Fishtail Joint #2: Cleaning Up Pins, Drilling the Tails & Final Fitting

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by danriffle posted 09-15-2008 10:18 PM 2347 reads 4 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Fishtail Joint Setup, part 1 Part 2 of Fishtail Joint series no next part

Once all the pins are bored, you’ve got a bunch of waste around the pins that you need to clear away. One way to make quick work of that is to make a pass on the table saw with the blade height set very low. That will clear away most of the waste. I didn’t do that—I did it the hard way with a knife and chisel. i did this because I chose to use some nice clear pine I had for the end pieces but I was afraid I’d have some nasty chipout if I used the table saw. Instead I ended up with a lot of crushed grain trying to cut & chisel it out. Que sera sera…

Anyway, I used a marking gauge to set a cut line around the waste area.
Cutting away the waste

Next, the fishtails need to be drilled into the side pieces. For this I flipped the old Shopsmith up into the tradition vertical drill press orientation. I setup the fence with a sacrificial fence attached to it. There’s a stop block nailed to this fence. This will allow me to use the same spacer blocks to make the holes as I used to make the pins. With the 1/2” forstner bit in place, I set it to cut offset 1/16” into the fence—just like the pins are offset. (You may want to tweak this by a hair less than 1/16” so that you have some excess. Better too much than too little…) As always, use a scrap block under the piece you are drilling.

Drilling setup

Just like with the pins, I work from right to left, boring the holes using the spacer blocks. Three fishtails on one end, two offset on the other end.

If you’ve kept everything meticulously aligned, you should be able to dry fit your pieces together. It should be a very snug fit.
Dry fitting

I also milled a 3/16” slot on the inside of all 4 pieces to hold the bottom piece. I stopped this slot in the front of the side pieces so it wouldn’t show where the joint comes together. I also milled a 1/4” slot stopped in the rear in the side pieces for the sliding top. These were cut with a slot cutter using the trusty old Shopsmith, but they could certainly be cut with a router or router table.
Slots cut

Cut a bottom piece to fit in the slots. Now you can dry fit the whole box and start cleaning up any protruding joint pieces. You can see my pins are a good 1/16” proud. I went a little overboard since my last box had the opposite problem.

Last thing I did was cut the top and cut the dadoes for it to ride in the slots. I also cut a decorative pull as part of the lid. And there you go, a Fishtail box.

Fishtail Box

3 comments so far

View Doug S.'s profile

Doug S.

295 posts in 3950 days

#1 posted 09-16-2008 12:17 AM

Very nicely done. One other possibility occurs to me for cleaning up around the pins. What if you pulled the thick spacer from under the finished pinboard and dropped it down on 2 different thickness spacers – one to cover the height between the pins, and another for above the pins. Then line the pinboard up and use the 3/16” waste part of the tenon cutter to drill to the same depth. Just a thought. A TS would definitely be easier though.

-- Use the fence Luke

View beginner1's profile


74 posts in 2800 days

#2 posted 07-27-2011 12:18 AM

Very nice blog and nice work on the pins. Very unique.

-- Gerald, Illinois

View danriffle's profile


73 posts in 3815 days

#3 posted 07-27-2011 12:34 AM

Thanks, Gerald!

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics