Chris Schwarz's Blog

Better Methods of Mating

One of the most powerful things about hand tools is that they allow you to work on small areas of a board with ease. Instead of running the whole board through an electric planer to remove a small area of ugliness, you can usually remove it with a couple well-placed swipes of a handplane.

But exactly where you put those swipes is the topic of this blog entry.

This week I’m building a contemporary Arts & Crafts cabinet in maple for the master bath (OK, you caught me, it’s a flipping potty cabinet). One of the structural details of the cabinet is that it has a thick base piece and top cap that are attached to the carcase.

The top cap and base are face-glued to the carcase. Getting the pieces to mate can be tricky. There are a lot of surfaces to get flat, and the fit between the carcase and the top cap and base will be highly visible (to me and my spouse, at least).

To encourage mating, I recommend friction (I think the human resources department is going to come down on me for this post).

First secure the carcase against your bench. Then take the mating piece and rub it vigorously against the carcase. About 10 swipes will be enough. Remove the mating piece and then get yourself down low so you can see light reflecting off the carcase. The high spots on the carcase and its mating piece will be burnished and will be shinier than the low spots.

Mark the high spots with a pencil. Then remove the shiny spots using a plane with a short sole, such as a low-angle block plane. Remove the high spots from both the carcase and the mate. Then repeat the process until you get the fit you want.

– Christopher Schwarz

Mark the shiny high spots with a pencil.

Then remove the high spots using a plane that has a short sole.

4 thoughts on “Better Methods of Mating

  1. dave brown

    Nice Anderson mini-chariot (thumb?) plane!!!

    I don’t have one of those. Will my LN102 or no1 do okay?

    PS Has your wife signed you up for an intervention yet to break the Anderson/Sauer habit? 😉

    regards,
    Dave

  2. Charles

    Makes some great sense… let the mating pieces tell us exactly where they are proud versus trying to sight it.

    Ohh, and 10 swipes of rubbing the mating piece sounds like a lot to me… I’m usually done after only 2-3 swipes… ;-] that’s ummmm, efficiency… right?!?!!??

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