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.

1 Comment

Filed under Power Tools, Routers, Shop Tips

One response to “Router-produced Clip Slots

  1. megan

    And a cup of custard!

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