I’m catching up on blogging the construction of my Thorsen House side table.
The Saturday before the project was due I decided to start the day with the construction of the drawer box. Several years ago I bought a dovetail jig at Rockler, which I’ve never used. I decided that this was the perfect chance to give it a try. I’d pulled it out of the box, affixed it to a clamping board and familiarized myself with it’s part the night before so I was all set to go.
First step was to set the stops. The model I have has separate stops for the front and side boards. The instructions, which are somewhat lacking in clarity, indicated that there should be a 1/2” difference between the two stops. I set the stop for the top board then using a combination of straight edge and square set the side stop. (I should have taken pictures of this, sorry.) Left side done, on to the right. With the stops set I reattached the front and top hold downs, and then set the guide rail to the recommended distance – I can’t remember the exact details but it’s something like 1/2 the router base diameter plus 1/2 the stock thickness plus 1/2 the router bit size. Not sure that I’d measured from the correct point, another thing that was unclear in the directions I inserted a couple of test pieces and fired up the router.
Problem #1 – serious tearout on the last pin. This was easily remedied by adding a backer board of the same thickness as the stock.
Problem #2 – the last pin is holding on by a very small segment of wood. First attempt to solved this was to use the other comb attachment (9/16 instead of 1/2). Second attempt was to cut skip cutting the last pin/tail combo. Without a stop, something I didn’t consider at the time, this was difficult to do cleanly. Third attempt was to adjust the stops to create more consistent tails. This required resetting the other guides as well.
Problem #3 – the tails sit too deep in the front. Adjust the guide rail.
Problem #4 – slight offset to edges – Need to adjust stops. The problem with this is that to adjust the stops the guide rail and front hold down have to be removed.
They look nice...
With each problem encountered I had to trim down the test pieces.
After 6, yes 6, hours of trying I gave up. This was just not going to work that day, and I had a lot of work still to do on the table if I was going to make the deadline. So I took a break to ponder my options.
As I was sitting in my living room it hit me that I could cut the dovetails by hand. I do know how to do this and it wouldn't take that much time given there was only 1 drawer. So I headed back to the shop. I got the dovetails marked out, and made the first cuts that night. Sunday morning I finished up the dovetails. Total time to mark, cut and do the final fitting - less than 4 hours.
Lesson learned - don't try to use a new tool/jig for a project without allowing for a lot of time for learning. I'm not going to completely abandon the jig. I've since acquired a set of one piece stops, and a setup guide for the back rail. I'm hopeful that these will make the process easier. If not I'll have a large paperweight.
-- Chelle http://artsgranddaughter.blogspot.com