Wierix Square, Part 3

With the glue dry, it’s time to see if your square is square – or if it’s a doorstop. Squaring a wooden square is a simple operation if you plan to use it for woodworking – not for building equipment for a nuclear reactor. It’s easy to go overboard with squareness. Here’s how I do it. I get a big sheet of termite barf (MDF), which is what I use […]

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Build a Wierix Square, Step 2

Making the blade of the Wierix square is the most creative part of the construction process, when you can get in touch with your inner fledermaus (aka bat). While you can argue about whether or not the curves on the blade have any purpose, I am pretty certain of the reason the overall blade is triangular: to conserve wood and make the square easier to use. You can easily saw […]

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Build a Wierix Square, Step 1

A customer asked me to make a Wierix try square for him this week, and because it’s silly to make just one wooden square, I’m making a batch of five this week and am documenting the process here on the blog. If you don’t know what a Wierix square is, it’s an old style of try square that shows up in drawings of “The Childhood of Jesus” by Hieronymous Wierix, […]

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The Dutch Campaign Tool Chest

This week, I built a lower cabinet for my small Dutch tool chest, a project featured in the October 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. The unit I just built sits below the tool chest proper and does a few nice things. 1. It gives me extra space for tooling and hardware that I sometimes need to drag along to classes I teach. 2. It raises the main tool well […]

The post The Dutch Campaign Tool Chest appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


Wedged Mortise and Tenon

Wedged Mortise and Tenon

This joint will never loosen!

By Tom Caspar


Tap, tap, tap. The wedges go home, the glue squeezes out and a big smile lights up your face. “This joint isn’t coming apart for a hundred years,” you say. “It’s as solid as a rock!”

Making a wedged mortise-andtenon joint is richly rewarding. Once you understand how it works (see "How the Joint Works," right), you can’t help but admire the joint’s elegant simplicity. It also sends a message. A wedged joint says to one and all, “This was made by a skilled woodworker.”

Where could you use a wedged joint? It’s a candidate for any joint that receives a lot of stress. A table base such as the one shown here, is a good example. Pushing or leaning on the table might slowly force a standard joint apart, but wedges keep this joint locked together.

The wedged mortise-and-tenon joint isn’t difficult to make, but you should have some experience making standard mortise-and-tenon joints before tackling it.


Tools required

To make this joint, you’ll need a tablesaw, drill press, plunge router, chisel and a bandsaw. If your mortise’s width is 5/8" or more, like the mortise I made, you’ll need a 1/2" dia. top-bearing flush-trim bit. If the mortise is more than 3/4" deep, you’ll need a bottom-bearing flush-trim bit (see Source, below). For a mortise less than 5/8" wide, you’ll need a straight router bit and a fence or jig for your plunge router.


Rout the mortise

Before you begin your project, make a prototype joint (see “Designing Your Wedged Joint,” right).

It’s good practice to start with the mortise for any type of mortise-and-tenon joint. It’s easier to fine-tune a tenon to fit a mortise than the other way around.

This is a through-mortise, meaning it goes all the way through the workpiece. My favorite way to make a fairly large one is to remove most of the waste on the drill press and then use a plunge router and template (Photo 1). This method works particularly well in thick stock, because it makes a mortise with absolutely straight walls. That’s important for appearance’s sake in a through joint, because you can clearly see from the outside how well the mortise and tenon fit together.

Make the template from plywood or solid wood by gluing four pieces together. The inner two pieces are the exact width of the mortise, but their overall length is unimportant. The outer pieces must be long enough to allow room for clamps. Space the inner pieces apart by the length of the mortise.

Before you start routing, use the template to draw the mortise on the workpiece. Drill out most of the waste using a Forstner bit that’s 1/16" to 1/8" smaller than the mortise’s width. Make overlapping holes to remove as much wood as possible. Rout the mortise (Photo 2).


Taper the mortise

Tapering the ends of the mortise requires a razor-sharp chisel; there’s no practical way to do it with a router. You must use a chisel to square the ends of a routed mortise anyway; so tapering isn’t that much extra work.

Make a 1-1/2" to 2" thick block to guide your chisel. Cut one end square. Cut the other end at the angle you’ve chosen for tapering the mortise and wedges. I’ve found that a 3-degree angle works well.

Use the guide block’s right-angle end to square the back of the mortise. Chop about one-fourth of the mortise’s depth. Turn the workpiece over and position the block a short distance away from the end of the mortise (Photo 3). The exact distance depends on the mortise’s depth. You’ll want the taper to extend approximately three-fourths of the way down the mortise. On a 3-degree taper, shifting the block 1/16" from the mortise’s ends results in a taper about 1" deep.


Make the tenon

Make the tenon any way you want. I use a tablesaw tenoning jig to cut its cheeks, a bandsaw equipped with a fence to rip its top and bottom sides and a tablesaw’s miter gauge to cut all four shoulders. The tenon’s length is up to you; it can be flush or stand proud of the joint.

Fit the tenon to the back, untapered side of the mortise. It should be no more than a paper thickness smaller than the opening. If your tenon stands proud, chamfer its end using a block plane or file.

The next two steps are unique to this joint: making the strain-relief holes and sawing kerfs for the wedges. Start by marking and drilling the holes (Photo 4). Their location and diameter determine the flexible strips’ thickness. In most woods, such as the white oak I’m using here, I drill 1/4" dia. holes centered 1/4" from the edge. This makes the bending strip a flexible 1/8" thick. Holes that are only 1/8" are commonly used for this joint, too, for types of wood that bend easily, such as maple and ash.

For the saw kerfs, draw lines that connect the holes to the tenon’s end. Traditionally, the kerfs go to a hole’s center, but I aim for the hole’s inside edge (Photo 5). Looking headon at the completed joint, I believe this divides the tenon into more pleasing proportions.


Saw the wedges

Make wedges using the tablesaw (Photo 6). This method allows you to cut a precise angle and fine-tune each wedge’s thickness. Make a wedge blank from straight-grained wood. I prefer one that contrasts in color from the tenon. Make the blank about 3/4" thick and as wide as the mortise.

Tilt the blade to the guide block’s angle. Here, it’s 3 degrees. Raise the blade to make wedges that are about 1" longer than the tenon.

For a trial cut, position the stop block so the thin end of the wedge is the same thickness as the tenon’s kerfs. Clamp the blank to a tall fence using a wooden handscrew. (A wooden clamp protects your blade from damage if you accidentally place the clamp too low.) Flip the blank around to cut a second wedge. Remove the blank and crosscut the wedges by hand or on the bandsaw. File chamfers all the way around the wedges’ thin ends.


Test the wedges’ fit

Push the tenon all the way through the mortise—without glue, of course. Tap in the wedges, but not too hard (Photo 7). If they’re too skinny, cut them shorter or adjust the stop block and saw new ones. If your wedges become stuck, pull them out using locking pliers. The wedges should go in as far as possible but not be so long that they hit bottom before fully spreading the tenon. Marking the bandsaw kerf’s length on each wedge will help you prevent this problem.


Assemble the joint

When everything is ready to go together, you only have to put glue on the mortise’s long sides and the tenon’s cheeks. Clamp the joint so the tenon’s shoulders are tight to the mortise. Then brush glue into the saw kerfs and the mortise’s tapered spaces. Tap in both wedges and clean up the glue squeeze-out. Saw off the wedge’s excess length after the glue dries. Use a file or low-angle block plane to level the wedges flush to the tenon.

Click any image to view a larger version.

How the Joint Works

Here’s a cutaway view of a wedged mortise-and-tenon joint. Driving in the wedges forces the tenon to flare into a fan or dovetail shape. The mortise is tapered to match the angle of each wedge. Like a dovetail, this joint can’t pull apart after the wedges go home.

This tenon has two unusual features: saw kerfs that create flexible strips and holes that disperse the strain that the wedges create. The wedges cause the strips to bend; the holes prevent the bend from splitting the rail.

1. Make the mortise before you cut the tenon. I use a shop-made template, a drill press, plunge router and two flush-trim bits to make large throughmortises (Photo 2). The hole in the template is the exact size of the mortise.

2. Here’s a cross section of the mortise in various stages of completion. You make it in four steps: 1. Drill out most of the waste. 2. Follow the template with a short top-bearing flushtrim bit. 3. Using the same bit, remove the template and rout deeper. 4. Flip the workpiece and finish the mortise with a bottom-bearing flush-trim bit.

3. Using an angled guide block and chisel, taper the mortise’s ends into a flared shape. The taper leans 3 degrees from square. Make the taper about three-fourths the depth of the mortise. Turn the mortise over and square the remaining corners.

Designing Your Wedged Joint

Each part of a wedged joint must often be tailored to fit the joint’s size, intended strength and type of wood. Make a prototype following these steps:

1. Substitute a notch made with a dado set for the mortise (see “How the Joint Works,” page 2). Taper both of the notch’s sides by angling the miter gauge.

2. Make a full-size tenon. Observe how well the flexible strips bend. You may be able to use smaller strain-relief holes or no holes at all.

3. Experiment with the notch’s angle. The wider the taper, the stronger the joint. My taper is 3 degrees, but you can increase it up to 8 degrees.

4. Test the bend. My flexible strips are only 1/8" thick opposite the strain-relief hole; so they bend easily. Depending on the wood, this thickness can be increased to 1/4" or so to improve the joint’s appearance.

4. Cut a tenon to fit tightly into the back of the mortise, where there’s no taper. On the tenon, draw a centerline directly opposite the point where the mortise begins to taper outward. Drill two strain-relief holes all the way through the tenon.

5. Saw kerfs in the tenon to receive the wedges. This creates strips that can flex without breaking. I aim for the inner edge of the hole so that the kerfs don’t end up too close to the tenon’s edges.

6. Cut extra-long wedges on the tablesaw. Tilt the blade 3 degrees—the same angle as the guide block you used to taper the mortise. Crosscut the wedges from the blank with a bandsaw.

Caution: You must remove the blade’s guard for this cut. Be careful.

7. Test-fit the wedges without glue. You have to get their thickness just right to completely flare the tenon before the wedges hit bottom. Adjust the tablesaw setup until the wedges are the right size. You’re ready for gluing.



Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

MLCS Woodworking,, 800-533-9298, 1/2" Pattern/ Flush-Trim Bit, 1/4" shank, #16509; 1/2" Flush-Trim Bit, 1/2" shank, #17803.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker July 2006, issue #122.

July 2006, issue #122

Purchase this back issue.



Installing Knife Hinges

How to Install Knife Hinges

They’re a sure sign of good craftsmanship, but are almost invisible.

By Brad Holden


Small and discreet, knife hinges lend a tidy, refined look to your project. They’re ideal for a small cabinet if you want the hinge hardware to virtually disappear.

Knife hinges are also a hallmark of good craftsmanship. Precisely laying out their mortises takes patience and a steady hand. You’ll be using some classic hand tools, such as a marking knife, a marking gauge and a few sharp chisels. There are no short cuts, and practically no room for adjustment once the mortises are cut.

Don’t let me scare you, though. If you follow the steps outlined below, you really can’t go wrong.

There are two styles of knife hinges: straight and off set. Straight hinges are used for overlay doors. Off set hinges let a door swing out farther than straight hinges, so they’re used for cabinets with inset doors. I’ll be showing you how to install off set hinges.


Before you start

All knife hinges are composed of two parts, or “leaves,” that are easy to separate. One leaf is mortised into the top and bottom edges of the cabinet’s door; the mating leaf is mortised into the cabinet itself. It’s extremely difficult to cut the mortises in the cabinet after the cabinet is assembled. Your best bet is to hold off gluing the cabinet together until you’ve completed all the mortising.

Begin by temporarily clamping the cabinet together. Cut the door so that it’s a snug fit in the opening.

Next, determine the size of the gap you’ll want all around the door. This isn’t an arbitrary measurement: It’s determined by the gap between the two leaves of your hinges, which is the thickness of the washer between the leaves. Make shims that are the same thickness as the washer. (I use a stack of cut-up playing cards. The washers on my hinges were three cards thick.)

Carefully cut the door smaller, ending up with gaps that are the same size on all four sides. I use a hand plane when I get close to final size in order to avoid taking off too much wood.


Door mortises first

The most accurate way to lay out the mortises is with a marking knife and a marking gauge. Making shallow grooves in the wood, these tools allow you to positively register a chisel in a way that a pencil line cannot.

We’ll start with the door mortises, because the thickness of the door determines the position of the hinge. Clamp the door in a vise at a comfortable working height. Position one leaf of the hinge on the door’s top or bottom edge, so that the hinge is flush with the door’s edge. Using a marking knife, mark the hinge’s end with a short, shallow cut (Photo 1). Locate your knife in the cut, slide a small square against the blade and scribe a line all the way across.

Adjust a mortising gauge to the width of the hinge (Photo 2; see Sources, below). You could also use a marking gauge with a single pin or a single wheel, but you’ll have to re-adjust it for each side of the mortise.

Adjust the gauge’s head so that the mortise will be centered on the door. Test the setting on a piece of scrap the same thickness as your door. When you’ve got the setting right, scribe the mortise’s long sides (Photo 3).

Hold the hinge in place again and mark its off set arm (Photo 4). As before, make a short cut first, then scribe the line using a square.

The best way to remove most of the waste inside the mortise is to use a 1/8” bit in a laminate trimmer or other small router (see Sources). You could chop the mortise with a chisel, but it’s risky. The walls of the mortise are usually very thin and could easily split out. The depth of the mortise should exactly match the thickness of one hinge leaf. To set the bit’s depth of cut, turn your router upside down, set a hinge leaf on the router’s base and slide the leaf against the bit (Photo 5).

Rout the mortise (Photo 6). Clamp boards on both sides of the door to keep your router from wobbling. Extend the boards about 1” past the edge of the door to ensure that the router is steady before you start cutting. Rout freehand, staying about 1/32” inside the lines. You’ll find that a 1/8” bit is very easy to control. Don’t push too hard, though; this bit is fragile.

Clean up the mortise by gradually paring to the layout lines. Use a wide chisel on the long sides to make straight, crisp edges (Photo 7). I use a 1-1/4” butt chisel.


Cabinet mortises second

The cabinet is still clamped together, right? The first step in marking the cabinet mortises is the same as marking the door mortises: Begin with one end of the hinge. Here, though, the hinge won’t be flush with the cabinet’s side, because you have to allow for a gap between the door and the cabinet. On my cabinet, the gap is the thickness of three playing cards (the thickness of the washer between the hinge leaves). Place the cards, or whatever shims you’re using, between the hinge and the side of the cabinet (Photo 8). Then mark the opposite end of the hinge, shallow and short at first, followed by a squared line.

If the door is set back from the cabinet’s top and bottom, use a square to measure this distance (Photo 9). (If your door is flush with cabinet’s top, bottom and sides, skip this step.) Slide your mortising gauge’s head further away from the pins by this distance. Test your new setting on scrap to make sure it’s right.

Now you can remove the clamps and disassemble the cabinet. Scribe the mortise’s long sides on the cabinet’s top and bottom (Photo 10). Lay the hinge in place, then mark its opposite end and the off set arm. Scribe these lines, as before, using a square and marking knife. Rout the mortises. Clean them up using a chisel (Photo 11 ).

Next, set the hinge leaves in the cabinet mortises and pre-drill pilot holes for the screws (Photo 12). I use a self-centering bit for this operation to ensure that the holes are perfectly aligned. That’s not so critical for the cabinet mortises, because the hinge is trapped, but centered holes are critical for the door mortises, where the hinge could slide.

If you’re using brass screws, “thread” the pilot holes first with steel screws of the same size, then install the brass screws. Use a screwdriver, not a drill/driver, to avoid stripping out or breaking the screws.

You may want to re-assemble the cabinet one more time, just with clamps, to make sure the door hangs right. (Or if you’re feeling confident, glue it!) Reassemble the hinges by slipping the door leaves back onto the pins of the cabinet leaves (Photo 13).

Lay the cabinet on its back and slide the door onto the hinges (Photo 14). You might need some help here, because you can’t see both hinges at the same time. Once the door is in place, pre-drill pilot holes for the screws, then install the screws (Photo 15).

Stand up the cabinet and check the door’s fit and gaps. Make any necessary adjustments using a hand plane or sanding block.



Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Rockler,, 800-279-4441, Micro-Adjustable Rosewood Marking Gauge, #22206.

Freud,, 800-334-4107, 1/8” dia. Double Flute Straight Bit, #04-100.

These stories originally appeared in American Woodworker June/July 2012, issue #160.

Knife hinges go undercover when installed—you can barely see them. They’re perfect for the type of cabinets whose hardware shouldn’t distract from the piece’s design or the beauty of the wood.

1. Lay out the door mortises first. Position one hinge leaf flush with the door’s edge, then scribe across the end of the hinge.

2. Set the pins on a mortising gauge to the width of the leaf.

3. Scribe the mortise from the face side of the door.

4. Scribe the hinge’s offset arm, again using the hinge itself as a template.

5. Adjust the height of a 1/8” router bit to match the thickness of the leaf.

6. Rout about 1/32” shy of the mortise’s layout lines. Clamp two support boards to the door to prevent the router from tipping.

7. Pare to the lines using a wide chisel. Take thin shavings, so you don’t split out the mortise’s thin walls.

8. Temporarily assemble your cabinet, then lay out its hinge mortises. Place shims next to the hinge to determine the gap between the door and cabinet side.

9. If the sides and door of your cabinet are set back, measure this distance. Move the head of the mortising gauge away from the pins by the same amount.

10. Disassemble the cabinet, then scribe mortises on the pieces above and below the door. Remove most of the waste using your router.

11. Clean up the sides of the mortise with a chisel.

12. Place the leaves that have pins in the cabinet mortises. Pre-drill the screw holes using a selfcentering bit. Install the screws by hand.

13. Re-assemble the cabinet and add the other hinge leaves.

14. Slide the door onto the hinges.

15. Install the screws in the door leaves. If everything fits right, glue the cabinet together.


2 Ways to Cut a 3-Way Miter

2 Ways to Cut a 3-Way Miter

Create this impressive joint by hand or with power tools.

By Garrett Glaser


Admiring the complex 3-way mitered joint between the leg and aprons in an antique Chinese table is natural. But the thought of cutting and fitting this interlocking joint by hand is enough to make most woodworkers run up a white flag. Fortunately, the same joint appears in contemporary designs, which means there’s also a modern (easier) way to complete it. In this story I’ll demonstrate both methods and provide all the information you need to build a table with 3-way miters. Whether you love the challenge of using hand tools or love the reliability and predictability of modern power tools, there’s a straightforward way to fashion this elegant, versatile and time-tested joint.



Machine-Cut 3-Way Miter Joint


Simplicity defines this joint, because the cuts on all three parts are identical. Each part has two miters and two slots for loose tenons. Only two setups are required, one for mitering and one for routing. This method is based on a miter saw, but a tablesaw can also be used. A simple shopmade jig is used for routing.

The miters must be precise, so a saw that cuts accurately is a must. Set up the saw to make a perfectly plumb 45˚ cut. Don’t rely on the saw’s scales—if the miters are off by even a tiny amount, the joints won’t close tightly. Make test cuts on scrap stock to ensure accuracy.

Start with straight, square stock. Crosscut both ends at 90˚, about 1" longer than final dimension. Mark the final length on each piece; mark both ends of the apron blanks. Set aside a 12" length of the same stock for layout. Mark a registration line on the layout piece about 4" from one end. Clamp this piece to the saw and cut a 45˚ miter. Without moving the layout piece, transfer the registration line to the saw’s fence (Photo 1). Remove the layout piece and position it next to a leg blank so the tip of its miter aligns with the final length mark (Photo 2). Transfer the registration line to the leg and continue it around all four sides. Mark every blank this way—mark both ends of the apron blanks.

Cut miters on two adjacent faces of each blank. Align the registration lines on the blank and the saw before making each cut (Photo 3). To minimize tearout, orient the blank so that the second miter is always made with the first miter facing up. If the cuts don’t meet exactly at a point on the inside corner, something is awry—check the saw’s setup. When mitering the aprons, make sure that the pointed ends of the miters are on the same edge!

Loose tenons reinforce all the miters. Rout mortises for the loose tenons using a 3/8" straight bit, a 1/2" guide bushing and a simple jig (Fig. A, below). Use one end of the jig to rout the left facet of each joint and the other end to rout the right facet (Photo 4). Square the end of the mortises with a chisel. Then make loose tenons to fit the slots.

As all of the joints are interrelated, it’s best to check the way they fit with the table assembled. A positioning jig and a band clamp stabilize the pieces during this process (Photo 5). The jig positions the legs and keeps them plumb; the clamp equalizes pressure on the joints. To make the jig, cut a piece of MDF to match the table’s footprint (it’s defined by the lengths of the short and long aprons). Position the legs flush with the corners. Press corner blocks against both inside edges of each leg. Then fasten the blocks to the MDF.

With the table assembled, examine the joints and mark surfaces that need finessing. Then true each joint in stages, round-robin-style, using a rabbeting plane, a chisel or even a sanding block. Keep a couple of bar clamps handy to strategically apply additional clamping pressure. If you need to apply downward pressure on the aprons, raise the jig on blocks to provide a clamping lip.

When the joints fit satisfactorily, disassemble the table. Apply glue to the legs and short aprons and install the appropriate loose tenons. Assemble the ends and clamp them in the positioning jig. Apply glue to the remaining joint surfaces and install the remaining tenons. Spread the end assemblies to install the long aprons. Then install the band clamp and any necessary “tweaking” clamps.

Fig. A: Routing Jig

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Use a scrap piece marked with a registration line to set up the saw. Clamp the piece to the saw and miter the end. Then without moving the piece, transfer the registration line to the saw.

2. Use the mitered scrap piece to mark all the blanks. Align the tip of its miter with a line drawn on the blank to indicate its final length. Then transfer the registration line.

3. Align the registration lines to cut miters on adjacent faces of all the leg and apron blanks. To minimize tearout, always cut the second miter with the first miter facing up.

4. Rout slots for loose tenons with a straight bit, a guide bushing and a simple jig. Square the slot ends by hand. Then cut loose tenons to fit.

5. Assemble the table using a jig to keep the legs in position. Install the short aprons and tenons. Spread the ends to install the long aprons. Then use a band clamp to draw the joints tight.



Hand-Cut 3-Way Miter Joint


Most traditional Chinese 3-way miter joints consist of three (or more) interlocking pieces, each with their own configuration of tenons and mortises. I’ve created a simplified version that requires only two pieces, the leg and two identical but mirror-image aprons. My joint won’t win awards for authentic traditional joinery, but it’s a good jumping-off point. Mastering this joint develops skills that will allow you to tackle more complex versions. A good place to start looking for authentic examples is Gustav Ecke’s excellent book Chinese Domestic Furniture (see Source, below).

Creating a 3-way miter by hand requires three skills: precise layout, sawing straight lines (see “Using a Pull Saw,” below) and accurately removing waste. No single step is especially difficult, but there are a good number of them. The order in which you complete the steps is the key to success. A fourth requirement isn’t so much a skill as a personality trait: patience. Mastering this process takes practice.

Start by milling the stock. Use light-colored wood at first, so your layout lines will be easy to see and imperfections will show clearly as dark crevices in the assembled joints. In 3-way miters, the aprons and legs are squared to the same dimensions. Every piece must be straight. If one piece has a twist or bend, it won’t matter how masterfully you cut and chisel—the joint will never close tightly.

Cut the aprons and legs to final length—the aprons on opposite sides must be identical (or all four aprons, if the table is square). Lay out all of the cuts on the top and all four faces of each leg (Fig. B). Use an accurate square and a sharp pencil or a knife to create the lines.


The Leg Joint

The first cuts on each leg are diagonal and stopped (Photo 1 and Fig. C). The two diagonal cuts on the outside faces are the most visible of all the cuts you will make, so use a metal straightedge to ensure clean, straight cuts. Position the straightedge so the blade will split the layout line. Hold the saw against the straightedge and flat on the workpiece. Then saw a groove just deep enough to keep the saw from jumping out as you complete the cut. Remove the straightedge. Keep the blade in the groove while using its heel to make a perpendicular cut down the adjacent side to the first stop line. Then slowly angle the blade forward and use its toe to cut down to the stop line on the opposite side.

The second cuts run across the leg’s two inside faces (Photo 2 and Fig. D). They’re the only cuts that aren’t perpendicular to the surface. Use one of the diagonal cuts you just made to position your saw at the correct angle, then saw back across the face to the diagonal cut on the opposite side.

The third cuts form a tic-tac-toe grid across the top (Photo 3 and Fig. E). Although most of these cuts will be removed later, making them now ensures square tenons, because it’s much harder to cut a perfectly true short line than a long one. These stopped cuts also act as a guide for waste removal.

The fourth cuts create shoulders for the miter joints (Photo 4 and Fig. F). Establish a straight, shallow groove and then saw diagonally until you reach the outside edge of the top and the bottom edge of the miter on the adjacent face. If the triangular waste piece doesn’t come loose, make sure the diagonal cut was sawed to a uniform depth—rocking the saw from heel to toe sometimes leaves a high spot in the middle.

The fifth cuts remove waste and reveal angled shoulders on the inside faces (Photo 5 and Fig. G). Make a pair of deep stopped cuts that run across the top and down both adjacent faces. Be careful not to cut into the mitered shoulders on the outside faces, as doing so will leave a visible mark when the joint is assembled.

The final cut establishes the flat shoulder at the base of the tenons (Photo 6 and Fig. H). Start by marking guide lines on both inside faces, 5/16" down from the top and running from the inside corner to the saw kerf that defines the tenon cheek. Use the lines to cut diagonally to the kerfs—be sure to stop before you saw into the tenons!

Use a 1/4" Forstner bit to remove as much of the waste as you can (Photo 7). Then switch to a chisel (Photo 8). The shoulder’s surface must be absolutely flat, so finish by paring across the grain. Be sure to remove any ragged fibers left in the corners.


The Apron Joint

Mark the aprons for cutting and mortising (Fig. J). The first cuts create miters on the top and outside faces (Photo 9). These diagonal cuts are just as visible as those on the leg, so start them the same way, using a straightedge. Use the heel of the blade to saw the line on the adjacent face and finish the cut by sawing at a 45˚ angle.

Cut the mortise in the top face. (Each apron joint houses one of the leg tenons.) Drill a 3/8" deep hole with a 1/4" Forstner bit and then square the corners with a chisel (Photo 10).

Draw guide lines on the two mitered faces on the inside of the joint (Fig. J). One line is located 5/16" from the outside edge and the other 5/16" from the bottom of the miter—these lines align with the mortise on two sides.

When removing the waste, use one line to guide the side of the chisel and the other to establish the depth (Photo 11). Barely tap the chisel for the first cuts—the grain is so short at the front that it’s easy to remove too much. You should be left with one relatively clean end-grain shoulder and two fairly ragged long-grain shoulders. Make sure the end-grain shoulder is absolutely flat. Pare the long-grain shoulders to exactly 5/16" thickness (Photo 12).


True the fit

When you first assemble a leg and apron, don’t be alarmed if the pieces don’t even go together. Truing the fit requires patience and thoughtful sleuthing. Look carefully to determine what might be gumming up the works (Photo 13). Make sure the mortise fits the tenon without binding—if this joint is too tight it can keep the other parts of the joint from fitting. Once the mortise and tenon fit properly, check the other joint surfaces for irregularities.

Don’t spend too much time fitting an apron and leg before adding the second apron. After all, this is a three-piece joint, and having all three parts together shows much more than two parts can show. You’ll quickly learn how a small adjustment on one piece can affect the way the other two pieces fit.

In fact, because all the joints are interrelated, the best strategy is to assemble the legs and aprons as soon as possible and true each joint in stages, roundrobin- style, using a rabbet plane and a chisel (Photo 14). Use the positioning jig shown earlier to keep the legs plumb while you finesse the joints. Temporarily shimming the mortises during this process can help to identify problem areas. Once all the joints have been fit, you’ll probably have to permanently shim some of the mortises. That’s OK; the shims will be virtually invisible after they’re glued and sanded flush.

Use the assembly jig and the band clamp for glueup. If you need to apply downward pressure on the aprons, raise the jig on blocks to provide a clamping lip.

Fig. B: Leg Layout

Fig. C: First Cuts

Fig. D: Second Cuts

Fig. E: Third Cuts

Fig. F: Fourth Cuts

Fig. G: Fifth Cuts

Fig. H: Final Cut

Fig. J: Apron Layout

1. Start by sawing four diagonals on each leg, one on each face. Use a straightedge to guide the saw. Attach sandpaper to the back of the straightedge so it won’t slip.

2. Saw the bottom edge of the miter on the two inside faces. Use the diagonal kerf from the previous step to establish the 45˚ slope. Then work back to the diagonal kerf on the opposite edge.

3. Create the tic-tac-toe grid on the top by making four straight cuts. Saw to the upper layout lines on the adjacent faces.

4. Create square shoulders on the two outside miters by sawing diagonally across the top and one adjacent face. Waste removal begins with these cuts.

5. Make deep stopped cuts across both inside faces to reveal the angled inside shoulders. You’ll have to re-mark some of the layout lines in order to make these cuts.

6. Complete each leg joint by removing the waste from around the two tenons. Sawing across the inside corner to the tenon kerfs creates a flat shoulder at the base of the tenons.

7. Remove the bulk of the waste that remains between the tenons by drilling through the tic-tac-toe blocks.

8. Complete the joint by paring across the grain to create a flat shoulder beneath the tenons.

9. Start each apron corner by making two through diagonal cuts, one on the top and one on the outside face.

10. Square the mortise after drilling a stopped hole to remove most of the waste.

11. Hollow the inside of the joint after marking the shoulders on both mitered faces. Remove the waste with a series of shallow chisel cuts, working from front to back.

12. Pare to the guide lines and square the end-grain shoulder. Removing the waste reveals the mortise—it’s flush with the corner formed by the end-grain and long-grain shoulders.

13. Fitting the joints takes time. Make sure that the shoulders of each joint are the same thickness, that all of the mating surfaces are absolutely flat and that the mortises aren’t too small.

14. All of the joints are interrelated, so assemble the table as soon as you can. Then work a little on each joint in rotation. Here, a temporary shim shows high spots that require further work.



Using a Pull Saw

The art of sawing straight and square with a pull saw isn’t as mysterious as you might think. I use a fine-tooth flush-cut pull saw to cut 3-way miters. (The teeth on a flush-cut saw have no set, which means they don’t flare beyond the body of the blade). You can spend a lot of money for this type of saw, but I get great results using a $10 version from a home improvement store—and I don’t have to worry about the replacement cost if I kink the blade or break a tooth.

When you saw, the goal is to split the layout line. Don’t worry—it’s easier than it sounds. Just make sure that the outside edge of the blade follows the center of the line, so half of the line remains on the workpiece and the other half becomes sawdust.

To make a through cut, you follow two adjacent lines, one across the top of the piece and one continuing down the side that faces you. Focus first on the top line. Hold the blade nearly parallel to the surface, but with the heel (the end closest to the handle) raised slightly, and saw lightly along the line from the far side to the near side until you’ve made a shallow groove across the top. Keep the saw in the groove and switch your focus to the vertical line on the side. Using the heel of the blade, saw your way down the line until the teeth of your saw meet the ends of both lines. If you are cutting square stock, this puts your saw at a 45˚angle. Keep your saw at this angle to complete the cut. The kerf you’ve created keeps the saw square and plumb for the rest of the cut.

To make a stopped cut you need three lines—the line across the top and stopped lines on the opposite adjacent faces. Begin the cut as you would a through cut, creating a groove across the top and then cutting with the heel to the bottom of the first stopped line. But instead of putting pressure on the heel to continue the cut, make the toe of the saw do all the work, cutting down the line on the opposite face, slowly leveling the blade so that the teeth connect the two points where the cut should stop.


Build a Table with 3-Way Miter Joints

The legs and aprons of tables joined with 3-way miters form an open frame whose dimensions are determined by the lengths of the three components. Adding a top can be as simple as attaching cleats inside the aprons and cutting a piece to fit.


Cutting List



Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Tools for Working Wood,, 800-426-4613; Gustav Ecke, Chinese Domestic Furniture, Mineola: Dover Publications, 1986, AQ-1037.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December/January 2011, issue #151.




AW Extra 6/19/14 – Soup Up Your Router Table

Soup Up Your Router Table

By Dave Munkittrick

Your router table will really sing with these great accessories. Like all good tools, our accessories will increase safety and improve results. Even though we designed them specifically for the Best Buy Router Table on page 39, they’re easily adapted to use on almost any router-table system.


Stop Blocks

A stop block is indispensable for cuts that don’t go the entire length of the board. Ours mounts on the fence T-track for quick settings that won’t budge.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Cut hardwood runners (V) wide enough to just fit into the T-track slot, but not as deep. Glue the strips on the blocks, and drill out for the 1-1/4-in.1/4-20 hex bolt.




Featherboards make routing safer and better. Safer because they hold the work against the table and fence instead of your hands. Better because the constant pressure holds the piece on both sides of the bit for smooth, washboard-free profiles.

The featherboards are made from clear, solid-wood stock like pine or poplar. There are two sizes (see Cutting List, page 45). The longer ones are mounted on the table and the shorter ones on the fence. Cut the 45-degree angles first. The 1/4-in. slots can be cut on the router table and the feathers are cut using a bandsaw.



Freehand Guard

A freehand guard and a starting pin are a must for routing curved profiles, such as this arch-topped door panel. Dust collection isn’t perfect, but it keeps the bit area clear.

Assemble the base (parts B, C and D) with glue and screws. Then build the hood (parts E through H, N, P and W). Slip the hood over the base and glue the two 1/4-in. guide dowels into the base. The winged bolts allow you to adjust the height of the hood. Drill two 1/4-in. holes at the back of the base for the hold-down knobs.



Router-Table Sled

A router-table sled replaces the miter slot found on many commercial tables. It allows you to safely perform end-grain cutting, such as the cope cut on this rail, without having to set your fence perfectly parallel to a miter slot.

The only tricky part to making this accessory is getting the holes for the bolts just right. Simply hold the completed jig up to the fence with the base on the table and mark the T-track opening. Then, drill your holes in the center of the marked opening. UHMW T-track slides guide the sled along the fence.



Tall Fence

A tall fence makes vertical routing safe and accurate. It provides plenty of support for work that must be stood on end to rout, such as drawer joints, lock-miter joints and vertical panel raising.

The tall fence fits between the two outside supports of the main fence. Build the two supports (U and T) and attach them to the main fence. Use a square to align the top (S) with the face of the main fence and secure with screws or winged bolts.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker March 2003, issue #99.

Purchase this back issue.



Dutch Tool Chest with a Lower Storage Unit

The Dutch Tool Chest from the October 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine has proven to be a popular project – I’ve been asked to teach classes on building this chest all over the world this year. In that article, I provide plans for building two versions of the chest. The small chest has a single lower compartment for tools. The larger chest has two compartments for tools. During the […]

The post Dutch Tool Chest with a Lower Storage Unit appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


Making a Sunroom (From a Screened-in Porch)

I’ve written here before about creating removable wall screens for our porch. My wife enjoyed this screened-in area so much she eventually asked if we could create a wall of glass so we could enjoy this south facing ‘room’ in the winter, as well.

This is a shot of the porch’s exterior, during winter (when we used to stack firewood there).



We ended up deciding on very large windows …making the entire wall, almost all glass. Three, 5 foot high by 6 foot wide slider windows with invisible screens for summer… will maintain that outdoor feeling. We positioned them 2′ off the floor so the top edge  came within a foot of the ceiling (for maximum sunlight).

I did a rendering so my sons & I were all on the same page before we began construction….


new sunroom wall construction


…. we framed-out the new wall, faced it with exterior ply & wrapped with moisture barrier. Then we removed all the clapboard from the three interior walls.



we saved the old clapboard to cover the new exterior wall


Next we had to create a new floor (8 inches higher than the existing stone floor). This would make the floor warm in the winter, make it level with the adjacent kitchen floor & create a space for the vent pipe for our clothes dryer’s exhaust from the basement. We covered the old stone floor with tar paper, placed joists (to raise the floor) and filled  each slot with insulation and covered with two layers of 3/4 inch plywood (extra rigid for a tile floor). We then inserted the three big windows, insulated & sheet rock’d the interior walls.


the room will be warm & dry, this way


a 'wall of glass' is what makes a sunroom



We left the two existing windows (on what used to be the outside of the house) so that some daylight still made it through the sunroom and into our livingroom…. Now that I had a total of five windows and a doorway to surround with molding, I decided to make my own casing …as I wanted it’s shape to be clean & simple but really substantial in size. I used 5/4 inch by 8 inch and 3/4 by 6 inch boards & rounded all the outside edges. Here’s a pic of my sketches and two more of the casing getting installed & painted.


front views on the bottom & a profile sketch above (turn counter-clockwise to see in upright position)




We decided a tile floor would be best for a sunroom and found what looked like the floor from a century old Santa Fe building.



Once the floor was installed, we added the base molding and a crown molding. We hung a ceiling fan and mounted wall sconces at each end of the room. We painted the walls & trim the same color (so the molding’s shape stood out) and we covered the ceiling with a mixture of half white and half wall color (not as stark a contrast, walls & ceiling look better this way) and finally, filled the room with some comfortable chairs, etc.



a little busy but finally done


The view out the windows is all foliage with a few bird houses … /  everybody loves hanging out there now.

I’m glad I put the time in. Increased the value of our home too. A ‘win-win’.

Russell Hudson / Hudson Cabinetmaking, Inc.


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