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Intro to Woodworking @ Makeville -- Class 3

We ended the second class with milled boards cut to length for our tabletop, aprons, and legs.

This section of the previous post shows the pieces we had going into the third class.

We’ve still got a bunch of joinery, cutting, gluing, assembly, and sanding/finishing ahead of us!

Plan for the sidetable This is what we're building.

Here’s what we did in the third class:

  • We glued up our tabletop to bring it to 15”. We’ll be cutting a circle out of this piece in a future class.
  • We cross-cut all our pieces to length on the table saw (first time using the table saw for cross-cuts).
  • We made our first foray into joinery! We cut a half-lap joint on our aprons using a dado stack on the table saw.

Glue-up

Gluing up the tabletop The tabletop being held in place with pipe clamps while the glue sets. Missing in this shot are four F clamps that I used to clamp the two glue seams on either side initially. The discoloration comes from glue squeezed out by the clamps and I'll sand that away later.

It’s surprising to me how few nails and screws are used in woodworking. Wood glue forms bonds stronger than wood itself – when furniture breaks it rarely does so on seams formed by glue. Glue often takes the place of other fasteners.

Here’s what our glue-up process looked like.

  • Lay out our pieces side-by-side to find the best look. Mark panels where they’ll be joined with a pencil.
  • Edge joint the parts that’ll be glued again. Our edges were flat but not flat enough to form completely-flush seams.
  • Set the panels on some cauls to give them height and keep them level with each other. Our cauls were made of wood and had packing tape on them so the glue wouldn’t stick to it.
  • Do a dry-run of the clamping. Wood glue sets pretty quickly so you’re running against the clock and want to have ironed out any issues before you start.
    • This is important, especially as a beginner. For example, I forgot to unscrew my F clamp fully in the dry run so I didn’t have enough thread to make a tight clamp. It took about 30 seconds to debug and fix the problem.
  • Unclamp, smear glue generously on the edges, and then clamp again.
  • Clean as much glue off as possible with a damp rag before it sets.
  • Leave the clamps set up for the rest of the class (about 2 hours).
This video covers pretty much an identical process to ours with comparably-sized panels.

Cross-cutting on the table saw

A crosscut jig for the table saw We used this shop-made jig at Makeville Studio to do cross-cuts with reliable 90 degree edges. Note the clamped stop block -- that allows us to make repeatable cuts of the same length.

I would have loved to take more photos of this process but, alas, I was busy paying attention so I wouldn’t cut my fingers off or embarrass myself.

We used the jig above to make cross-cuts and we clamped a stop block so that we could get repeatable cuts. I thought cross-cutting was considerably easier and less stressful than making rip cuts on the table saw.

A few tips I took away:

  • Hold the wood tightly against the jig (or fence?). If it moves around you’ll get imprecise cuts.
  • Keep your hand holding the wood a few inches away from the blade!
  • Pull the jig back after the cut is done, then take your cut piece and move the waste away.
    • If the waste happens to be too close to the blade, have a stick lying around that you can push waste away with so that you’re not reaching over the saw.

Half-lap joints with a dado stack

This was the most complicated cut we’d made to-date.

Lap joints are joints where pieces overlap. Half-lap joints are those where each piece overlaps the same amount. Cross-laps are when these joints occur in the middle of pieces instead of at their ends.

I think we did half cross-lap joints but I’m not certain about the vocab here.

See below.

Half-lap joinery on our aprons The half-lap joinery cuts we made on our aprons, side-by-side.
The aprons, joined The aprons, joined together! They are completely flush, I think we'll be gluing them up during assembly at the end. The blackened part is burn from the tablesaw and will be hidden anyway.

Again, not sure about the vocab here but I think what we did was cut dadoes into our aprons with a dado stack to form half-lap joints.

Let’s break that down:

  • dadoes are slots cut into wood perpendicular to the grain. They’re called grooves when they’re with the grain.
  • dado stacks or stacked dado blades are special blades stacked together, typically to your desired dado width.
  • half-lap joints are the joints we made above.

For this joint to work:

  • The width of the dado needed to be the thickness of our apron pieces: 3/4”.
  • The height of the dado needed to be half the width of our apron pieces: 7/16”.
Stacked dado blades on a table saw An example of stacked dado blades set up on a tablesaw.

Before setting up the cut we outfitted table saw with a dado stack together. This was instructive, but I didn’t take any photos. Makeville Studios has SawStop table saws and the first time I do this on my own I’m going to look up some videos and talk to the monitor at the shop.

Our instructor did the meticulous work of setting up this cut for us so we could precisely and repeatably make them on the table saw.

The beginning of a dado cut We used a dado cut jig, much like the cross-cutting jig, to cut our dadoes. A stop block allowed us to make repeatable cuts.
The end of a dado cut Here's the end of one of my classmates cutting a dado into her apron.

Getting the dado width right

Here’s what our instructor did:

  • Set up the dado stack to just below our desired width. Our desired width was 3/4”, so the stack was 5/8”.
  • Mark the half-lap joint on the apron and line up the cut with one end of the blade against one edge of the marking.
  • The resulting cut was too narrow but she turned the apron around and ran it through the blade again, resulting in a 3/4” cut.

I don’t remember the reasoning behind working up to 3/4”, but I think it’s because you risk mis-centering the cut or having the blade cut too wide a dado.

It seems like for most joinery, working into your desired dimension is safer and makes it less likely that you won’t waste your piece.

Getting the dado height right

The height of the dado will be the height of the dado stack on the table saw. Here’s what our instructor did:

  • She set up her height conservatively but close to the height she marked.
  • She made a cut, re-adjusted, then kept going until the height was just right.

Again, she worked into our desired dimension. This seems to be a common way to achieve precise joinery cuts.

What’s next?

We’ll be cutting mortises and tenons to join our legs to our aprons, cutting up our rounded tabletops, and tapering our legs before assembly.