Joint Testing

failed jointAs woodworkers, we often seem to be obsessed by how strong joints are, and in many ways this is good. Of course we don't want people to be hurt sitting on a chair that could collapse, but in many cases the joints are many times stronger than actually needed. This is in part because of the way we need to make them in order for them to be secure.

In the associated video, I put together a variety of joints, all of them with Red Oak, just to see how well each kind of joint holds up. All of the joints were end grain to long grain, with the exception of the lap joint (which I will talk about later). End grain to long grain are the hardest joints because end grain does not glue well to long grain, well at least with much strength, so other means of fastening must be adapted.

In order to be fair with each joint, all the end grain pieces are 3 inches wide. This was selected for a couple of reasons, first of all it would accommodate the largest wood biscuit commercially available; the other reason is that by using 3" viewers could use the info to associate it with both 2" or 4". I just don't have time to run all the tests of both 2" and 4" material, so 3" seemed like a good compromise.

The lap joint was slightly smaller because I felt it was unfair to have 3-1/2 inches of long grain glued to long grain so it is slightly smaller at 2-1/2 inches ...

Using a Doweling Jig

I love it when there are pleasant surprises in woodworking. Thanks to a few of our subscribers who have asked about using doweling jigs after a number of videos we released on using pocket hole jigs. Pocket hole jigs are great but, but there are alternatives. Not everyone loves pocket hole technology ... for a few reasons: 
1) it leaves visible holes (that can often be placed in the back or underside of the build, or they can be "plugged")
2) on rare occasion the screws will crack the wood
3) it can be difficult to match the plugs colors to the main wood.
There are also advantages to pocket holes, like ... you can take the project apart to repair, rebuild or re-use. The alternative to pocket hole technology is doweling, which has been around in one form or another for, well ... hundreds of years, and it works as well now as it did then.

There are 2 main advantages of doweling technology
1) joints can be completely hidden within the wood
2) the strength of the dowels is every bit equal or exceeding pocket hole or in many cases even mortise and tenon type technology.
I thought it was high time I got up to speed on doweling jigs.

As a bit of a newcomer to doweling technology, and after un-packaging my Dowelmax jig, I was very impressed by the quality of the jig. The number of well thought out accessories and add-on components was also impressive. It did take me a bit of practice to really understand how the jig worked but once I got on to it, with each joint I made, the jig continued to impress me ... what a pleasant surprise ...

Using a Commercial Dovetail Jig

dovetailDovetails have long been associated with quality woodworking and quality furniture. Dovetails look great and add a unique detail that shows the craftsmanship of the woodworker. Traditionally, dovetails were cut by hand using a back saw and a chisel, and in some cases a coping saw top help cut out the unused pieces. If you are a dedicated hand tool craftsman and or are a commercial woodworker and you can take the time to practice hand cutting dovetails, it is possible to get some amazingly accurate and beautiful results. If you are a some-times, novice or infrequent woodworker, cutting hand dovetails is something you may do very seldom so getting nice cut dovetails is much harder to do, and that is why a number of companies have developed and sell, jigs that can help those "infrequent" woodworkers in making quality dovetails.

Many of the commercial dovetail jigs are similar in their designs and in the way they operate. In most cases they will use a router with a dovetail bit fitted to it, and often these bits are included with the jig. Another thing in common with most of the commercial jigs is that they will only make what are called 1/2 blind dovetails out of the box, if you want to make Through dovetails you may need to purchase additional pieces for your jig. To see pictures of the difference between Through and 1/2 blind dovetails, see pictures further in the article.

Box Joint Jig - Operational Details

box_joint_thmJudging by the number of questions I received about making the box joint jig, it is evident that I didn't cover off with enough detail exactly now the "indexing" or "finger alignment" worked, so this video is to make up that shortfall. When you are making Lynn Sabin box joint jig, one of the key components is the Readi-Rod (also known as threaded rod, Redi Rod, Ready Rod and Thready Rod). The rod basically has three components, the length of the rod, the diameter of the rod and the number of threads per inch that are carved into the rod. Of Course the length is important as it needs to be the full length of your jig, the diameter is not so important but I found 3/8" to be a good weight to work with, and the final Very important component, the threads per inch ... should be 16 threads per inch. There are many other options of threads per inch and you can decide if another is best for you, but for most woodworkers 16 will be the best and here's how it works.

 

Comparing Box Joint Jigs

box jointOne of the most recognizeable joints in woodworking is the dovetail joint. It has been around for centuries and is always associated with quality. In the past century one of the main purposes of dovetail joints is in making drawers, which is a real pity because dovetail joints are such a pretty joint they should really by "seen" more often. What many woodworkers don't realize is that as popular as dovetail joints are, they are often confused with another joint called "box joint", which is similar in design and look, but box joints have square pins and tails compared to dovetail which have angled pins and tails.

When comparing the two joints, the dovetail joint is easily the prettiest of the two but slighly more difficult to make. The dovetail joint It appears to take more time to make and just looks better. Among woodworkers, anyone who can actually hand-cut high quality dovetails are often held in high regard. One of the best people for hand cutting dovetail joints that I have had the pleasure of meeting and working in association with at woodworking shows is Rob Cosman. I can't imagine how many dovetail joints Rob must have cut in his lifetime, but the quality of his cuts is evidence that practice make perfect. Check out Rob's website for more information on dovetail joints at www.robcosman.com.

Now, back to the topic of box joints, and comparing the jigs and how to make them.

What most woodworkers don't realize is the most people who know a bit about fine furniture will call box joints dovetail joints. There is really only a small portion of the population that really know the difference. It's almost like what a woodworker told me once, "if you want to impress another woodworker, make a dovetail joint, if you want to impress the rest of the population, a box joint will work just fine".  To back up his claim, I told him that I had been in a number of situations where people have called box joints dovetail joints, and he agreed and confirmed that  only a very few, knowledgeable furniture experts have been able to identify the difference.

So, what are some of the best ways to make these joints, well, read on and we will show talk about them.

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