Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stopped Dadoes and Drawer Runners

A better title for these sawbuck table progress posts would have been: Why The Pennsylvania Germans Were Smarter Than I.

That's because they chose a straight-grained, soft wood for their original sawbuck table instead of curly cherry, a wood that's prone to tear and splinter; and they nailed the entire drawer together, instead of dovetailing angled corners and cutting angled grooves for the drawer bottom.

Despite this, it's been a fun learning experience and I've done things I've never tried before. What better way to expand your skills?

I decided to cut stopped dadoes in the drawer supports even though there are through dadoes on the original. This poses a problem if you plan to cut them with a plow plane, because the skate requires clearance in front of the cutter. Not a big deal, though, if you cut the last few inches with a mortising chisel before reaching for your plow plane.

Since the drawer sides are angled, but the drawer supports are not, the runners needed to be angled on one side and square on the other. I drew the shape on both ends of the runners, connected the marks along the length, and checked them frequently for accuracy while I planed them to shape.

I made the pegs from cherry by rounding bandsawn sticks with a block plane. There are other ways to make dowels, but this one is my favorite. Even though the runners are glued to the drawer sides, I chose to reinforce the joint with wooden pegs, since the drawer is so heavy. The runners on the original sawbuck were nailed in place.

So now there's only one thing left to make before final sanding and finishing.

You know how, at dinner, some people will eat the yucky stuff, like lima beans, first, and save the best stuff, like prime rib, for last?

I was always an "eat-the-good-stuff-first-and-hope-no one-sees-me-feed-the-gross-stuff-to-the-dog" kind of person.

In woodworking terms, that means I've saved making the drawer pull for last. That's right—I need to turn a lima bean. Yuck.


Darnell said...

Super nice, Kari. I like the shape of the drawer supports.

It's gonna be flashy when the oil hits it!

Grover said...

Wow.. Just Wow.. That is amazing. Great work Kari. One of these days I will get to the hand tools. I picked up a few planes at an antique show this weekend nothing special just something to start with plus they have a history which makes them more fun to use.


Abi said...

Simply superb!

Dyami said...

you never cease to amaze me with the care and precision you give to projects. Clearly a labor of love. Nice table.

Adrian Baird Ba Than said...

Looking good Kari!
I think you need to make friends with your lathe,yes they are high speed,yes they can throw things at you but they are not really dangerous.
Think about it,turning is a rare activity where YOU are holding the sharp thing & it's the wood that moves,what's the worst that could happen?As long as loose clothing & hair is tied back & the wood you are turning is securely fastened you should be dandy.Might I recommend turning the pull between centers then finishing the nub by hand?
I would advise you to use non-curly wood for turning until you are comfortable,anything that planes well will turn well,Walnut,Beech,Sycamore,Maple.
On the other hand materials like Ebony,Blackwood,Boxwood,Lignum Vitae,Pear etc,may be difficult to plane but are incredible for turning.
Just thought of a name for your little Jet...
"Do you feel lucky,punk?"

Jeremy Kriewaldt said...


I think there is a real likelihood of a sensible study of intercontinental cross-fertilisation of furniture, based on where various German migrants went. I would love to compare the work done by the Barossa migrants in South Australia (as beautifully documented in the 1995 book, The Barossa Folk) with the work done by German migrants in various regions of the USA (including PA and TX).

One of the interesting things about the Australian migrants is how they tended to come from Eastern Germany (esp. Prussia and Silesia) and how they brought the style of the time in that region in the late 1830s and 1840s and preserved it in the antipodes. They then sort of created their own style - Barossa Biedemeyer - as a consequence.

One other thing, and this ties into the review of Tom Fidgen's book by Alice Framton and also Mark Spagnuolo's comments on using handtools to make the Shaker TWW Guild table. Something we have to be very careful about is making sure, when we use hand tools, that we use them to make the right kind of work. Stopped dadoes are IMHO really hard to do with hand tools, which is why they are rare until power tools came along to make them easy. Similarly, cross-grain rebates are comparatively rare in older work. Why? Because as Mark found out, they are hard and boring. That's why you find many rear walls of drawers are often simple butt joints with nails, even if the front joint is a half-blind DT. There is very little stress on the rear joint and it is rarely seen, so why make a difficult piece of joinery when you can whack a couple of nails into a tight, glued butt joint and move on?

Woodbloke said...

The groove work looks interesting, all that stuff with a plough plane...

Me,I'd have used a router.. -Rob, making a quick exit!

Dana said...

I'm going to keep reading because I have no idea what your little table is but I like it a lot. It appears exquisitely done and very inspirational this morning. Previous to reading this I woke up jazzed about continueing work on my built in cherry cabinet upstairs. It seems rather milk toast now but it is my first piece and you reminded me we begin with the end in mind. Thank you Kari.

Frank Vucolo said...


Excellent work! A beutiful design very well executed.

I'm sure the cherry was a chore - as was the angled nature of the drawer - but when it all comes together it adds up to so much more.

The extra work really paid off!

OK, question... what are those things sticking out that look like chisel handles? Are they draw bore pins holing the top and runners in place? Are they part of the design?


Larry Marshall said...

You da man, Kari...err...I mean woman. I love this piece and your presentation of it.

I was surprised to hear that those pegs weren't turned as they sure look as though they were.

Plough planes...we need to talk.

Cheers --- Larry

Tico Vogt said...

Hi Kari,

Have you done an earlier post about making the sliding dovetail pieces (I'm a relatively new reader of your blog). When you finish that cherry it will be like putting on 3-D glasses! Great work.


Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Darnell!

Grover, that is definitely part of the allure of antique tools--they had a previous life with a previous owner and we're just the next caretaker. And hopefully our tools continue to have a life beyond ours.

Dyami, it's not as precise as it looks, but thanks. ; )

Black, thank you for the words of encouragement the sound advice. I know what a whiz you are on your lathe. :o) Oh, but my lathe already has a name; it's Swedish—djavul pojke

Jeremy, Barossa Biedemeyer furniture and the German migrants in Australia sounds like a very interesting read--thanks! I'll definitely look into it.
That's an interesting discussion about the correct use of handtools. I'm coming from the position of personal preference and appearance. I simply can't bring myself to nail a drawer together for the sake of authenticity. And using handtools (for me) is simply more fun and challenging. So if I need to take extra steps to figure out how to do something that wasn't done in the old days, it just makes my gray matter work harder. And that's a good thing. ; )

Rob, yeah, I could have used my router plane for the groove instead of the plough. haha!

Dana, your first piece SHOULD make you feel jazzed! As should every project you'll make after that. How many people, other than those who create, can say they can't wait to get back to work? My projects are nothing compared to other woodworkers', but that doesn't stop me from loving the process, the project, and the personal satisfaction from having built them.

Frank, those are spindles that go through the legs and into the drawer supports to keep them locked in place. Otherwise, there's nothing to keep the drawer supports from sliding back and forth underneath the table top. I turned them before I realized I don't like using a lathe.

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Larry. :o) You'd be surprised at how round you can make pegs with just a block plane.

Tico, yes, I've written several posts on this project. I figured once I've finally finished it, I'll add links to all the posts leading up to it. You can do a search on my blog for "sliding dovetails" and "dovetail plane" and you'll get the posts where I wrote about it.

Gye Greene said...

Drawer pull is adversive: That comment struck me as odd -- until I read the comments about you not doing lathework.

That void in your broad range of WW-related skillsets actually strikes me as peculiar. How'd **that** happen? :)

Personally, cranking out a drawer pull or two on a lathe seems like the easiest part of your whole endeavour.

(I haven't done lathework in years -- I need to buy one, first -- but my grandpa got me up and running in about ten minutes, and I was doing "adequate" work. Ain't **that** hard.)


Rob Bois said...

I'm with you Kari. I own just about every tool, electron powered and meat powered, but I don't own a lathe. I took one turning class, and all it did was turn me off to turning. Oddly, none of my pieces have turned legs or wooden pulls. And I always seem to be able to convince customers that tapered or curved legs and metal hardware look better. Go figure.

Dyami said...

I'm with you!

Kari Hultman said...

Gye, I'm not quite sure what it is about the lathe that I don't like, but I think it's scary. I really want to turn bowls and plates, though, for use in the house, so I need to overcome my fear.

Rob, you must have some impressive powers of persuasion. ; )

Dyami, you and Rob are the first two people I've heard say that they don't particularly like to use the lathe. Glad to hear I'm not alone! :o)

Ross Henton said...

Beautiful work (as always). Where does the term "sawbuck" table come from?

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Ross. "Sawbuck" refers to two x-shaped pieces with a stretcher in between that's used to cut logs in the field. It's that shape that gives the sawbuck table its name.

Kari Hultman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gye Greene said...


Hey -- had a thought: Why do you need to lathe the drawer pull? Couldn't you make s rectangular "pillow-ish" drawer pull, by using moulding planes on each of the four sides?

Make a rectangular mushroom-ish shape (keep the stem long, so you have something to clamp), and then just route the same profile on all four sides (turning it 90 degrees each time, of course).

Cut off most of the "stem" when you're done, of course.

(Not sure if what I've written fully communicates my idea...)


Kari Hultman said...

Gye, thanks for the idea—I understand what you're saying. I actually thought about carving the drawer pull, but then I decided that I need to face my fear with the lathe, so I'm going to make myself turn the pull....soon.

jrich1936 said...

i just stumbled across this article and showed my father,because he is a master carpenter. He loves your work so do I, nice work =]