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Mortice and Tenons

It is time to complete the installation of the drawer blades/runners. In all, there are 8 drawers, with 34 mortices, 66 cheek cuts and 32 edge cheeks.

The dimension for the runners was established when completing the parts for the lowermost drawer. All runners could be sawn to length, and were cleaned up on the shooting board. These are all 19mm (approx. ¾”) thick. The front blades are 45mm (approx. 1 ¾”) wide, with the rear 37mm (approx. 1 ½”) wide. The runners are all 45mm wide.

I tend to work in a mix of metric and imperial. The tenons and mortices were to be ¼” x 20mm (just over ¾”).

The first step was to mark all the tenons, and saw as close to the mark as possible. Nice 16” Wenzloff & Sons is my go-to tenon saw. It cuts fast and leaves a smooth cheek.

The shoulders were then all sawn in a group as well. Used is a small crosscut saw I made some years ago. All work done at the bench hook.

Below: mark the cheek edges. I am leaving a 30mm wide cheek. 15mm is removed to avoid weakening the sliding dovetail, which connects the blade to the sides of the cabinet.

A dovetail saw makes the cut …

In a recent forum discussion, the question was asked for favourite tools for trimming the cheek and shoulder. There were many options mentioned: router plane, chisel, shoulder plane, rebate block plane, rasp and joinery float. My preferences run to the router plane if there is a need to square up a severely skewed cheek, but generally I prefer just a LN joinery float to do fine tuning, and a chisel to tune the shoulders – unless they need to be straightened, in which case I would use a shoulder plane. Today all I needed was a joinery float and a chisel.

It occurred to me that I had not read a description of using a chisel to tune a shoulder, or how to tune a cheek. Perhaps this is so obvious that I am missing something. Anyway, for the benefit of those unfamiliar, I will describe what I do. Feel free to critique and offer your own observations.

Step #1 was to clean up all the shoulders. This is done in three stages.

If you have (as I did) scored the tenon shoulder prior to sawing, and added a knife fence, the sawn shoulder should be pretty close to perfect. What you are likely to see is a faint line at the shoulder. This marks the distance from the shoulder line that the saw actually cut. With a wide-ish chisel (I prefer a 1”), place the edge in the line and pare back the waste to the cheek line. Repeat this on the other side of the tenon. This will leave a line of waste in front of the check edge. Place the chisel in this line and pare flush with the sides.

All the tenon shoulders were completed before moving on to the next stage.

Below: Step #2 involves allocating a pair of runners to each set of blades, and then transferring the width for the mortice. Each blade has a reference side, and the mortice gauge used for the tenons marks the widths of the mortice.

Now here is another strategy that I have not read anywhere (I must lead a sheltered life, or I am too thick to realise that this is obvious).

The question is, when the tenon does not fit the mortice, how much and from where does one remove the waste?

What I do is place the tenon on top of the mortice, with all sides flushed.

In the first example below (extreme left), the cheek is flush with the side of the mortice. There is a smidgeon at the base and at the end of the cheek that extends past the mortice. These must be flushed down.

In the second example (extreme right), the cheek slightly overlaps the mortice. This whole area must be flushed down.

In the example below, only the penciled section needs to be removed.

In all examples, a joinery float made quick work of taking down these areas.

This is the fit I am after. In all, about half the tenons/mortices fitted without tuning. A few will need a very little planing to sit flush.

Don’t forget to check for co-planarity as well. You can alter the angle by rasping away the area of the cheek that is causing the tenon to sit skewed.

If there are gaps at the shoulder join, check that the shoulders are coplanar. Knife around the shoulder and, if the amount to remove is just a smidgeon, use a shoulder plane. Otherwise use a chisel.

Above and below is the blades/runners for the top drawer.

The reason for the centre muntin is that a Shaker Secret Lock for the top drawer will be build into this. The top drawer will be house jewelry.

The state of the play to date. This is a dry fit …

Next up will be to add in the drawer guides, and then glue these pieces in. The drawers have bow fronts, and bow-shaped fillers will be added to the front blades before the drawers are built.

Regards from Perth


October 2015