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Walnut Nightstand #1: Design and Milling the Wood

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Blog entry by HappyHowie posted 02-06-2015 09:37 PM 1955 reads 0 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Walnut Nightstand series Part 2: Flared Out Legs »

My daughter Jenny found a nightstand she liked on the web. She asked me if I could build one like it for her. Of course, I said yes. Then I began looking closer at its design. The challenge was with two design elements: (1) the lock miter joints for the case, and (2) the 45 degree angle for the legs. To address the first issue I would need to purchase a lock miter router bit and practice. I may need to build a tall router fence and jig to hold the vertical piece firmly against the fence. Also I determined a corner block or brace was going to be needed to anchor those legs firmly against the aprons.

After selecting and purchasing the rough sawn walnut, I began milling this lumber. I have progressed to the point of where I am about to begin putting the case together. My practice with my new large lock miter router bit did not go well. I will need that tall router fence and a jig to hold or clamp the wood so it will travel across the router firmly and tightly to the fence; no rocking or tilting. A lot more practice with test pieces is also called for…

I have these milled piece “sticked”. They are patiently waiting for me to get the jig ready for use.

Sticked four squared lumber pieces.

Gluing the panels for the case: top, bottom, sides, back and front that is the drawer front.

Panels Ready for Final Dimensions and Joining

-- --- Happy Howie



25 comments so far

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

5042 posts in 2607 days


#1 posted 02-07-2015 01:24 AM

Looks like she’s coming along nicely!

If you rout some t-tracks in your router table fence, you can use featherboards to hold down the walnut as it goes through the bit.

Another issue to think about is: Is the lock-miter joinery really necessary? Is it visible so that it’s an integral part of the design? If not, then a locking rabbet joint, or regular rabbet joint would be much easier to do.

-- Dean

View HappyHowie's profile

HappyHowie

325 posts in 1405 days


#2 posted 02-08-2015 08:29 PM

Thanks for the tip Dean.

I will keep the locked rabbet joint in mind if I fail with testing the lock miter joint for this walnut nightstand.

I realized I did not have a photo displayed of my shop-made router table and fence. I modified a tear-down router table design I saw on Fine Woodworking.com. I put T-tracks on my router table and its fence. I went looking for an existing photo of my router setup, but I could not find the one I had in mind; too many photos to search through so I took a new photo of my fence this afternoon.

To make a taller fence and a jig that I could clamp my wood pieces to in order to pass them vertically across the lock miter bit, I am thinking of attaching an MDF tall strip fence to my existing router fence Then I would make jig that can slide along its top edge with a fence on the opposite side of the MDF fence I would fasten a guard rail in order to keep the jig firmly on the MDF fence. Also I would have a vertical piece glued and screwed to the sliding rail. It would be at a right angle so my piece would be clamped to and it work as a backer board to the part I am routing. I think this jig will work without having to make a whole new router fence. I know my description is convoluted, twisted a bit. I will post of photo of my design before I begin making it.

Front view of router fence with T-track…

Rear view of router fence showing no room on back of existing fence for anchoring a top sliding rail to move wood pieces across a router bit.

-- --- Happy Howie

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

5042 posts in 2607 days


#3 posted 02-10-2015 01:20 AM

Well, I’ll be interested to see how you pull this off!

-- Dean

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HappyHowie

325 posts in 1405 days


#4 posted 02-10-2015 04:17 AM

I have begun making my tall router fence jig. I started with a sheet of 1/2 inch thick MDF. I will probably bolt this fence to my router fence instead of finding a way to clamp it. This tall fence will provide “zero clearance” surrounding the router bit.

My fence jig will be 12 inches tall.

I will make sure the slider’s fence will be square to the router table where my panels will be routed against the bit.

A guard on the backside of the tall fence will guide the jig slider fence’s top edge. The panel being routed will be clamped to the slider portion of this jig. This will hold the panel firmly to the fence and table. A feather board on the table will make sure the panels is held firmly to the router fence and to the bit.

I will either use screws to fasten these parts of the jig together, or I might use bolts so I can ensure I keep its fence square to the router’s table top so the routed panel is cut correctly and square.

-- --- Happy Howie

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HappyHowie

325 posts in 1405 days


#5 posted 02-11-2015 12:20 PM

I have the fence square to the table. I bought the eight 2 1/2” 1/4 – 20 bolts with washers last night along with all the 1/4” – 20 knobs they had: six. Two of the smaller knobs I already own will have to do. So now I can fasten the tall fence to the router fence. I had to skew the tall fence four inches to the right so my 19 inch wide walnut panels can fit on the table prior to routing the lock miter joint.

I decided to fasten the sliding fence with screws.

-- --- Happy Howie

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

5042 posts in 2607 days


#6 posted 02-12-2015 01:10 AM

That’s a hell of a set-up ya got there!

-- Dean

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HappyHowie

325 posts in 1405 days


#7 posted 02-12-2015 05:34 AM

Well Dean, I am hoping all of this preparation will work in the end; that it will give me good lock mitered joints on my wide walnut panels. Those panels are about 20 inches wide a the moment. Finished dimension will be about 19 inches.


Today, Wednesday, I have completed fastening the tall fence to my router fence. I did that with eight 1/4 inch by 2 1/2 inch long hex bolts, washers and knobs. I made a jig to help guide my drill for the 1/4 inch holes drilled through the top of my router fence. That helped me hold it straight and square as well has hitting the same distance from the top of my router fence.

The sliding fence that will be pushed along the top of the tall fence is so it will hold the panel being routed square to the table as well as provide me the opportunity to clamp the panel to it. This way I am hoping it will hold the panel firmly so it will not tilt or wobble as I push the panel across the hole in the table where the bit protrudes into the fence. The bit is large so the hole is big in which I panel has to pass over.

Tomorrow or soon I will mount my router with my large lock miter bit to my router table. Then I will slowly and in stage bring my router table forward with the tall fence into position. I will rehearse this so I can anticipate the problems or obstacles I need to overcome in order to get the fence positioned precisely for my lock miter cuts.

I am a bit nervous about this process. I will take it slowly and deliberately so it is done correctly.

This face view photo shows the eight recessed bolts.

This backside view photo shows the knobs I used to hold the tall fence jig to my router’s fence.

The large 1 3/8 inch diameter holes I drill on the jigs are so I can hang them on J-hooks I have fastened along my JIG wall. That keeps my JIGs from being stored on my shop’s floor.

-- --- Happy Howie

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Mean_Dean

5042 posts in 2607 days


#8 posted 02-13-2015 01:06 AM

Be sure to make test cuts in scrap wood before milling the actual work pieces.

Also, you could mount a toggle clamp on the vertical piece of your sliding fence. Quick and easy to lock and unlock, and it will hold the work piece tightly to the fence.

Looking forward to seeing how they turn out!

-- Dean

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HappyHowie

325 posts in 1405 days


#9 posted 02-20-2015 05:44 AM

I seem to be close yet so far away, still. I will run a few more tests on 3/4 inch scrap pieces such as this MDF and pine boards.

-- --- Happy Howie

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HappyHowie

325 posts in 1405 days


#10 posted 02-21-2015 11:57 PM

It took several attempts of adjusting the settings for the fence and bit height, but I believe I have it set for my 3/4 inch thick walnut panels for the nightstand.

A YouTube video from, I think, Infinity Tools suggested to cut lock miters in two board pieces on the router table. flip one of these over to join it with the other. If they are flush with each other then you have it set correctly for the bit height and the fence; otherwise you need to probably make adjustments to both. You can take caliper readings and make adjustments based on that. However, the adjustment should probably be one-half of the distance since both pieces take into account for the changes.

The images below shows the tests I have made in 3/4 inch MDF and pine. I cannot get it closer than this. I am happy with these settings of the bit and the fence.

I have also performed a test in two walnut scrap pieces. I will make sure that my panels are a bit wider than the finish dimensions so that I can cut out any blow outs form the router bit cut.

-- --- Happy Howie

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

5042 posts in 2607 days


#11 posted 02-22-2015 10:30 PM

This may be like closing the barn door after the horse’s escaped, but I saw an ad for a set-up gauge for the lock miter bit. Apparently, it takes the guesswork out of setting the bit height. It’s magnetic, and you just stick it on the bit, adjust the height, and you’re done.

Haven’t heard any feedback on this gauge, but maybe somebody’s used it and can weigh in.

-- Dean

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HappyHowie

325 posts in 1405 days


#12 posted 02-23-2015 04:17 AM

I found that the setup block form Infinity Tools to be useful. My walnut has been milled to 3/4 inches; the same depth as the block. However, my metal magnetic JIG from Infinity Tools was not helpful because my zero clearance fence blocked it from being fitted onto the bit. Still, using the block was helpful but it still took a lot of tests adjusting the bit height and the fence to get it precise. Many times that was moving the fence or the bit a fraction of a millimeter…

It wasn’t “set once and done” for me. I really cannot see it being that for anyone who is seeking a very precise fitted lock miter joint.

-- --- Happy Howie

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Mean_Dean

5042 posts in 2607 days


#13 posted 02-24-2015 12:52 AM

Thanks for the feedback on the set-up gauge. I guess good old trial and error are still the way to go!

-- Dean

View HappyHowie's profile

HappyHowie

325 posts in 1405 days


#14 posted 02-25-2015 01:36 PM

You are welcome Dean. I did not mean to shut off comments from others with my quick reply. This process was quite a learning experience for me. I was totally nervous just prior to my first cut into my walnut for this nightstand. Once I began then it was do or die. Thankfully, it went pretty well. I am totally happy with the joints I got for this case. Totally!

For another project I am doing for another daughter, I am cutting dovetails in 21 inch wide, 7/8 inch think eastern yellow pine for a toy chest. For that I fussed over test pieces and fretted over cutting the panels for its case. I got the four pieces cut last night. Even though I cut these dovetails on my Leigh D4R jig I figure I will have to use my bench chisels to fit one or two of these long panels by trimming small amounts from a tail or pin that is too tight. Hey, that’s the definition of woodworking, isn’t it? It’s all fun…

-- --- Happy Howie

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HappyHowie

325 posts in 1405 days


#15 posted 02-27-2015 02:33 AM

In the back of this walnut case I am going to fasten a 1/2 inch thick back board or panel. I will mount it inside a rabbet that I need to cut. Before I do that I checked the fitting of the case pieces. I took a bench plane to get the fittings of the panels consistently flat.

Now that the rabbets are cut I will take my bench chisels to square off the rounded ends from my rabbet router bit.

-- --- Happy Howie

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