Router Table Box Joints

Router Table Box Joints

The perfect fit comes easily with a simple shop-made jig.

By Tom Caspar

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Box joints are a cinch to make on a router table. All you need are a sharp bit and a basic plywood jig.

The biggest problem in making box joints has always been getting a precise fit, because the line between success and failure is only a few thousandths of an inch thick. Fortunately, the solution simply requires that your jig be easy to adjust, not difficult to make. I’ve added a microadjust system to my jig that is incredibly precise but takes only a minute to put together.

This jig is designed to make 1/2 in. box joints in stock up to 5 in. wide. It’s dedicated to only one size of router bit. To make wider or narrower box joints, you must build another jig. For box joints wider than 1/2 in., you’re better off using a tablesaw and a different kind of jig. If your project requires box joints that are more than 5 in. wide, widen the jig accordingly.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker March 2005, issue #113.

March 2005, issue #113

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That’s Not a Holdfast

That’s Not a Holdfast

Christopher Schwarz and Lucy May are pleased to announce the newest addition to their family. Length: 18”. Weight: 9 lbs., 4 oz. Birth date: Feb. 15, 2012. Delivered by: Peter Ross, blacksmith and white smith. After more than seven years of searching, I have finally found a bench holdfast that works effortlessly with a French-style Continue reading»

That’s Not a Holdfast

That’s Not a Holdfast

Christopher Schwarz and Lucy May are pleased to announce the newest addition to their family. Length: 18”. Weight: 9 lbs., 4 oz. Birth date: Feb. 15, 2012. Delivered by: Peter Ross, blacksmith and white smith. After more than seven years of searching, I have finally found a bench holdfast that works effortlessly with a French-style Continue reading»

A Bar inside the Closet

We had worked with this client before on numerous projects. They had an apartment in Manhattan as well as their country home, a nearly 200 year old farm house they had been renovating slowly but surely since they bought the place ten years ago.
When they called asking about our building a bar for them, I figured it was that basic, finished basement bar we’d made for clients a dozen times before.

However, when I arrived, they showed me a small closet with a standard door (30X80) and suggested that, perhaps, the bar could fit inside the closet w/o any modification to the size of the opening. I was still scratching my head when they went on to show me a series of pictures of an antique, Deco-style bar. A small unit, (on wheels) they had found for their apartment in the city.

He loved this bar because, upon first inspection, it was all enclosed, but as you opened the front panel, which hinged outward and down, three things happened. First, the panel opened only 90 degrees so it’s back face acted became the surface to prepare cocktails on. Secondly, a clever arrangement of brass arms automatically lifted away the unit’s ceiling AND thirdly, also caused a tray of a dozen glasses to rise up and outward towards, what I’d imagined was, the tuxedoed host, serving his guests in some old, 1930’s movie. It was a very cool, old bar.

Right after their explanation and photos, they looked over at me and simply smiled. Following an uncomfortable silence, I said “aah… sure! We can do that”.
Driving back to the shop, I thought of what might reasonably be done w/o subcontracting a machinist, mechanical engineer… and perhaps, a therapist.

It had to store SO many things… 40 bottles of liquor & wine, shot glasses, scotch tumblers, wine glasses AND… a wine cooler (and the stereo distribution amplifiers for the whole house that sat inside this closet already)
I positioned the serving section half way up the opening (at standard working height) and let the above and below areas handle the storage for all the bottles and the cooler.

I envisioned a means of having the tray of glasses come out towards you as you opened the bar’s door panel.

They liked the design and trusted us to figure out the mechanism. So we began.
What was so great about their antique bar was how tightly everything fit inside when it was closed, but how easy to get to it all when open. The movement was relatively simple, but there were a number of requirements for this contraption. How far would the tray move when the door was opened? Would it miss the wine glasses hanging from it’s ceiling?  The swing-down door was to have a mirror on it’s back side to act as a counter top to mix drinks on… which made it heavy. I found some adjustable tension, brass flap stays to ‘cushion’ the door from slamming into it’s open position (held at 90 degrees). I knew we had to build an operating model (wooden prototype) before committing to the actual construction.. Here is my cellphone’s video of the mock-up.

unfolding mechanical bar

We adjusted arm lengths, pivot points and the amount of tension until we liked how the mechanism moved. I ordered 1/8″ x 3/4″ brass bar stock to make our arms. It was soft enough to be a pleasure to work with.

Next we designed a handsome, functional tray for all the glasses… in mahogany with thick, ebony inlays. My son (always eager to do finer, more intricate work) volunteered.

We created three tiers for glasses. Each glass sat within it’s own recessed circle, lined with felt. We made decorative side walls left, right and across back.

A brass lamp was mounted above. It illuminated when the door was opened. Here’s how the tray looked following it’s lacquer finish.

Because the closet’s interior had more room to the right of the doorway, we needed to create an extension that had to be removable during installation. The lower shelf configuration was also removable to allow access to the audio distribution system..

The wine cooler required ventilation… and with no other way to circulate air other than through the front, I suggested these  little ‘jail house’ doors. This picture is from another project done a few year back.

We’ve done a number of projects for them (four of which are in a single room). Here is a short video of that room after all was completed.

Room with Hidden Bar in Closet

Russell Hudson / Hudson Cabinetmaking, Inc.


New Sawmaker Builds Ancient Saws

New Sawmaker Builds Ancient Saws

Anyone who has ever read Joseph Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises” (1678) has puzzled over his pictures of saws. There are some frame saws, a whipsaw and a fancy handled saw without a back that Moxon, as far as I know, doesn’t discuss in his text. That fancy saw has always caught my eye. What was it Continue reading»

What Type of Woodworker Are You – Honestly

What Type of Woodworker Are You – Honestly

Years ago I was asked to judge a building contest put on by Bosch that pitted young technical students against one another for a big cash prize and a whole bunch of tools. For the contest, the students were given a plan, some wood, some tools and a certain number of hours to get it Continue reading»

How to Flatten Wrinkled Veneer

How to Flatten Wrinkled Veneer

By Mario Rodriguez

If you've ever handled highly figured veneer, you know that it can be stiff, brittle and prone to cracking, much like a potato chip. In fact, it can be shaped like a potato chip, too. You can't work with it this way.

In order to cut a sheet of veneer into smaller pieces and fit the pieces into a precise pattern, the veneer has to be rendered flat and pliable. Fortunately, that's easy to do. You just have to wet it with a homemade sizing solution, then squeeze it in a press.

Make the size by preparing a mixture of 50% water, 20% denatured alcohol, 20% glycerine and 10% liquid hide glue (see Sources, below).

Prepare the press by cutting two sheets of 3/4" melamine large enough to accommodate the veneer. Cut two pieces of nylon screen mesh (the kind used for screen windows) about the same size as the melamine. In addition, obtain some plain newsprint (it's available at art supply stores).

Assemble the lower half of the press (Photo 1). Pour the sizing solution into a spray bottle. Spray both sides of the veneer, so it's thoroughly soaked. Place the veneer on the press (Photo 2). Add the top half of the press and clamp (Photo 3).

The mesh allows the passage of both moisture and air to dry the veneer. The mesh also prevents the newsprint from sticking to the veneer. The newsprint absorbs the excess size, while the MDF keeps everything nice and flat.

Change the newsprint after 12 hours. Remove the veneer from the press after 24 hours. It should be flat and flexible enough to bend slightly without breaking. It should also be easy to cut without chipping (Photo 4). If the veneer isn't flat or soft enough, repeat the treatment.


(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Antique Refinishers,, 619-298-0864, 5 oz. bottle, $8; 20 0z. bottle, $20.

MedLab Supply,, 800-660-5998, Glycerin, 1 liter, $8.50.

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Make a press for flattening the veneer. Each half of the press is composed of a sheet of 3/4" melamine, a few pieces of plain newsprint and a piece of screen mesh.

2. Spray the veneer with a mixture of water, alcohol, glycerine and glue. Place the wet veneer in the press.

3. Add the top half of the press and clamp. Change the paper after 12 hours; remove the veneer after 24 hours.

4. The result should be veneer that's absolutely flat and pliable enough to be trimmed without chipping.


Four-Sided Quartersawn Table Legs

Four-Sided Quartersawn Table Legs

How to rout lock miters on narrow pieces.

By Tom Caspar and Stewart Crick

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If you spotted an oak leg with quartersawn figure on all four sides, your first reaction might be: That’s neat! But if you know wood, your second reaction ought to be: Now, how did they do that?

Well, there’s more than one way. You could make a solid, plainsawn leg and glue quartersawn veneer on all four sides. Or you could make a leg from quartersawn wood and veneer just two sides. Or you can do what L. & J. G. Stickley did over one hundred years ago, in the heyday of the Arts and Crafts era, and make the leg from four interlocking pieces of solid wood. This method is the most durable type of construction because there’s no chance of veneer flaking off. Using a modern lock miter router bit, it works well for any size leg, big or small.

Figuring out how to make these lock miters safely and accurately on a narrow leg can be quite a challenge. On each piece, one lock miter is routed with the piece held vertically; the other is routed with the piece held horizontally. The problem, as you can readily see, is that the pieces have very small bearing surfaces. The solution: make a push block and a jig to hold the pieces rock steady for each pass.

Click any image to view a larger version.

8. Glue four identical pieces to make the leg. The interlocking miters prevent the pieces from slipping side to side.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker April/May 2009, issue #141.

April/May 2009, issue #141

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Hammer Your Own Copper Hardware

Hammer Your Own Copper Hardware

By David Olson

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Hardware doesn’t have to come from a catalog. You can make your own. The raw materials are inexpensive and you won’t have to buy lots of special metalsmithing tools, because most of the things you’ll need are already in your shop. Learning the techniques for working copper can be rewarding and fun. Annealing and work hardening were new to me, and may be to you, but cutting, hammering, and drilling are familiar to woodworkers.

Working copper is a blast!

I was pleased with the very first copper piece I made, and my results kept getting better the more I practiced. Once you’re familiar with the techniques, you’ll be able to make all the hardware for the AW Stickley-Style Sideboard project (available from—or just about any Mission or Arts and Crafts style piece of furniture in a couple of weekends. If you decide to try making your own, I guarantee that you will enjoy the process and be thrilled by the results.

Materials and sources

For the AW Stickley-Style Sideboard, you’ll need 2 sq. ft. of 48-oz. copper sheet stock (.064 gauge) for hinge straps and backplates, 3' of 5/16" copper rod stock (AISI grade #110) for bails, 10" of 1/2" x 1/2" copper bar stock for posts, and 10" of 4-gauge copper grounding rod for post pins (Photo 19). Sheet metal and architectural metal fabricators are often willing to sell the small amounts of sheet stock you’ll need. Rod and bar stock is harder to find. Try salvage yards or order through the mail (see Sources). Grounding rod is available anywhere electrical wiring supplies are sold. You’ll also need pickling flux and silver solder, and perhaps a patinizing solution (see “The Look of Aged Copper”). All of these things are also available through the mail (see Sources).


The only specialized tools you’ll need to work the copper are hammers and a punch, something to pound on, a heat source, and places to heat and cool the metal.

You can buy real metalsmithing hammers (see Sources), or use some elbow grease and make your own from inexpensive 16-oz. ball peen hammers. Be sure to wear eye protection when you try this.

Reshape one flat hammer face into a shallow dome (Fig. A, Planishing Hammer) using a disc or belt sander. The shape of the dome determines the size of the mark. I found a 5/16" dia. mark the most attractive. Some areas that need texture are too small for the planishing hammer, so I domed the tip of a length of steel rod (Fig. A, Mini-planisher). Shape the face of the second hammer into a shallow-domed rectangle that slopes toward the handle (Fig. A, Forming Hammer). To quickly get the rectangular shape on this one, I cut away the unnecessary steel with a 4-1/2" cut-off wheel in my grinder/sander before moving to the disc sander for final shaping. You can do this whole job on the disc sander, but it will take longer. A third hammer face remains flat. Smooth and polish all of these faces with an orbital sander, working through sandpaper grits up to 600. Any blemishes left on the hammer faces will be transferred to the copper.

To achieve a crisp texture on the copper you must hammer it on a hard surface. Wood is not hard enough. I used a piece of 1/2" steel plate for the hinge straps and backplates (Photo 2) and a massive steel block for the bails (Photo 13). I bought both at a salvage yard for next to nothing. Raising the crowned shape of the hinge straps and bolt heads can be done using a piece of maple 1-3/4" x 4" x 12" (Photo 5) as a forming block.

You’ll need a high-output, self-starting torch and a tank of MAPP gas to get the copper hot enough to anneal it— propane won’t do. I made my own annealing tray by filling an aluminum cake pan with pumice stones (see Sources, p. 8) and used a plastic container for the quenching bath.

Click any image to view a larger version

1. Saw the hardware pieces following paper patterns fixed to the copper sheet with spray adhesive. Copper is soft enough to cut on a bandsaw using a generalpurpose, fine-tooth blade. Centerpunch all drill hole marks on the patterns, smooth all burrs and refine the edges with abrasives or files. Remove paper and adhesive residue, then polish the copper faces with 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper.

2. Create a hammered texture by striking the copper with a planishing hammer on a flat steel surface. Be sure to hammer the face—the side with the centerpunched holes. Practice hammering on scraps so you can get a feel for the metal and develop a hammering rhythm. Slightly overlapping each stroke creates a nicely balanced look.

6. Pound an annealed strap into the forming block to create the raised center. Use the forming hammer. The strap will bend dramatically as it is worked, but you can flatten it by gently tapping its top side with a non-marring mallet. Anneal the copper when it becomes work hardened (see “The Annealing Process").

8. Hammer texture marks onto the convex profile at the tip of the freshly annealed hinge strap. A ball peen hammer held in a vice serves as a stake—an anvil for texturing a curved object. Make sure each blow of the planishing hammer is centered on the stake hammer below. As you work, move the hinge strap, not the hammer, for each blow. Use the forming block to flatten the tip if it distorts.

11. Hammer penny-sized polished copper discs into a spherical cavity in the forming block with the ball peen hammer. Center a steel tack in the concave backside and silver-solder it in place.

13. Pound around the annealed rod with the forming hammer to lengthen and taper it. Work from the center out, and rotate the rod with each blow. It will take four to five courses of pounding and annealing to achieve the final length and the desired taper.

16. Start the bend of the door’s V-shaped bail by pounding it, freshly annealed, over a 1" x 1/4" steel bar clamped so its edge is slightly below the bail’s centerline. Anneal the bail when you sense work hardening. Frequent annealing assures that bends occur where you want them. Repeat the process of annealing and bending until the final V-shape is attained. Make sure the pins align.

18. Drill holes in copper bar stock that has been divided into 1/4" sections, leaving room for saw kerfs between them (Fig. B, posts). These shallow holes, which are centered in each section, will have pins soldered into them. After drilling, carefully saw between each post from the pin end, stopping two-thirds of the way through. This establishes the individual posts, but keeps them connected and easy to handle.

20. Solder the pins in place. First coat all pieces with flux and hammer the pins in place. Place a sliver of solder at the junction of each pin and post. Then heat the bar, holding the torch on the side opposite the solder, until the solder flows into the joints. Heat the metal, not the copper, and don’t overheat. After soldering, sand the pins so they’re slightly longer than the thickness of the backplates. Then drill shallow 5/32" dia. holes in the end of each one to facilitate riveting (Photo 22 and Fig. D).

23. Rivet posts to the backplate. First position posts on the pins at the ends of a bail. If the bail pins are properly bent, the posts will align parallel to one another. Make necessary adjustments before positioning them on the backplate. Work on a softwood block so the bail holes in the posts are not distorted. If you don’t have three hands, get help from a friend.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August 1999, issue #74.

August 1999, issue #74

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Make a Joint Stool in New Jersey

Make a Joint Stool in New Jersey

With the release of the long-awaited book “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree,” I hope to get many more reports like this one from woodworker Wilbur Pan in New Jersey. He and some fellow members of the Central Jersey Woodworkers Association ( started in on building joint stools last weekend at a woodlot owned Continue reading»

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