002: a rolling base for my planer #7: parallel sliding dovetail drawer slides, part I

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 02-03-2010 12:39 PM 13443 reads 24 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: polyurethane, drawer handle, and bolting on the planer Part 7 of 002: a rolling base for my planer series no next part

Last time in this series I put together some drawer boxes. Next they’d need slides, and for that I went with parallel sliding dovetails, which I first saw GaryK create in walnut here. I’ve wanted since I saw those early last year to try my hand at making some. I spent some time one night last week building a SketchUp model based on GaryK’s photos of his results and designed around a bit I had from the Incra set, then wrote up a plan of attack for how to go about building them. This is the kind of thing where if I don’t have it all detailed out, I’ll screw up somewhere. There are things I’d rethink for next time, especially the retaining peg and groove placements. I got a tad under full extension, when I should have been able to get a tad over.

Anyway, I needed a 3/4” thick piece, and two 1/2” thick pieces, all 3” wide. All of my pieces were 3/4”, so 4 of them had to be thicknessed somehow. My planer is out of commission until I order some parts (I got the bearing in for it awhile ago, but destroyed it trying to press it on with a clamping rig I threw together, sadly). I’m uncomfortable by far (especially with no medical insurance at the moment) resawing on my table saw, and my band saw isn’t accurate enough, especially now that the blade is pretty dull. I don’t have a good way in my router sled setup to hold down a small piece of light 3/4” wood, and the jointer – as we all know – doesn’t ensure parallel sides (I tried anyway, and it got more and more ‘off’ as I went). That left my mini mill.

I lightly surfaced the sacrificial aluminum plate I made for it long ago using a fly cutter, which is like a lathe tool held at a downward diagonal in a bit in the spindle. This scribes a circle which planes a surface when that surface is moved parallel to that circle. This ensured that the surface was trammed without all of the work of setting up test gauges and tapping on loosened joints and such, and it meant I had automatically zeroed out the bit height, and that meant that when I stuck a piece of wood to it, moved the bit up, and planed the wood surface, it would be parallel to its own bottom, and exactly to thickness, and in fact it was ridiculously so, to better than 0.001” by my digital calipers!

Here’s a time-lapse:

And here’s a segment in actual speed:

I had originally used 2 dots of CA glue to hold the wood down, but the fibers tore off, and in the time-lapse you can see me chiseling and sanding the wood off the aluminum in the beginning. After that I went with double-stick tape, and it was actually tacky enough with light cuts (0.05”) to hold securely and still give 0.001” accurate thicknesses, all pretty automatically, as I’d written a few lines of code to have it loop around, planing the parts lower and lower toward the target thickness.

Then it was on to the work. Here’s another time-lapse of setting up my Woodpeckers/Incra table, then grooving the pieces. I didn’t record any of the dovetail creation, so they’re already done in this video. I’m just adding retaining grooves, hammering in the pegs to retain the pieces together, and at some point panicking when slides glued together. I was using CA glue on the pegs, because I didn’t make the sections that hold the pegs thick enough, and was worried they’d torque when stopping the slides and pull out. I was able to hammer them free and clean up the insides, but they’re a little scratchy now in action. They were so smooth before. Sigh…

You can see that I had to chisel away part of the top of each slide in order to fit in the last retaining peg. This was yet more poor design work in SketchUp. I hadn’t fully planned it out in there, and as I said in the first paragraph, if I don’t have it all locked down, I find ways to screw up. Too, the pegs should really be going in the top and bottom of the entire slides, and should be retaining the middle piece. I have 3 (1 one way, 2 the other) retaining the outer pieces. If I want to go full extension (this falls shy about 0.25” or so), then it would be even harder, as the pegs would be more hidden. The problem was that putting in the pegs for one side precluded being able to later put in the peg on the other, as now it was blocked.

I want to say that the Incra LS Positioner makes things like sliding dovetails too easy to brag about. Here’s a little time-lapse of the setup of the lift’s height, and then setting up the fence with an accurately machined square that was exactly 1.000” wide up against the side of a 1/2” shaft router bit. Clicking things into place with the positioner’s click wheel, which is 1/32 of 1/32” per click (1/1024”!), then lowering the bit shaft into the table, removing the square, and moving in by 1-1/4” and zeroing it out, it was trivial from that point to simply move the fence to each position, which were all on half-inches, and run the dovetails. There was almost no thinking involved, and no mistakes. Anyway, setting up the lift/fence (I set up the fence and bit height in the last half):

I’ll skip deep details about the slides, as the video later in this post explains pretty much everything. I’ll say, though, that when I make these again (I’m sure I’ll make more eventually for another project), I will go with smooth hardwood, and I will run some test pieces to make sure I get tight dovetails. I will also leave more wood vertically so the pieces aren’t quite so bendy. These were all just a whisker loose, which was actually helpful with the bendy softwood, which had a kind of fibrous surface that upped the friction. It means there’s the tiniest bit of sag and wobble, however, in the finished product. Here are some fun pics of the scrap tulip poplar (not true poplar) slides:


sliding dovetail ends

sliding dovetails closed up

sliding dovetails extended

sliding dovetails

sliding dovetail details

And here’s me rambling about the drawer carcase, drawers, walnut fronts, pulls, and I get around to talking about and showing off the dovetail slides, which at this point are not installed.

I’ll note here that the video is clipped. Apparently not all of it uploaded to YouTube, so the last minute is missing. It’s no matter, though, as the next video ramble will contain all of that info again. I was just saying what I was planning to do, and in the next video I’ll have actually done it :)

The Incra setup let me come back later and put the retaining grooves and peg holes in basically automatically. You just flip the handle, slide it visually on the ruler, then flip the handle back, which engages 1/32” teeth and pulls it all in to at least 0.001” accuracy. That’s why these grooves are so nicely centered on the dovetails, though it was much later that I added them:

dovetail grooves

Later I moved from these 1/8” grooves to 1/4”. You can see there’s a little filled 1/8” hole to the left of this groove, because I had the piece in backwards between the stops, cutting toward the wrong end, and realized the error just as I started. I actually took a scrap of the same wood and turned an 1/8” peg in my lathe to fit that, then glued it in and trimmed it flush:

filled plug hole in sliding dovetail

Next time around I’ll show how I got everything installed.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

12 comments so far

View degoose's profile


7234 posts in 3376 days

#1 posted 02-03-2010 12:53 PM

I am so looking forward to getting the Incra router system.. should arrive from the States in a few weeks…
You make this all look so easy… which I know it is not… but simple…and effective… and so so accurate.

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View spanky46's profile


995 posts in 3412 days

#2 posted 02-03-2010 01:03 PM

Great stuff Gary! Thanks

-- spanky46 -- Never enough clamps...Never enough tools...Never enough time.

View bigike's profile


4052 posts in 3310 days

#3 posted 02-03-2010 01:05 PM


-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3220 days

#4 posted 02-03-2010 01:38 PM

Looks great, those dovetails are crazy. Thanks for taking us through it.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3670 days

#5 posted 02-03-2010 04:23 PM

very cool. I’m looking forward to also incorporate the same dt drawer slides in future projects. looks super. and the drawer and carcass also looks damn solid!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3062 days

#6 posted 02-03-2010 07:35 PM

Cool Idea, Great looking

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3356 days

#7 posted 02-03-2010 11:07 PM

Amazing precision work.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18283 posts in 3697 days

#8 posted 02-04-2010 05:36 AM

Great job Gary.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View a1Jim's profile


117114 posts in 3599 days

#9 posted 02-04-2010 05:39 AM

Wow Gary that is so cool

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View chavezd2's profile


3 posts in 3146 days

#10 posted 02-05-2010 10:47 PM

What a cool idea

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4147 days

#11 posted 08-28-2010 05:53 PM

Nice! I see there aren’t any more in this blog series, do you have any videos of the slides installed and working?

I got referred to this entry ‘cause I asked about making full extension dovetail drawer slides, only I was thinking about side-mounting them. I like the idea of undermount because all the pieces are held in closer alignment, but I might have to spring for the Incra fence to do that (Oh darn!).

So if you’ve got a “how it’s held up!” I’d love to read those observations.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View lignumbooboo's profile


35 posts in 2200 days

#12 posted 03-29-2013 04:56 AM

Very inspiring router work!

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