Finger Joints - return of the splines

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Project by KnickKnack posted 08-19-2012 06:40 AM 4532 views 3 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A while ago someone described my work as “chunky” – which is true.
More recently I’ve found myself having to do the odd bit of “delicate” work, and, frankly, my skills have been found wanting.

So I set myself the following design aim…

A piece that is small, seemingly delicate, and quite unnecessarily over-decorated.

A secondary aim was, following the pretty good results I got on my last project in messing with already constructed finger joints, to try something else with the same idea.

And this is the result.
Once more my “small scale” skills were found wanting, but perhaps less wanting than last time. As was, it would appear, my good sense in using what can only be described as tragically crappy plywood. Am I ever going to learn? I spent a lot of time on this, which I ought to value in at least some sense, and then “just used a bit of plywood that was hanging around”!
I wanted it to “look vertical”, so the finger joints are done on the “wrong” part of the wood – and in this orientation the fingers are really quite fragile (which is not the same as delicate!) – I lost a few malleting the thing together at glue time. I did suspect this was going to happen, but, given the “over-decoration” I had in mind that wasn’t going to matter. Nor the fact that the fingers didn’t quite go all the way in. The few bits of tearout, however couldn’t be covered up. I’d specially put the outside faces facing each other when I cut the (pair of) holes, but still it happened.
I was originally going to put a 45° on the corners, but the wife said she liked the sharp corners (strange, she’s always hated sharp corners before), so I just put on a square of jatoba. This jatoba is doing my head in – the very first piece I used went just beautifully red when I put the oil on. Since then, same plank, same oil, same everything it just goes reddy-brown. Ah ha! I thought – that reddy-brown is what the doctor ordered for here. So I used that – same plank, same oil – no redness in it at all!

It looks intricate, but it’s just a finger-jointed box with an inlaid strip of 3-ply, and another strip on the corner.

It’s been sitting on my desk for a couple of days now and I’m getting more and more annoyed – the patterning is good, the wood choice works well together – I think it could have looked really really good, but, as usual, it doesn’t quite get there.

Perhaps the wife summed it up when she said ”It’ll do for me”

Ash, beech & jatoba. 9cm x 9cm x 11cm, Linseed oil finish.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

8 comments so far

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3184 days

#1 posted 08-19-2012 09:20 AM

Suggestion – to reduce chunkiness try reducing the thickness of the wood you use by 50%.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View balidoug's profile


493 posts in 2627 days

#2 posted 08-19-2012 01:25 PM

If decorative and seemingly delicate were your objectives, I’d say you got pretty close. My only suggestion is cut yourself some slack. BritBoxmaker may have a point, but in this project you chose some pretty challenging joinery, and followed through well.

-- From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned. Immanuel Kant

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10266 posts in 4200 days

#3 posted 08-19-2012 05:00 PM

+1 – BritBoxmaker

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View tallerista's profile


17 posts in 2357 days

#4 posted 08-19-2012 11:18 PM

Chucherias qreia que con una incra u otra maquina solo se podia hacer esto. Felicitaciones es Usted un buen Boxmaker

-- Hernan, Argentina

View rance's profile


4263 posts in 3309 days

#5 posted 08-19-2012 11:33 PM

KK, unfortunately yes, it is still too chunky. And I know why too. If you plane it down to the right thickness you feel bad about all those shavings on the floor that you paid good money for. I didn’t just get this from your PM, I do the same thing. Fact is, this is a fact of woodworking. I even teach that 25% of your wood will be for waste. Most folks don’t understand that planing down to the correct thickness is a big part of that.

I noticed right off about the grain of the splines going the ‘wrong’ direction. Truth be told, small projects like this are built so over-kill that it doesn’t make a difference. You hit the look right on the head. Nice way with the corners. It gives me some new ideas. Thanks.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 2646 days

#6 posted 08-20-2012 02:35 AM

Sorry to disagree but chunk style is perfect here. Seemingly a military fortress, a computer mainframe, Borg spaceship, a Stairway to Heaven – all quite delicate in their own way as all can be reduced to rubble with a few too many errors or strokes of the plane. The cathedral ash is quite perfect here too as is the inlay. I might try this in exotic woods if I thought I could garner a “It’ll do for me” too.

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View BigDaddio's profile


19 posts in 3583 days

#7 posted 08-20-2012 04:49 AM

Love it, I too have been wanting to do some pointless joinery, the type you see in those incra jig ads, dove tails in dovetails. I have discovered that using the planer will make wood thinner, it works great and yea things look way more delicate. Even a simple bathroom magazine rack or spice rack.

Thumbs up.

View Kookaburra's profile


748 posts in 2372 days

#8 posted 08-20-2012 09:01 PM

I am with Gene on this – I see early industrialization and a taste of modernism. This reminds me a lot of the first “skyscrapers” built in Chicago. Seven stories of angular lines and an architect’s attempt to bridge the traditional with the future resulting in something that has a foot planted firmly in each camp. Maybe a prop for The Fountainhead or, on a lighter note, Modern Times.

I actually like the “sides” – reminds me of flames reaching for the sky or perhaps the top of the Chrysler building. If this were on my desk, I would have that side facing out at all times. What I am not so sure about is the expanse of red (cherry?). It is singularly lacking in ornamentation – it does not conform to the “quite unnecessarily over-decorated” theme. Perhaps something indicating verticality (in line with my skyscraper interpretation). Elsewhere, I agree with your wife – the hard edges are in the right spirit.

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

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