Need some advice on my chest

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Forum topic by Jesse posted 01-18-2011 06:47 AM 1074 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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105 posts in 3058 days

01-18-2011 06:47 AM

Hello fellow LJs.

Here is my situation, I’m building a chest from plans I downloaded here: Chest

Things are going fairly well so far, but I’ve come to the cross-road of my vision and my skills. My chest will only kinda-sorta look like the plans. Dimensions will be similar but I’ll try to paint a picture of my idea:

The kick boards, drawer carcass, and the lid are all maple. With the kick boards and lid made out of tiger maple.
There will be a lip on top of the sides made of walnut. The front and back of the box made of walnut , flanked by maple sides. So essentially a nice maple/walnut/maple sorta theme. Here’s my sticking point. How should I joint the sides?

The plans call for dovetails. My idea was finger joints down the box sides, then match that theme with “through finger joints” that secure the drawer fronts. No idea how best to describe that so here is a link: Finger Joints

Kinda cool idea right? I think…

Thing is, I’ve never made a dovetail joint or a finger joint. I’ve already got a pretty significant amount of time and $$ involved in getting to this point and now I’m looking for guidance. This isn’t my first project, but it is my first attempt at something of this caliber. In fact, I sorta view this as a ‘coming of age’ in woodworking sorta project.

So there you go, I’ve seen a few box-joint jig plans with all sorts of screws and micro-adjustments that quite frankly seem like a more complicated project then this chest. Does anyone have some advice for box joint building? Jigs they find simple yet effective? Is attempting such intricate finger joints a recipe for disaster? Would you rather steer me toward handing cutting these dove tails?

Please feel free to elaborate where ever this post takes you and not feel obligated to simply answer my questions.

Thank you in advance!

3 replies so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3355 days

#1 posted 01-18-2011 08:06 AM

The jig in your link looks unnecessarily complicated. A decent box-joint jig for the TS takes all of an hour to build. It’s not that hard. Whether made as a sled type to fit in your miter slots or one that bolts onto your miter gauge, the principle is the same.

The trick is to make sure your “key” and “spacer” is the proper size. This can be done by sizing a small block of wood to the exact width of your desired dado stack. A measuring caliper really makes it easy.

If you don’t want to build one, I know Rockler (among others) sells one for around $70, IIRC.

-- jay,

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18387 posts in 3872 days

#2 posted 01-18-2011 08:44 AM

If I were doing it and not doing the dovetails, I would miter the corners and use 3 or 4 spline keys. IMO, it would look a lot better than finger joints on the chest. Finger joinsy look good on small boxes, but (IMO again) they will get over whelming on the corners of that chest.

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

View CiscoKid's profile


343 posts in 3070 days

#3 posted 01-18-2011 02:16 PM

I would look for a Leigh D4 dovetail jig and space the dovetails so that the whole thing didn’t get too busy. If you are dead set on finger joints I recommend that you set up your dado stack to be roughly the thickness of your stock and make a simple sled for your table saw. The vertical back of your sled should have means of lateral adjustment so that you can fine tune in your key spacing. Cut a slot in some scrap material with your dado setup and fine tune a key out of hard wood to precisely fit in it. Fit that key in the vertical back of your sled and adjust it so that it is exactly it’s own width away from the dado stack. Test it on scrap and you’re done. Easy!

-- Al, Culpeper VA

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