Thorsen Table #6: Drawer Construction

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Blog entry by cheller posted 06-04-2007 06:38 PM 1280 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Another tease Part 6 of Thorsen Table series Part 7: Final Assembly »

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.

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Here’s the beast.

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.

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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.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket One corner of the completed drawer.

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

3 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4125 days

#1 posted 06-04-2007 07:33 PM

I wonder how many “paperweights” we have lying around our shop (envisioning the sears router.. argh).

that’s a good point though – learn the tool before using it to create something special

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4001 days

#2 posted 06-04-2007 08:06 PM

Alot of my shop time is spent testing, learning and refining technique. I keep just about all my scraps and cutoffs for this purpose. I agree with the hand cutting those drawers. Why use a jig half blind look when you can do a hand cut through. They look better and it’s just one drawer. Don’t get me wrong, if I have a dresser, it’s going to be my jig. If it’s one drawer, unless I’m trying to do some inlay work, cut ‘em by hand. Nice job so far!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4062 days

#3 posted 06-04-2007 08:32 PM

Good lessions learned. I’m working with a paperweight myself. A table saw sled, I purchased for my old saw that would not work with it. It works with my current saw. I’m not expecting the same level of difficulty using it as you had with the dovetail jig.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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