One of the interesting differences between Darrell Peart’s and Marc Spagnulo’s finger joint templates is that Darrell makes two templates – one for the back end’s and one for the sides, where Marc makes a single template. One Marc’s single template, one side is used for the back end’s and the other side is used for the sides. The reason Darrell uses two separate templates is that he makes the fingers 1/64” smaller their corresponding mating holes. This means you have can’t use the two offset ends of a single template because both ends can’t have the slightly smaller fingers.
The reason for the slightly smaller fingers is to make fitting easier. Marc’s design has only one or two very large fingers depending on whether it’s the end or side of the chest. He does mention in his video series that the fit will be tight but he just finess the joint by hand to make it fit. Darrell’s design on the other hand as either 5 or 6 much smaller fingers in each piece and its much easier to make the fingers slightly smaller in the template than to finess so many joints. Additionally, Darrell’s design has the inside of each finger joint rounded over and not square, thus making is significantly more difficult to finess the width the joint than Marc’s design which has the finger interiors completely square.
In the FWW article, Darrell gives a plan for the template along with instructions on making a jig to clamp it so it clamps flat. His template plan integrates the templates and the hold-down. I decided to make a few changes. First I decided to separate the templates from the hold-down system. I also decided to put the templates together with Dominos to help keep all the pieces aligned which mean that glueing them up didn’t require a jig.
I started by cutting two widths of plywood strips – one set 1 5/16” in width and the other set 1 19/64” in width. The difference between the two is 1/64” with the pieces that were 1 19/64” being used for the fingers. Darrell’s template plan called for creating a bunch of 1” spacer blocks and glueing the template up with both sides of the template having spaces. I decided to cut the larger 1 5/16” strips 1” shorter and align the template on two sides. The use of the Domino ensured that not only were the tops of the template held flush, but that the template stayed aligned.
To ensure I could hold the loose pieces of the template aligned while I marked for the Domino cuts I temporarily brad nailed together two pieces of plywood on top of another piece of plywood at exactly a 90° angle. I then marked and cut the Dominos. With this done, glue-up was simple, requiring only a set of parallel clamps. Once the templates were dry, I cleaned up the glue squeeze out with a ROS and 80 grit paper.
With the two templates done, I then made the template holder by using the actual templates as guides and brad nailing the holder together.