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.
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.
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.