(The Story So Far: Our Hero is constructing a built-in bed for his daughter, with inadequate tools and woodworking experience. Work has resumed after a holiday break.)
I came home from work tonight all set to get into the workshop and make some progress. But I found a note directing me to come speak with Madame President, who was next door sipping wine and gossiping with our neighbor. When I got there I was informed that Her Gloriousness was interested in dining out and seeing a movie. That called for some intense bargaining and in the end we settled on calling out for pizza. So I was able to descend to the workshop after all.
During my scant time in the workshop I was interrupted for the following reasons:
1. To look at glassware on MP’s netbook.
2. To unclog the upstairs toilet.
3. To explain Bernoulli’s Principle and how airfoils work.
4. To drive through the neighborhood whistling for our errant dog.
And once when someone was “looking for something.”
Despite this, I managed to get a little work done. I finished off the decorative top pieces I started in the last blog entry—they seemed too low for proper balance in the final piece, so I jointed up an edge and glued on an additional 1×4 to add some more visual weight to the top of the piece. A test fitting looked good, so I sanded them and slathered them with primer.
The next task was to put together a prototype drawer. I had purchased some 1/2” x 8 stock from Big Box Store a few days ago for this purpose. For Christmas Santa brought me a Rockler dovetailing jig. I’ve done dovetails by hand but never by machine, and since I wasn’t looking forward to doing 9 drawers of hand dovetails, I was intending to figure out the jig.
I’d already run into some problems with jig. The Rockler jig uses a template guide for the router, and of course I own a Bosch router, which doesn’t have the standard fitting. Fortunately I’d noticed this around Christmas time when I read through the manual, so I had already received the adapter I needed.
I ran into more problems setting up the router. The Rockler jig uses bits with 8 mm shanks, and comes with an 8 mm sleeve to fit inside a 1/2” collet. I hadn’t noticed this when I read through the manual, or I might have picked up an 8 mm collet at the same time I got the template adapter. At any rate, I put the router into my plunge base (my fixed base is installed in my router table), put on the template adapter, template, 1/2” collet, 8 mm sleeve, and dovetailing bit, and then attempted to tighten it all up. Well, actually, I succeeded in tightening it all up rather too well, because after I was done the whole setup was frozen solid, with the collet jammed tight down into the template, the dovetail bit jammed into the other side of the template, and the plunge frozen.
I loosened up the collet but nothing released. I took a wrench and carefully pulled on the bit, but it wouldn’t release. I unscrewed the template but still nothing moved. I released the template adapter, also with no luck. It was really jammed together.
Somewhat at a loss as to what to do, I took my rubber mallet and gave the base a few whacks to see if I could break free whatever was stuck. I did, with a vengeance. The base sprung out and launched bit and template across the room.
I gathered up all the parts and found I was missing the 8 mm sleeve. I swept up the shop, dug around behind the bench, but couldn’t find it. Finally I discovered it lodged in the bottom of the router where the collet attaches. And I couldn’t budge it. I dug around a bit with a screwdriver with no luck. It appeared that I could disassemble the router if I could find a thin wrench of the right size, but I really didn’t want to try that. I wondered if I could put the collet back on and catch it or dislodge it, and while I was pondering this I noticed that the collet was missing the internal compression fitting. It turned out that was still lodged in the router as well, and the sleeve was lodged in that. Fortunately the compression fitting was still sticking out of the router, so I was able to grab it with a wrench and pull both things out.
The 1/2” collet seems to be worse for the wear—the compression fitting no longer stays inside the nut. The 8 mm sleeve also had to be loosened up again—it has gotten permanently closed enough to prevent the bit from entering. Despite that I was able to reassemble everything and get it installed in the router without freezing the whole mass solid. I’m not sure what I did wrong the first time, but at least I avoided it the second time around!
That fun behind me, I set about poring over the manual, setting up the jig and making various test cuts. That was all fairly straightforward and easy, at least once I got past a certain amount of ambiguity in the first step. The only challenge was compensating for my odd (Bosch-sized) router plate, although strangely enough it ended up using the same settings as the Porter-Cable, possibly because the Bosch router plate has a flat side instead of being entirely circular.
I had already cut my drawer pieces to size, so practice dovetails behind me I set about routing the prototype drawer. I experimented a bit with different router speeds, but at least for these pieces (fairly soft pine), faster seemed better.
Once I had the dovetail joints routed, I broke everything down and moved my router to the table to rout the rabbet for the drawer bottom. I didn’t want the rabbet to show in the finished drawers, so this was an opportunity to practice stopped rabbets as well. After the rabbets were done I switched to the jigsaw and block plane to cut off the rabbet entirely on the back piece.
Next I cut the drawer bottom from some 1/4” plywood I had left-over from building the bookcase units. This is where I made my first mistake. Rather than assembling the drawer and taking measurements directly from the drawer, I calculated the drawer bottom size. I didn’t take into account that the half-blind dovetails only result in a partial overlap of the pieces in one direction. In this case, I ended up cutting the drawer bottom about a 1/2” too narrow. When I dry fitted it, it just barely extended into the rabbets along the drawer sides.
Doing the assembly I noticed the second mistake. I’d reversed the pins and tails for the dovetails between the sides and front/back, so that dovetails showed in the front and back rather than on the sides.
Well, that’s why I did a prototype :-).
Here it is sitting on the bench:
Overall I’m pretty happy that I can execute the actual drawers now. I’m a little bothered that 1/2” stock is difficult/impossible to find; it seems very wasteful to buy 3/4” stock and immediately plane away a third of the wood. I’m going to make four of the drawers out of 1/2” ‘craft’ stock from the Big Box Store even though it would be cheaper to buy 3/4” and plane it down.