Editor’s note – last week on Sunday as I prepared my blog, my computer crapped out. A new hard drive was installed this week. Of course, all my files were lost. (No, I didn’t have a back up! Lesson learned) My apologies if you stopped by to nothing new.
When you study desk interiors, one of the interesting aspects is the varied shapes. Undulating curves make the interiors more appealing – that and the many compartments and small drawers. Combined, these two attributes bring about curious curves that lead to a dovetailing puzzle.
Take a look at the lower drawer in the opening photo. The end of the drawer front toward the side of the desk is straight up. There is no mystery in these dovetails due to the square end. However, the opposite end of the drawer front is more complex. As shown to the right, curves cause the front to bend off the bench top as the front sits flat. It would be nearly impossible to chop dovetail sockets into this piece without building support under the edge. You would splinter or break the drawer front as you pound out waste. And support is difficult because there is no flat surface at the edge to rest against. What to do.
This is where it’s best to add a little power to your hand work and bring out a trim router. With a small diameter router bit loaded, you nibble away the waste to clear your socket, then it’s back to chisels to clean the socket and true up its sides. The obvious concern is how to balance a router on the drawer front’s edge as you hog out waste.
When routing waste on flat panels simply clamp a scrap along the back of your workpiece just even with the edge. The added thickness provides support for your router as you work. (To see this setup and how it works, check out this video, click here.) Here again the curved front presents a problem because there is no surface to which to clamp. This is where you need to put on a thinking cap.
Cut a bevel into an 8/4 piece of stock – a 4/4 scrap would have worked just as well – so the bevel cut somewhat matches the drawer front bend as the workpiece was clamped into a bench vise. Position the scrap so it extends over the vise, then clamp the scrap to the bench. Use a small square to set the drawer front flush to the top edge of the scrap and level with the scrap as shown in the photo. With this setup, the scrap provides support for a trim router as waste is routed from the sockets.
Before I began any routing I scribed my base line, laid out my socket areas, then cut the sides with my dovetail saw. This defines the sockets and provides a bumper when you route as you do not want to nick the sides of your sockets. Also, remember to set the depth of cut on your router.
Trim away most of the excess as shown in the photo below, then use chisels to pare your sockets to finished shape.
Build Something Great!