After Popular Woodworking in America, my desire to get back in the shop was insatiable. As soon as I returned to the office and caught up on work, I found my way to the shop to finish my Dutch tool chest. The first step was to create the tongue-and-groove joints for the back.
After considering my options, I landed on using the table saw. In my first year as a furniture maker, I spent most of my days ripping boards and cutting grooves on a Delta Unisaw from the ’80s. On top of teaching me to respect the machine, it gave me a love for the table saw.
I’m going to try my best not to turn this post into a love song for the table saw. So let me just say it once: I love the table saw. I know it is loud and terrifying. But I love it. When you respect the machine and learn to use it properly, it can become the most versatile machine in your shop.
Since the boards for my back were 3/4″ and the kerf of the blade is 1/8″, I measure to the middle of my board thickness (3/8″) and the made two lines 1/8″ out from each side of that line (shown above in my crude drawing).
This showed me where I needed to place my blade on each board to run the groove on one side. Once I set the table saw fence so that the blade fit inside the line of one of the 1/8″ slots, and the blade depth at 1/4″ (I wanted 1/4″ tongues), I could simply run the board through the table saw with the edge down and the face against the fence. After running the board through the first time, I just needed to place the opposite face against the fence and run it through again – two 1/8″ cuts made a 1/4″ groove.
To cut the tongue on the table saw, I used the same measurements but this time set the saw fence so that the blade runs on the outside of each of my 1/8″ marks. Then I put the face of the board on the saw’s table with the groove edge against the fence (keeping the blade depth at 1/4″), and cut the excess wood from the groove.
I know there are so many ways to cut tongue-and-groove joints, and some woodworkers may turn their noses up at using power tools to build a hand-tool chest. But I am a firm believer in leaning into what you are good at. I am good with power tools and still learning at hand tools. I want to learn more and get better every day with hand tools, but I don’t think I will ever be able to completely shed the professional cabinetmaker mentality from my approach. I’m OK with that.
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