut the pins:


I'm cutting horizontally, using both the fence and the miter (clamped to the table) to give a stable square setup. You can see I have a test piece with a piece of scrap underneath. You should be able to accomplish the same on the drill press-a vice on the table would be a big help.

WARNING: use the clearest grain pieces for your work and your scrap blocks. If the plug cutter encounters something it doesn't like, it will chew it up and fling it at you.


This is the first test boring:

From this I see that the pin is too high-it doesn't drop off the bottom of the piece leaving a flat. Also with the test boring I can determine the spacing needed to cut the first pin. The first pin is cut on the right end of the piece, not the left. Having set the proper depth for the pins, I'll next set the miter to cut the first pin on the actual work piece so that it will be 1/4" from the right end.

When I setup to bore the actual workpiece, I have a scrap block the same length as the workpiece. I set the table so there's a 1/4" between the cutter and the work piece (using a piece of scrap 1/4" stock). Then I set the depth gauge on the quill to bore just over 3/4"-that will cut 1/2" into the work.

First boring looks like this (though I actually had a clamp on top of the work).


For the next two cuts (there are 3 pins on this piece) I use 3/4" thick spacer blocks between the miter and work piece. This gives me a perfect 3/4" offset between the pins.


And, the third pin (note the two spacer blocks between the miter and the work piece. Also the scrap block & clamp on top of the work.)


And, here's what the completed end boring looks like:


As an added challenge, since I'm making a sliding top box, the two end pieces are different heights to allow top to slide out one end. So the other end piece only has 2 pins and they are 3/8" from the edge of the piece instead of 1/4" (but there is still a 3/4" on center spacing for the pins.) I'm able to use the same setup with a different spacer block. Because this piece is narrower I don't begin the first pin with the work directly against the miter. Instead I use a 5/8" thick spacer to align my first pin (that big board I'm using as a spacer is a 5/8" piece I had on hand for another project.)


Then I can use the 3/4" spacer block to align and cut the 2nd pin. So, all the pins are cut…


NEXT: Cleaning up the pins, drilling the tails and putting it together
Thanks everyone. Glad you enjoyed it and looking forward to seeing what kind of variations you guys make to this joint!

Dan
 

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Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1


By popular demand, here's the details on how to cut the fishtail joint. For this example, I decided to make a small sliding top box.

This is a somewhat complex joint to cut. There are a lot of steps to explaining it, though it goes a lot faster once you've done it. (There are a lot of pictures in this explanation as they will probably explain the process better than I will.)

The place to begin explaining the joint is with the tools used to make it. The essential tools are a plug/tenon cutter and forstner bit in the same size-in this case 1/2" (I use CMT plug cutters-they work beautifully). Also, you'll need a drill press-I use a 60 year old Shopsmith 10ER which allows me to bore horizontally & vertically, but you should be able to accomplish all the cutting needed on a vertical drill press. A bench top drill press may be challenged with the end borings since the plug cutters are very long. This won't leave of lot of room for your work piece, but I imagine some creativity could overcome that too.



Next you need to understand how the plug cutter behaves. It will bore a perfect 1/2 tenon up to 3" deep. The cutter also strips away 3/16" of waste around the tenon that it cuts. This is important for spacing the pins on the joint-3/16" is the minimum allowance between pins and that would be pushing the limits. A 1/4" space is better. So, a 1/2" pin with a 1/4" space between gives us a spacing of 3/4" for each pin & tail. (You could vary this with larger spacing as you see fit.)

To form the fishtail, the pins need to have a flat on them-not a fully cylindrical tenon. So, the plug cutter is setup to cut 1/16" off the edge of the work piece.


[The drawing shows the pin placement in both 3/4" and 1/2" stock on the right. Spacing for drilling the holes is on the right. The graph is shown in 1/4" squares.)

With all that in mind, here's how I setup to cut the pins:


I'm cutting horizontally, using both the fence and the miter (clamped to the table) to give a stable square setup. You can see I have a test piece with a piece of scrap underneath. You should be able to accomplish the same on the drill press-a vice on the table would be a big help.

WARNING: use the clearest grain pieces for your work and your scrap blocks. If the plug cutter encounters something it doesn't like, it will chew it up and fling it at you.


This is the first test boring:

From this I see that the pin is too high-it doesn't drop off the bottom of the piece leaving a flat. Also with the test boring I can determine the spacing needed to cut the first pin. The first pin is cut on the right end of the piece, not the left. Having set the proper depth for the pins, I'll next set the miter to cut the first pin on the actual work piece so that it will be 1/4" from the right end.

When I setup to bore the actual workpiece, I have a scrap block the same length as the workpiece. I set the table so there's a 1/4" between the cutter and the work piece (using a piece of scrap 1/4" stock). Then I set the depth gauge on the quill to bore just over 3/4"-that will cut 1/2" into the work.

First boring looks like this (though I actually had a clamp on top of the work).


For the next two cuts (there are 3 pins on this piece) I use 3/4" thick spacer blocks between the miter and work piece. This gives me a perfect 3/4" offset between the pins.


And, the third pin (note the two spacer blocks between the miter and the work piece. Also the scrap block & clamp on top of the work.)


And, here's what the completed end boring looks like:


As an added challenge, since I'm making a sliding top box, the two end pieces are different heights to allow top to slide out one end. So the other end piece only has 2 pins and they are 3/8" from the edge of the piece instead of 1/4" (but there is still a 3/4" on center spacing for the pins.) I'm able to use the same setup with a different spacer block. Because this piece is narrower I don't begin the first pin with the work directly against the miter. Instead I use a 5/8" thick spacer to align my first pin (that big board I'm using as a spacer is a 5/8" piece I had on hand for another project.)


Then I can use the 3/4" spacer block to align and cut the 2nd pin. So, all the pins are cut…


NEXT: Cleaning up the pins, drilling the tails and putting it together
I saw the finished piece but just found this blog thanks a lot.
 

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Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1


By popular demand, here's the details on how to cut the fishtail joint. For this example, I decided to make a small sliding top box.

This is a somewhat complex joint to cut. There are a lot of steps to explaining it, though it goes a lot faster once you've done it. (There are a lot of pictures in this explanation as they will probably explain the process better than I will.)

The place to begin explaining the joint is with the tools used to make it. The essential tools are a plug/tenon cutter and forstner bit in the same size-in this case 1/2" (I use CMT plug cutters-they work beautifully). Also, you'll need a drill press-I use a 60 year old Shopsmith 10ER which allows me to bore horizontally & vertically, but you should be able to accomplish all the cutting needed on a vertical drill press. A bench top drill press may be challenged with the end borings since the plug cutters are very long. This won't leave of lot of room for your work piece, but I imagine some creativity could overcome that too.



Next you need to understand how the plug cutter behaves. It will bore a perfect 1/2 tenon up to 3" deep. The cutter also strips away 3/16" of waste around the tenon that it cuts. This is important for spacing the pins on the joint-3/16" is the minimum allowance between pins and that would be pushing the limits. A 1/4" space is better. So, a 1/2" pin with a 1/4" space between gives us a spacing of 3/4" for each pin & tail. (You could vary this with larger spacing as you see fit.)

To form the fishtail, the pins need to have a flat on them-not a fully cylindrical tenon. So, the plug cutter is setup to cut 1/16" off the edge of the work piece.


[The drawing shows the pin placement in both 3/4" and 1/2" stock on the right. Spacing for drilling the holes is on the right. The graph is shown in 1/4" squares.)

With all that in mind, here's how I setup to cut the pins:


I'm cutting horizontally, using both the fence and the miter (clamped to the table) to give a stable square setup. You can see I have a test piece with a piece of scrap underneath. You should be able to accomplish the same on the drill press-a vice on the table would be a big help.

WARNING: use the clearest grain pieces for your work and your scrap blocks. If the plug cutter encounters something it doesn't like, it will chew it up and fling it at you.


This is the first test boring:

From this I see that the pin is too high-it doesn't drop off the bottom of the piece leaving a flat. Also with the test boring I can determine the spacing needed to cut the first pin. The first pin is cut on the right end of the piece, not the left. Having set the proper depth for the pins, I'll next set the miter to cut the first pin on the actual work piece so that it will be 1/4" from the right end.

When I setup to bore the actual workpiece, I have a scrap block the same length as the workpiece. I set the table so there's a 1/4" between the cutter and the work piece (using a piece of scrap 1/4" stock). Then I set the depth gauge on the quill to bore just over 3/4"-that will cut 1/2" into the work.

First boring looks like this (though I actually had a clamp on top of the work).


For the next two cuts (there are 3 pins on this piece) I use 3/4" thick spacer blocks between the miter and work piece. This gives me a perfect 3/4" offset between the pins.


And, the third pin (note the two spacer blocks between the miter and the work piece. Also the scrap block & clamp on top of the work.)


And, here's what the completed end boring looks like:


As an added challenge, since I'm making a sliding top box, the two end pieces are different heights to allow top to slide out one end. So the other end piece only has 2 pins and they are 3/8" from the edge of the piece instead of 1/4" (but there is still a 3/4" on center spacing for the pins.) I'm able to use the same setup with a different spacer block. Because this piece is narrower I don't begin the first pin with the work directly against the miter. Instead I use a 5/8" thick spacer to align my first pin (that big board I'm using as a spacer is a 5/8" piece I had on hand for another project.)


Then I can use the 3/4" spacer block to align and cut the 2nd pin. So, all the pins are cut…


NEXT: Cleaning up the pins, drilling the tails and putting it together
Can you write this and publish it in a magazine? You might/should get compensated for it. Thanks for sharing though!
 

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Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1


By popular demand, here's the details on how to cut the fishtail joint. For this example, I decided to make a small sliding top box.

This is a somewhat complex joint to cut. There are a lot of steps to explaining it, though it goes a lot faster once you've done it. (There are a lot of pictures in this explanation as they will probably explain the process better than I will.)

The place to begin explaining the joint is with the tools used to make it. The essential tools are a plug/tenon cutter and forstner bit in the same size-in this case 1/2" (I use CMT plug cutters-they work beautifully). Also, you'll need a drill press-I use a 60 year old Shopsmith 10ER which allows me to bore horizontally & vertically, but you should be able to accomplish all the cutting needed on a vertical drill press. A bench top drill press may be challenged with the end borings since the plug cutters are very long. This won't leave of lot of room for your work piece, but I imagine some creativity could overcome that too.



Next you need to understand how the plug cutter behaves. It will bore a perfect 1/2 tenon up to 3" deep. The cutter also strips away 3/16" of waste around the tenon that it cuts. This is important for spacing the pins on the joint-3/16" is the minimum allowance between pins and that would be pushing the limits. A 1/4" space is better. So, a 1/2" pin with a 1/4" space between gives us a spacing of 3/4" for each pin & tail. (You could vary this with larger spacing as you see fit.)

To form the fishtail, the pins need to have a flat on them-not a fully cylindrical tenon. So, the plug cutter is setup to cut 1/16" off the edge of the work piece.


[The drawing shows the pin placement in both 3/4" and 1/2" stock on the right. Spacing for drilling the holes is on the right. The graph is shown in 1/4" squares.)

With all that in mind, here's how I setup to cut the pins:


I'm cutting horizontally, using both the fence and the miter (clamped to the table) to give a stable square setup. You can see I have a test piece with a piece of scrap underneath. You should be able to accomplish the same on the drill press-a vice on the table would be a big help.

WARNING: use the clearest grain pieces for your work and your scrap blocks. If the plug cutter encounters something it doesn't like, it will chew it up and fling it at you.


This is the first test boring:

From this I see that the pin is too high-it doesn't drop off the bottom of the piece leaving a flat. Also with the test boring I can determine the spacing needed to cut the first pin. The first pin is cut on the right end of the piece, not the left. Having set the proper depth for the pins, I'll next set the miter to cut the first pin on the actual work piece so that it will be 1/4" from the right end.

When I setup to bore the actual workpiece, I have a scrap block the same length as the workpiece. I set the table so there's a 1/4" between the cutter and the work piece (using a piece of scrap 1/4" stock). Then I set the depth gauge on the quill to bore just over 3/4"-that will cut 1/2" into the work.

First boring looks like this (though I actually had a clamp on top of the work).


For the next two cuts (there are 3 pins on this piece) I use 3/4" thick spacer blocks between the miter and work piece. This gives me a perfect 3/4" offset between the pins.


And, the third pin (note the two spacer blocks between the miter and the work piece. Also the scrap block & clamp on top of the work.)


And, here's what the completed end boring looks like:


As an added challenge, since I'm making a sliding top box, the two end pieces are different heights to allow top to slide out one end. So the other end piece only has 2 pins and they are 3/8" from the edge of the piece instead of 1/4" (but there is still a 3/4" on center spacing for the pins.) I'm able to use the same setup with a different spacer block. Because this piece is narrower I don't begin the first pin with the work directly against the miter. Instead I use a 5/8" thick spacer to align my first pin (that big board I'm using as a spacer is a 5/8" piece I had on hand for another project.)


Then I can use the 3/4" spacer block to align and cut the 2nd pin. So, all the pins are cut…


NEXT: Cleaning up the pins, drilling the tails and putting it together
cool blog, thanks for sharing this technique…
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Cleaning Up Pins, Drilling the Tails & Final Fitting

Once all the pins are bored, you've got a bunch of waste around the pins that you need to clear away. One way to make quick work of that is to make a pass on the table saw with the blade height set very low. That will clear away most of the waste. I didn't do that-I did it the hard way with a knife and chisel. i did this because I chose to use some nice clear pine I had for the end pieces but I was afraid I'd have some nasty chipout if I used the table saw. Instead I ended up with a lot of crushed grain trying to cut & chisel it out. Que sera sera…

Anyway, I used a marking gauge to set a cut line around the waste area.


Next, the fishtails need to be drilled into the side pieces. For this I flipped the old Shopsmith up into the tradition vertical drill press orientation. I setup the fence with a sacrificial fence attached to it. There's a stop block nailed to this fence. This will allow me to use the same spacer blocks to make the holes as I used to make the pins. With the 1/2" forstner bit in place, I set it to cut offset 1/16" into the fence-just like the pins are offset. (You may want to tweak this by a hair less than 1/16" so that you have some excess. Better too much than too little…) As always, use a scrap block under the piece you are drilling.



Just like with the pins, I work from right to left, boring the holes using the spacer blocks. Three fishtails on one end, two offset on the other end.


If you've kept everything meticulously aligned, you should be able to dry fit your pieces together. It should be a very snug fit.


I also milled a 3/16" slot on the inside of all 4 pieces to hold the bottom piece. I stopped this slot in the front of the side pieces so it wouldn't show where the joint comes together. I also milled a 1/4" slot stopped in the rear in the side pieces for the sliding top. These were cut with a slot cutter using the trusty old Shopsmith, but they could certainly be cut with a router or router table.


Cut a bottom piece to fit in the slots. Now you can dry fit the whole box and start cleaning up any protruding joint pieces. You can see my pins are a good 1/16" proud. I went a little overboard since my last box had the opposite problem.

Last thing I did was cut the top and cut the dadoes for it to ride in the slots. I also cut a decorative pull as part of the lid. And there you go, a Fishtail box.

 

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Cleaning Up Pins, Drilling the Tails & Final Fitting

Once all the pins are bored, you've got a bunch of waste around the pins that you need to clear away. One way to make quick work of that is to make a pass on the table saw with the blade height set very low. That will clear away most of the waste. I didn't do that-I did it the hard way with a knife and chisel. i did this because I chose to use some nice clear pine I had for the end pieces but I was afraid I'd have some nasty chipout if I used the table saw. Instead I ended up with a lot of crushed grain trying to cut & chisel it out. Que sera sera…

Anyway, I used a marking gauge to set a cut line around the waste area.


Next, the fishtails need to be drilled into the side pieces. For this I flipped the old Shopsmith up into the tradition vertical drill press orientation. I setup the fence with a sacrificial fence attached to it. There's a stop block nailed to this fence. This will allow me to use the same spacer blocks to make the holes as I used to make the pins. With the 1/2" forstner bit in place, I set it to cut offset 1/16" into the fence-just like the pins are offset. (You may want to tweak this by a hair less than 1/16" so that you have some excess. Better too much than too little…) As always, use a scrap block under the piece you are drilling.



Just like with the pins, I work from right to left, boring the holes using the spacer blocks. Three fishtails on one end, two offset on the other end.


If you've kept everything meticulously aligned, you should be able to dry fit your pieces together. It should be a very snug fit.


I also milled a 3/16" slot on the inside of all 4 pieces to hold the bottom piece. I stopped this slot in the front of the side pieces so it wouldn't show where the joint comes together. I also milled a 1/4" slot stopped in the rear in the side pieces for the sliding top. These were cut with a slot cutter using the trusty old Shopsmith, but they could certainly be cut with a router or router table.


Cut a bottom piece to fit in the slots. Now you can dry fit the whole box and start cleaning up any protruding joint pieces. You can see my pins are a good 1/16" proud. I went a little overboard since my last box had the opposite problem.

Last thing I did was cut the top and cut the dadoes for it to ride in the slots. I also cut a decorative pull as part of the lid. And there you go, a Fishtail box.

Very nicely done. One other possibility occurs to me for cleaning up around the pins. What if you pulled the thick spacer from under the finished pinboard and dropped it down on 2 different thickness spacers - one to cover the height between the pins, and another for above the pins. Then line the pinboard up and use the 3/16" waste part of the tenon cutter to drill to the same depth. Just a thought. A TS would definitely be easier though.
 

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Cleaning Up Pins, Drilling the Tails & Final Fitting

Once all the pins are bored, you've got a bunch of waste around the pins that you need to clear away. One way to make quick work of that is to make a pass on the table saw with the blade height set very low. That will clear away most of the waste. I didn't do that-I did it the hard way with a knife and chisel. i did this because I chose to use some nice clear pine I had for the end pieces but I was afraid I'd have some nasty chipout if I used the table saw. Instead I ended up with a lot of crushed grain trying to cut & chisel it out. Que sera sera…

Anyway, I used a marking gauge to set a cut line around the waste area.


Next, the fishtails need to be drilled into the side pieces. For this I flipped the old Shopsmith up into the tradition vertical drill press orientation. I setup the fence with a sacrificial fence attached to it. There's a stop block nailed to this fence. This will allow me to use the same spacer blocks to make the holes as I used to make the pins. With the 1/2" forstner bit in place, I set it to cut offset 1/16" into the fence-just like the pins are offset. (You may want to tweak this by a hair less than 1/16" so that you have some excess. Better too much than too little…) As always, use a scrap block under the piece you are drilling.



Just like with the pins, I work from right to left, boring the holes using the spacer blocks. Three fishtails on one end, two offset on the other end.


If you've kept everything meticulously aligned, you should be able to dry fit your pieces together. It should be a very snug fit.


I also milled a 3/16" slot on the inside of all 4 pieces to hold the bottom piece. I stopped this slot in the front of the side pieces so it wouldn't show where the joint comes together. I also milled a 1/4" slot stopped in the rear in the side pieces for the sliding top. These were cut with a slot cutter using the trusty old Shopsmith, but they could certainly be cut with a router or router table.


Cut a bottom piece to fit in the slots. Now you can dry fit the whole box and start cleaning up any protruding joint pieces. You can see my pins are a good 1/16" proud. I went a little overboard since my last box had the opposite problem.

Last thing I did was cut the top and cut the dadoes for it to ride in the slots. I also cut a decorative pull as part of the lid. And there you go, a Fishtail box.

Very nice blog and nice work on the pins. Very unique.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Cleaning Up Pins, Drilling the Tails & Final Fitting

Once all the pins are bored, you've got a bunch of waste around the pins that you need to clear away. One way to make quick work of that is to make a pass on the table saw with the blade height set very low. That will clear away most of the waste. I didn't do that-I did it the hard way with a knife and chisel. i did this because I chose to use some nice clear pine I had for the end pieces but I was afraid I'd have some nasty chipout if I used the table saw. Instead I ended up with a lot of crushed grain trying to cut & chisel it out. Que sera sera…

Anyway, I used a marking gauge to set a cut line around the waste area.


Next, the fishtails need to be drilled into the side pieces. For this I flipped the old Shopsmith up into the tradition vertical drill press orientation. I setup the fence with a sacrificial fence attached to it. There's a stop block nailed to this fence. This will allow me to use the same spacer blocks to make the holes as I used to make the pins. With the 1/2" forstner bit in place, I set it to cut offset 1/16" into the fence-just like the pins are offset. (You may want to tweak this by a hair less than 1/16" so that you have some excess. Better too much than too little…) As always, use a scrap block under the piece you are drilling.



Just like with the pins, I work from right to left, boring the holes using the spacer blocks. Three fishtails on one end, two offset on the other end.


If you've kept everything meticulously aligned, you should be able to dry fit your pieces together. It should be a very snug fit.


I also milled a 3/16" slot on the inside of all 4 pieces to hold the bottom piece. I stopped this slot in the front of the side pieces so it wouldn't show where the joint comes together. I also milled a 1/4" slot stopped in the rear in the side pieces for the sliding top. These were cut with a slot cutter using the trusty old Shopsmith, but they could certainly be cut with a router or router table.


Cut a bottom piece to fit in the slots. Now you can dry fit the whole box and start cleaning up any protruding joint pieces. You can see my pins are a good 1/16" proud. I went a little overboard since my last box had the opposite problem.

Last thing I did was cut the top and cut the dadoes for it to ride in the slots. I also cut a decorative pull as part of the lid. And there you go, a Fishtail box.

Thanks, Gerald!
 
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