The next step in make my Shaker candlestands was to figure out how to hold the spindles/posts to cut the dovetail mortises for the legs. After turning it over in my head for a couple of weeks, watching some videos on youTube (include 3 different New Yankee Workshop episodes where Norm makes pedestal tables), and trying a few options, I finally decided to make a fixture to hold & index the post at 120° and use a router to cut the mortises .
Here’s the fixture:
The post is suspended between two nails in the centers of the ends, and then wedged in place with shims. A single screw below the front nail is driven into the bottom of the post to hold it perfectly still. I resisted this for a long time, not wanting extra holes in the bottom, but the wedges didn’t hold the prototype still enough (it has a nice curved mortise as a result…).
The template in front guides a 1/2” straight bit with a 3/4” collar to flatten the face of the post where the leg will seat. The thinner template in back guides the straight bit and collar to remove most of the material for the dovetail, and the dovetail bit itself.
After building the fixture, I tackled the prototype post with mixed success. The two biggest things I (re)learned were to measure & lay out much more carefully, and to take the time to adjust in small increments and not overshoot measurements when making the legs.
Here are a couple of pictures that show what I’m talking about:
The first shows how I had difficulty getting the depth just right due to layout problems, and the second shows how poorly the legs fit in the mortises – I made the dovetails on the legs close to 1/8” too long.
Even with this problems, I was pleased with the result:
Not bad for a first try, I think! After spending some time tweaking the setup and doing layout on the actual cherry posts, I cut the dovetails. I think they turned out pretty well.
Next up is to mill the blanks for the legs and fit them to the mortises, one at a time. Hopefully I’ll have time this weekend.
 Those of you who are hand tool experts are probably shaking your heads wondering what the big deal was, and why I didn’t just grab my handy dovetail saw and chisel and cut them by hand. Truth is, I am far more confident in my ability to do accurate work with power tools than with hand tools. I would have had to practice a long time to be ready to cut these joints by hand. Maybe someday.