This post will hopefully be a little less lengthy than the last. I only want to work on fitting the drawer blades today and, maybe, throw in some runners. That shouldn’t take too long, right?
Now that I have the case dovetails done, I need to dry assemble the piece so I can fit the blades. If you recall from the first post in this series, I shaped the blades using a pattern and my custom ground “stock” router bit. On the pattern, I had a center line marked (that’s the center of the blade from right to left not front to back). Before I removed my blade from the pattern after routing, I transferred that center line to my blade. This way all my blades would be lined up when I fit them into the case as long as I work off my center line. It’s with this center line that I begin. I extend that line across the face of the blades.
I head over to my dry assembled case to measure the overall length of the blades. In other words, I’m measuring from the bottom of the dovetail socket in the right side to the bottom of the dovetail socket in the left side. You can reverse the left and right things if it suits you but the important part is that you measure the longest possible length of the blade. Now that we have the idea of what we’re measuring, we need to address one other potential problem before we actually measure it. You want to make sure your case sides are not bowing in or out. So, in order to do that you need to measure the overall width of the case at the top, the middle and the bottom. If all three measurements are the same, then you can measure the overall length of the blade. If they are not the same size, you’ll need to do a little clamp work to get them to the same size. With the overall blade length in hand, you need to mark the blades. Remember that center line? Now’s the time we put it (and out division skills) to use.
With the blades all marked to length, I add a line that represents the inside face of the case side. In the photo it’s the line on the front face of the blade while the overall length line is on the top face (it have the big “X” next to it). Time to cut the blades to length on the tablesaw. No real tricks here, just cut all the blades on one end at the lines, set a stop block and cut the other end off. Pretty simple.
Take the blades to the router table and set up the dovetail bit we used on the case sides. You might need a test piece to get this figured out right. The length of the dovetail will equal the distance from the bottom of the dovetail socket in the case side to the point where the socket meets the bead on the front edge of the case. As you can see in the photo, my shoulders on the dovetail fall short of the line on the front edge of the blade that represents the inside face of the case side. The distance from the shoulder to the line should be the thickness of the bead. To check this, hold a 45° bevel against the blade and it should connect the points where the shoulder meets the dovetail and the line meets the face of the blade. This leads us to our next step, cutting the bevels.
I do this on the tablesaw. Set the saw to 45° and then set the ripfence as a stop. Again, this is best done with some test pieces to get things set accurately. You need to set the depth of cut in addition to setting the rip fence. So, make several extra test pieces when you’re on the router table dovetailing those blades.
Using the miter gauge normally, I cut the first bevel on the blades. You’ll soon figure out that putting the straight back of the blade against the miter gauge only allows you to cut the bevel on one side of each end of the blade. The trick here is to figure out a way of cutting the other side without adjusting the saw. Do I leave you hanging and take suggestions from the audience or just tell you how to do it?
I guess I could show you how I did it and then explain what I’m doing. It’s really very easy. What you need to do is turn your miter gauge around backwards. Now that does not mean I run the drawer blade over the tablesaw backwards. It just means my flat edge on my drawer blade is facing away from me as I run the blade across the saw normally (in the forward direction). Do not run the blade backwards over the saw blade. That is very dangerous.
The next step is to mark and bevel the case sides so the blades fit into the dovetailed slot we cut. Using my 45° bevel, I mark the beads on the case sides and use a large chisel to pare the bevels through the beads. As you can see from the blade on the right in the photo, the blades should slide into the sockets snugly. In the next installment, I’ll show you want I do after I get all the blades fitted on both ends. They do usually take a little fitting and paring with a chisel but, if you take the time and use your test pieces to fit the blades as closely as possible directly off the machine, you should minimize the amount of hand work you need to do.