Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back to the Sawbuck

I glued up 5 cherry boards for the table top of the sawbuck table and cut the sliding dovetails beneath the table surface. The dovetail dadoes receive the runners that will be pegged to the legs.

First I squared up the table top and cleaned up the end grain with a Lie-Nielsen skewed angle block plane with nicker. I bought this plane before I knew how to sharpen it and was not very impressed the first time I used it. I hadn't looked at it in years, but took it out, sharpened it on my 8,000 grit waterstone and wow! The shavings in the first photo are from endgrain. Forgive me L-N for ever having doubted you.

I laid out the dovetail dados and defined the shoulders with an exacto knife and chisel, then used a crosscut saw and router plane to remove the waste. The first dovetail dado took 8 hours for a proper fit but the second one took just 4. Still sounds like a lot, but the dovetails are 25" long and 1.5" wide, so I didn't feel so bad.

I followed the same technique as in the past, except I took Stephen Shepherd's advice and flipped the saw guide upside down. This way, you cut on the waste side at all times. It worked very well and it was no more difficult to hold the saw at the inverted angle.

An added benefit to flipping the guide is that the guide itself can be thicker because the lowest part of the saw's handle is opposite the guide (photo #4). A thicker guide provides more support for your saw.

The last photo shows the tell tale marks of gentle persuasion.


The Great Ethan Allen said...

Wow what a great joint! I have to reread the post again to see how you did that. Also very impressive with your block plane. I'll have to revisit mine and see if I can get it to work. ( I'ts pretty sharp though)

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Kari - again. Two quick questions that may involve not so quick answers - how did you create the guide for the saw and how did you adjust the results to fit?

Geemoney said...

I dig the figure in the cherry on that last photo.

Great post; you almost make me want to try my hand at sliding dovetails...

Kari Hultman said...

Great Ethan Allen, it's a fun joint to make and yes, you must revisit your L-N plane....or you can always send it to me! ha ha

Mitchell, the saw guide is a piece of wood that I bevelled on the jointer. You can also bevel the edge on a table saw. I adjusted the fit by tapping one end of the runner in the slot, pulling it out, and chiseling and scraping off the shiny spots that were left on the runner. Shiny areas reveal high spots where the wood is rubbing too tightly. I'd tap the runner in a bit more, pull it out, and continue removing high spots until it slid all the way through.

Geemoney, that's some really nice curly cherry. Wish I had more! You can easily make sliding dovetails and they don't have to take as long as mine do. I'm just really s-l-o-w.

Anonymous said...

The last time I made these (using an electric router, I confess) I made the joint tapered. The table was 32" wide. I tapered the joint by 1/8" and made the batten portion a bit longer than necessary. The dovetail slides easily together until that last 3/4", 1 or 2 whacks with the hammer and your done. Mark the length, knock the batten out and cut it to length then put it back in. You do very nice work!

Woodbloke said...

Kari - good joints and very difficult to do over a long distance like that. I don't think I'd have used a big hammer to persuade them to fit though. I think a long sash cramp would have made the job easier but in the end it doesn't really matter 'cos you've made the rails longer than the width of the table top...I hope, so the waste will eventually be cut off - Rob

Dan said...

Kari -

Thank you for writing about how long those joints took. I am always curious about time, as I work pretty much in isolation, and it is nice to have a reference.

I just love the look of that table!

Kari Hultman said...

Mike, a tapered sliding dovetail would certainly work for a nice, tight joint. I wanted to be able to remove the top from either side though, which I think is how the original was made. I've never seen the opposite side of the table, however, so I'm surmising. Could be it's a tapered dovetail after all!

Rob, you're right about the length of the runners. They will be trimmed off and curved, like the original.

Dan, I imagine that the length of time it took me to cut these joints will make any woodworker feel good. Because any other woodworker could have cut them faster than me. haha

Dan said...


I am not so sure about that...but anyway, when you are building a table that will last for hundreds of years, of what account is 12 hours?

Vic Hubbard said...

Hey Kari! I'm finally getting to catch up on a few blogs. I love the slider. I have a hunch my first couple will take way longer than 12 hours!!

Kari Hultman said...

Vic, not if you use a table saw and router, it won't! heh heh