Joinery Tips


Making Snug-Fitting Butt Joints
When joining two short boards end-to-end, it’s often difficult to get a good, tight fit. Try laying the two boards (end-to-end) on your benchtop, with the two edges that are to go together touching one another. Then, attach a couple of scrap pieces across the two boards with brads (on the backside of course) to hold them together temporarily. Flip your boards over and with your scrap pieces on top (and your depth of cut set so the sawblade barely cuts into the scrap pieces), run the two pieces through your table saw, cutting both mating edges at once. When finished, the edges should match up perfectly.
Using nicked jointer knives – temporarily
If your jointer knives get a nick in them from a nail or screw you missed seeing, chances are, all (2 or 3) knives will have a nick in the same location. To keep using these knives without sharpening or replacing them (until a more convenient time), simply loosen the knife holding mechanism and slide the knives a very small distance in the opposite direction on the cutterhead so the nicks no longer line up. Replace or re-sharpen the knives at the earliest opportunity.
Error-free joint cutting.
There’s nothing worse than removing the wrong piece of stock when cutting dovetails, finger-laps or similar joints. To avoid this problem, always shade-in or draw “X’s” through your waste area so you can tell at-a-glance what is to go and what is to stay.
Jointer / Thickness Planer
Thickening super-thin stock. With some planers, the minimum thickness of the stock they’re able to handle could be more than the thickness you need. In those cases, be sure your stock is a bit longer and wider than you’ll actually need and attach it to a piece of 3/4″ stock with commercial-grade double-stick tape. The 3/4″ stock will serve as a “carrier” for your workpiece and you should have no problems.
Covering-up poor-fitting mitre joints.
Cut a saw kerf along the joint lines (only part way through the stock, of course). Make thin strips of matching or contrasting wood that are the same width as your saw kerfs. Glue them into position and sand them flush with your stock. In some cases, the matching strips will blend right in and not be noticeable. The contrasting strip approach will appear to have been done intentionally to “accent” your project.
Preventing tear-out when jointing or planning highly figured woods.
Wipe your board with a damp cloth a few minutes prior to planning to soften the wood fibres.
Preventing tear-out when jointing highly figured woods
Make a long, wooden wedge that’s about 4″ to 6″ wide — as long as your jointer’s fence — and tapers from about 2″ or so thick on one end to about 1/2″ or so on the other. Attach this wedge to your fence to force your stock to pass across the blade at a slightly “skewed” angle, producing a much cleaner cut.
Jointing the edges of stock with a router
For most applications, make a straightedge by attaching a strip of aluminium angle to a guide board made from a 1″ or so thick piece of scrap stock. Cut a rabbit in the top of your guide board to accept the aluminium angle so it’s flush with the guide board’s surface when screwed into position. Use hand screws or ordinary C-clamps to clamp the guide board and the stock you wish to joint together, with the edge of your workpiece protruding out beyond the aluminium angle by about 1/16″ to 1/8″. Joint your workpiece edge by using a straight, flush-trim bit with a bottom bearing pilot. Position your bit so the bearing pilot rides against the aluminium angle as the cutting flutes joint your protruding workpiece edge.
Cut leg mortises before turning or shaping
Since it’s easier to grasp square-edged stock, it’s always best to cut mortises in tapered or turned furniture legs before you turn or taper them. Your results will be far more accurate.
Identifying where the joint doesn’t fit properly
Sometimes, the components of a project just don’t fit together properly, no matter what you do. Often, this is a result of improperly cut joints…where one workpiece just won’t fit into another. If this is your problem and you can’t seem to see where the fit just isn’t working, take the components apart and examine the mating parts carefully. Often, the non-fitting location is easily identified by the fact that the “rub” creates a shiny spot on the workpiece. Look for the shiny spot and sand, chisel or plane it off carefully for a perfect fit.
Offsetting Jointer Fence Error
Even the slightest error in setting the angle of your jointer’s fence will produce an edge that’s not 90-degrees to your workpiece surface. As a result, when you join your boards together, you could get a slightly warped or bowed surface. To avoid this, when jointing the edges of mating pieces, alternate between guiding the intended top and intended bottom surfaces of your boards against your jointer’s fence. By doing this, you will offset any differences and achieve a much tighter joint without warpage or bow.
Fitting shelves tightly into dadoes
If you own a thickness planer, here’s a simple but important tip for making tight-fitting shelf-to-cabinet fits. ALWAYS cut the dado or groove that your shelf is to fit into BEFORE you plane your lumber to thickness. By doing this, you can adjust your shelf thickness slightly to form a snug fit in the groove or dado.
Using A Router to Joint the Edges of Long Boards
If you’re joining a series of long boards together that may be too cumbersome to handle on a short-bet jointer, try using your hand-held router and a 1/4″ straight bit. Start by laying all of your boards face down on your benchtop or the floor in their proper orientation. Leaving about 3/16″ between each pair of boards, screw a wooden cleat across the back side of all boards, connecting them together at each end. Turn your boards back over so they’re face up and clamp a straightedge to them and adjust it so that when your router base rides against it, your 1/4″ bit lines up with the first of your 3/16″ wide spaces. Turn on your router and make your cut, guiding your router base against the straightedge, cutting a clean, straight edge on two opposing boards simultaneously. Reposition your straightedge and repeat this process at the spaces between each pair of boards. Since each pair of mating boards is jointed at the same time, they’ll fit together perfectly every time…even if your straightedge isn’t perfectly straight.
Shrinking Dowels or Biscuits That Fit Too Tightly
The next time you’re having trouble getting a biscuit or dowel to slip into its intended pocket or hole, don’t reach for the sandpaper. Although this method works great if you only have one or two biscuits or dowels, it can be very time-consuming when you have a lot of them. When you find yourself in this situation, just “cook” your biscuits or dowels in the microwave for a few minutes. Chances are, they have enough residual moisture in them that the heat will shrink them enough that they’ll slip right into place with little or no trouble.
Notched board makes great “in-a-pinch” tenoning jig
To cut a tenon on the end of a workpiece without a tenoning jig, try this trick. Square all four edges of a 2″ x 6″ or a 4″ x 4″ that’s about 18″ long. Cut a notch in one (wide) face of your board that’s exactly the width of the workpiece that will contain your tenon and about one-third of this workpiece’s thickness. When you cut your notch, be sure all three edges are exactly 90-degrees to the bottom edge of your jig board. Rest the bottom edge of your jig on your saw table with its back (un-notched) edge against your rip fence. Slip one face of your workpiece into the notch in the jig, adjust your blade height and fence to make the proper cut, clamp your stock into position in the jig (well above the cutting line of your saw, of course) and make your cut by guiding your jig with the workpiece clamped into the notch through your saw’s blade.
Clean boards save knives
Dirt and grit on the surfaces of boards can dull planer or jointer knives quickly. Before planning or jointing old or soiled boards, clean their surfaces thoroughly. Wipe dust, mud or soil off surfaces with a damp cloth and allow to dry. If you suspect embedded grit such as sand or stones, wire brush all surfaces prior to planning or jointing.
Jointing the Edges of Small Parts
Some parts are just too small to joint safely on machinery. In these cases, try grasping the handle of a Jack, Jointer or Smoothing plane in the jaws of your bench vies (in an inverted position). Then, simply grasp your small part and run it over your hand plane’s blade.