In Shop Blog, Techniques

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This morning I decided to repair the vintage Chinese stool that we knocked apart earlier this year. Senior Editor Robert W. “Bob” Lang is building a couple reproductions for the winter 2009 issue of Woodworking Magazine, and the parts of this vintage stool have been gathering dust on one of my sawbenches.

I need that sawbench. So I broke out the hide glue.

I love wedging up chair joints. If I could do that for a living, I probably would. It’s a nice combination of applying a simple machine (a wedge) and some derring-do.

Making good wedges is always something that frustrates beginners. They try to saw them out by hand or split them or come up with some wack-nutty dangerous way to make a good wooden wedge.

I make mine on the band saw. I have a jig at home for it, but you don’t need a jig. Just blue tape.

Step 1: Use the blue tape to seal up the throat insert of your band saw. The insert on our Steel City is a gaping maw that chews up small parts. One piece of tape in front of the blade and one right behind it should do.

Step 2: Lay down a piece of blue tape on your band saw’s table that is in line with the blade. This will help you enormously when you make your wedges.

Step 3: Set your band saw’s miter gauge. I like 5Ã?° for most jobs , that makes a nice slim wedge. A 7Ã?° setting will give you a big fatty that can be useful for big jobs.

Step 4: Cut yourself some stock. Crosscut a 1-1/2″-long piece of some wide stock. I like white oak for this job because it can take a beating and a bending. I’ve also used ash with good results. I don’t recommend ebony. It splits.

Step 5: Cut one end off your block. Throw away the off fall , it’s only half a wedge. Now flip the block over and line up the piece of the work nearest you with the blue tape.

Step 6: Make the cut. What falls off is a perfect wedge. Flip the work and cut again. Keep going until your fingers get too close to the blade.

To apply the wedges, I like to put glue in the mortise and on the wedge. Then you tap it home. Where “home” is exactly is the exact question. Too much “home” and you’re going to have a broken one. There’s feel and sound involved.

The stool went together just fine. The monkeys who disassembled it did a real job on one of the tenons. I had to make a new tenon and wedge that in two directions. I love Fridays in the shop.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Auguste Gusteau

    I am pleased to note that my words on Sawmill Creek forum have helped: in your last posts there are several useful information.

    My compliments.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I was building it. Then… 2° got in the way. Made a dumb mistake that cascaded into a calvacade of mouth-breathing idiocy.


  • Mike Siemsen

    I thought you were building the stool?

  • tom fidgen

    Hi Chris,
    Nice post…Made me stroll down memory lane trying to cut some wedges with an axe one time! Yet again you’ve inspired a post over here at Working Wood.

  • dave brown

    Nice job on the stool. The improved signature looks good too. 😉

  • Carl Stammerjohn

    Just to clarify: Your 5 degree fence setting gives you a 10 degree wedge. Correct?

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