Southern Yellow Pine Work Surface (workbench) #14: Transition from Dovetails to Rabbet Joints

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Blog entry by ruddhess posted 03-13-2015 01:44 AM 1376 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 13: Dovetail Saga - Dovetail Number Four Part 14 of Southern Yellow Pine Work Surface (workbench) series Part 15: Rabbet Joints - Well Underway »

If thy dovetail offend thee, cut it off!

I decided to not use these dovetails that I have been practicing on. I read on two different articles that you should practice on scrap wood and not on your project (which is what I have been doing). Plus, I want the joints to reflect a similar quality/skill level as the rest of the project. So, I am “ditching” these dovetail pieces and transitioning to rabbet joints (not as strong, not as “flashy”, but adequate) with oak dowels for added strength and appearance. I actually bought enough wood to cover this design change when I had to replace the pins on dovetail number two that I cut matching the tails (oops!).

I made a quick and expedient marking gauge.

The only thing to buy is a thumb screw and dowel. Cheap.

Works pretty well on soft yellow pine.

Also made a couple of bench hooks out of some scrap white pine I had laying around. Really soft wood, but works for what I am doing. Really makes cutting the joints (all straight cuts now) so much easier – and more accurate!

Not extremely precise, but accurate enough and square enough for what I am doing on this project. It is pretty soft wood, but I don’t have any wood that is actually that hard except for a couple of tiny sticks of red oak. Otherwise I have always worked with construction lumber which is fairly soft (except for some old seasoned wood from old chicken barns and old farm houses).

OK, here is the first rabbet cut – all made with just the back saw. Not too shabby. I’m getting better at cutting my straight cuts accurately. I’m thankful for that.

Straight lines, straight cuts. The marking gauge helps a lot.

This is the first rabbet joint held together to see how close my saw cuts come to fitting. Acceptable. I like the way it looks too.

Two pieces cut exactly the same. I like it!

-- Rodney, Arkansas

2 comments so far

View RustyHacksaw's profile


79 posts in 683 days

#1 posted 03-14-2015 12:37 PM

The last picture is very telling. I cannot achieve those results yet. It is a lot of technique… but probably has to do with my lack of proper layout, and accurate lines to begin with.

Good job.

View ruddhess's profile


117 posts in 630 days

#2 posted 03-15-2015 12:19 AM

Thank you RustyHacksaw!

I am proud of those cuts. All done with an old Stanley back saw. I am getting fairly good at my straight cuts. I don’t miss my old direct drive Delta table saw at all (well maybe a tiny bit, but I don’t miss the ROAR). I really like sawing by hand. It’s so much quieter and hand saws are fascinating. One of these days I will have a really nice back saw (probably like what they call “sash” or “carcase” saw – I don’t know that I’ll ever need anything as deep as what they call “tenon” saw). I’d prefer it be an antique, but I wouldn’t reject the idea of a new quality saw. Until then, my old Stanley is doing the job for me. Only bad thing is that the handle sucks. Doesn’t fit my hand at all. And I really prefer the feel of wood for a handle rather than plastic. Although the handle on my saw is the older solid plastic rather than the more recent lighter hollow kind – those are SO not cool. I might go to Home Depot and buy one of those Husky wood handled back saws (close to $10 – the handle is worth that IMO) and cannibalize the wood handle for my Stanley.

As for layout and accurate lines, I have been combing the internet for tips and information about how to do all this better. One of the things that helped me so much on the rabbet cuts was making a marking gauge. I’m not sure if I posted pics of the quick and dirty one that I made one night after work. Here it is:

Also I made a couple of quick and dirty white pine bench hooks – that too has helped beyond words. It is just so much more relaxing to not have a ‘death grip’ on the board while cutting it! Here is a picture of them:

I used to work at metal fabrication several years ago when I was raising and supporting a family and maybe that helps me to layout and mark more accurately. Seems the tolerances in fine woodworking are close to the kind of tolerances in metal fab – more strict than say rough carpentry/framing, though not as demanding as a machinist. When I take my time and am careful, I get good results. I read about using a knife instead of a pencil, but I sometimes use a really sharp lead pencil to mark stuff out – I’ve had lots of practice drawing the lines with pencils – I have done a lot of hand drafting and my day job is computer drafting and mapping. It helps a lot to draw stuff out before making it. Even if it’s just a hand drawn sketch.

Thanks again for the compliment and I wish you the best in your journey toward better and more accurate layouts.

-- Rodney, Arkansas

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