Monthly Archives: January 2012

Router-produced Clip Slots

At the beginning of my furniture-building days, I used pocket screws to attach tabletops to cases. Not the Kreg-style  pocket screws – although that technique has its place in a shop. I employed a technique similar to pocket screw holes found on Federal furniture where a pocket is cut into the rail before a screw is installed to make the final connection. In doing so, I found the need to create over-sized holes so as not to restrict wood movement, and that sometimes left things a little sloppy. I’ve never been a fan of the metal fasteners known as “figure eights.” If installed incorrectly, these connections also restrict wood movement from which a split top could be the result. These metal fasteners are a bit unsightly to my eye, as well.

I switched to a better method. I use wooden clips or L-shaped pieces that slip into slots cut in the rails. In my first book, “Fine Furniture for a Lifetime“, I described these process with a full page of photos and text. (If you need a copy of this out-of-print book, I have a small number available through my Online Store.) Since I first began using this technique, I created the slots with a plate joiner – I had no other need for my joiner when I dropped using biscuits in my work.

Notice the twinge of waste still in the righthand slot. That indicates my slot is oversize, and it requires extra work.

With the joiner set for a #20 biscuit, my slots were nicely shaped half-moons, so I could swivel clips into the slot for easy installation. However, to create a 1/4″ slot I had to setup the tool with its 1/8″-thick blade cutting a 1/2″ below the tools’ guide, layout my locations then cut the first half of each slot. Next I had to adjust the tool to cut from 5/8″ to 3/4″ before finishing the slots. I was frustrated whenever I cut slots just under 1/4″, and hated whenever I would cut the second slot leaving a small sliver of material – that sliver meant more work and that my slots were thicker than 1/4″. In fact, I eventually made setup blocks to accurately set my joiner cuts.

Here's a closer look at the three-wing cutter loaded into my router.

A while back, as I stared at my router loaded with a 1/4″ three-wing cutter, I decided this might just work to cut the slots. Adjustments for setup were easy. A single pass is all that’s needed. I had to save time, and more importantly, I would get a reliable slot. The one caveat to this technique, is that I’ve found it not so easy to balance the router on a 3/4″-wide surface as in the top edge of my rails. To take any worry out of the equation, I snap a scrap fence in position as I work.

With a simple push into the frame – a bearing stops the depth of cut at 1/2″, just as the plate joiner – and my slots are cut. This way I know that each slot is exactly a 1/4″ so the tongue on my clips is set at a 1/4″, too. And the operation is a one-hand job when using a small trim router. Piece of cake!

Build Something Great!


Next week: Look for another router post. I’ve known about a technique to enlarge a pattern by predetermined increments and I’ll show you how I  put this to use building a slant-lid desk interior.

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Filed under Power Tools, Routers, Shop Tips

‘Are full-size plans available?’

This is the question I get any time I have a new article published. It’s not just since I left Popular Woodworking Magazine – I got the question with every project published while I was on staff, too. With each inquiry I would respond the same. “Each project published in the magazine is also available as a SketchUp model – you can get the model at the magazine site or in the Google 3D Warehouse. If you download the free version from Google SketchUp, you can pull apart the projects, get sizes and find out how the pieces go together.” In my mind, I could see the woodworker reading this response and wondering if I was crazy.

In this entry, I thought I would take my response a few steps further and show how you can benefit from a basic understanding of SketchUp. Here goes. I’m working on the interior of a secretary – it’s a rather large secretary so you may not want to copy things directly, but take a look at how I get the necessary information from which to build. I also get exact, full-size patterns from the drawings!

Let’s start simple. In my SketchUp model I clicked on the interior base (bottom horizontal piece on which the interior is built), then copied the part.  In a second SketchUp window I pasted the piece. Next, click on the “Top View” program button shown here – it’s the one that doesn’t look like a house in the photo above, right. With that simple step, you are looking down at a scaled drawing of the base. I repeated that same step – the copy and paste portion – with the second horizontal piece as well to get the sizes and locations of my grooves for the vertical partitions. My SketchUp page looked like this (click on the image to see a larger photo):

Using the tools provided in the free program, I added dimensions (dimension tool is found in the drop-down menu under tools), made notes (text tool is also found in the drop-down menu) as to groove sizes and anything else I thought was pertinent to the build. You have to admit that’s fairly simple work especially if you have the drawings already at hand. And I did all this using only three buttons found in the program.

How to get patterns

Now let’s take another step and get a full-size pattern from these drawings. While this is done in a second program (I use Adobe Photoshop), there are many programs that will do the same work. You may already have a program on your computer that does the job.

Before moving to another program, I set things up using SketchUp. A standard piece of printer paper is 8 1/2″ x 11″, so the printable image needs to be less. I set things at 10″. Also, because I don’t need to print any pattern except for the front edge, I can narrow the image to again fit onto the printer paper. Below is the image from SketchUp prior to pushing it to another program (again, click the photo for a better look).

From here you have to move to a second program, crop the sections to your layout lines (dashed lines in the photo),  set the image size to match the 10″ layout size established in SketchUp, rotate the photo to take advantage of the paper size (or you need to adjust your printing direction), then print a full-size pattern. This is what the two images looked like as I was ready to print.

All I have to do to get my pattern is to cut the pieces at the dashed lines then marry the two together. Boom! Full-size pattern. I take that, along with the layout images from above and I’m ready to get busy in the shop.

If you have questions or comments, or if you have a better way to get this information, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail at

Build Something Great!



Filed under Shop Tips

Southern Yellow Pine: A Quick Fix

With the book Furniture in the Southern Style out, my desire to build more than a few pieces from the book’s collection skyrocketed. Add in the fact that my customer has quite a few pieces on the list that are adapted from south of the Mason-Dixon line, and you can see that I have the need for a couple hundred board feet of southern yellow pine (SYP) for secondary wood if I intended to stay true to the original designs. I needed rear drawer dividers and drawer runners quickly, so I turned to my local home-center store.

Any SYP you get at these stores – if your store carries SYP at all – is most likely going to be construction lumber, and it’s going to be at too high a moisture content for furniture. Don’t let that stop you. You can take a couple boards, mill them oversize and allow them to dry, then bring the pieces down to finial dimensions. As you can see in the top photo, a silk purse can be made from a sow’s ear. Or for you highfaluting woodworkers,  you can get nice lumber from construction-grade yellow pine.

It goes without saying that quartersawn lumber is the most stable, so that’s what to look for in your quest. Take a look at the rack of yellow pine at the store shown in the photo above left. You can see that most boards could yield rift sawn lumber, but if you take a close look at the bottom board (of course it’s the bottom board!) you can see how it is cut right at the center of the tree. See the pith? If you cut away the pith you have a width of quartersawn lumber left over.

I snagged a few 8′-0″ 2 x 12s and ripped out a nice selection of yellow pine to use. I let it sit in my shop for about a week, before putting some of it to use. (If you stand the boards vertical to dry it seems to increase the drying rate slightly.) Here’s a close-up look at my stock prior to final milling. Growth rings are tight and the majority of the lumber is quartered with the balance rift -cut.

Keep in mind that I only grabbed enough to get me started on a project. In the long run, I ordered and received a nice supply of rough-cut SYP from a local source here in downtown Cincinnati, Shiel’s Lumber. I highly recommend them if you’re in the area and need southern yellow pine.

There is one thing that I do want to warn you about if you choose construction-grade lumber. Higher moisture content means more wetness. More wetness means there is a possibility of rust on your tools. I stacked lumber on my table saw for only a few minutes, and there was enough water purged to get the rust gods working.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Shop Tips

Workshop Heartbreak

Whether it’s an automobile accident, a severe whip-out while skiing or other catastrophic event, bad things happen in slow motion. My devastating, catastrophic, bad event happened this week in the shop.

I was in full work mode, which means that most of my tools were spread over my bench like a bad game of 52-card pickup. Each time I returned to the bench with a new part ready to work, I would have to clear a portion of real estate. To do so, I would slide the tools, project parts and scraps across the bench. That worked a couple times before disaster jumped up and bit my butt.

With drawer parts in hand, I returned to the bench then waved my arm across the bench with a mighty sling. Right then, as I watched in disbelief, my Klaus & Pedder dovetail saw tipped off the side of my bench. It must have taken three minutes for the saw to reach the concrete floor, but I had absolutely no chance to get there before impact. (Bad things happen in slow motion.) What a terrible noise as my dovetail saw hit the floor.

I peered over the bench edge to see that my saw handle had snapped. I guess I should be glad it was only the handle that was damaged, but seeing the broken wenge brought a proverbial tear to my eye.

I immediately thought repair, but how many saw handles have you seen that were misaligned or unsightly when fixed. Next I wondered if I could get the makers to produce another that would fit my hand as well as the original or what wood I would use to make a new handle. I stared at the broken pieces. As near as I can figure, the handle hit directly on the fishtail or bottom horn. The break was across the long-grain, as I assume most are. Long-grain glue-ups can be successful if you get the parts properly aligned. An attempt at glue-up would be worth a try.

I applied glue to both pieces then pushed the handle back together. Regular shop clamps were out of the question, so I turned to my favorite clamping method for inlay, rubber-bands. Once twisted around the parts, it seemed as though the piece were aligned and tight. After I wiped as much glue off the assembly as I could, off the saw went to heal overnight.

The next day I sacrificed the rubber-bands and checked the results. Not bad. I lightly sanded the glue off the handle, then, because I don’t think I sanded through the original finish, I added a thin coating of wax, thanked my lucky stars and returned my saw to action.

I know there is a lesson to be learned – put tools away as you work. That’s a lesson I’ve been trying to learn for a long time.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Hand Tools

Online Extras Transferred to New Blog

On The Woodworker’s Edge website – the old site – there were a number of online extras located in the lower right-hand corner of the homepage. These extras – at least those that I find useful and not totally outdated – have been brought over to the new site and now live on a separate page under the heading of “Online Extras.” Clever, huh? While that information may  be of little importance to you at this time, it may well become more important as new articles are published in Popular Woodworking Magazine.

On most magazine projects that I build, I constantly hear from woodworkers looking for any additional information available. As it is, I take far too many photos than what could be included in the article and I understand that more photos may give you that wee bit extra that you need to knock out the project without any hesitation. Therefore, I’ll  post any and all photos of the published project under the “Online Extras” page. All you need do is search for Extras in the search box. Simple enough? And of course, you can always contact me with specific questions via email.

Build Something Great!


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A New Beginning

As host of The Woodworker’s Edge DVD series – with additional DVDs coming in 2012 – and former senior editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine who is now a contributing editor to the magazine, this is the first post of a new blog that I, Glen D. Huey intend to update weekly with woodworking tips, techniques and general woodworking information.

As I move forward in the coming days and weeks, my older website will be closed and redirected to this site. Rest assured that I will bring over to this blog all the important information found in the lower left-hand corner of the home page. I hope to bring over the video from that site as well as add new video along the way.

So if you found this blog by accident, please come back to see its progression. As a woodworker, you should find many interesting ideas and techniques. Stay tuned.


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