This weekend I put the finishing touches on two Stickley tabourets; and while the little tables turned out to my satisfaction, the construction process proved quite vexing considering there are only nine pieces of wood in each.
The theme of Issue 9 is sawing , understanding sawtooth technology and how to use that knowledge in your work with both hand and power tools. So when I started building these tables I resolved to build one table with the joints sawn by hand and the other with the joints cut by machine.
And that turned out to be harder than I expected.
Though I am comfortable doing all of the necessary operations by both hand and machine, I kept running into situations where sticking to the hand tools or sticking to the power tools was a dumb choice.
For example: The cross stretchers beneath the tabletops are joined to the legs with a single lap dovetail joint. This is an easy joint to cut by hand: Saw the tail, saw out the socket, then remove the waste with a chisel and a router plane.
But when it came to doing this operation by machine it just ticked me off. I cut the shoulders of the dovetail with a dado stack in my table saw at the same time I cut the tenons. That was fairly efficient. Then I cut the dovetail shape on the band saw. Still OK. Then it came time to waste away the dovetail socket in the top of the 1-1/2″-square leg. I picked up the shop’s trim router and contemplated the platform jig I was going to have to build to do this with the router. I shook my head, put the router down and got my dovetail saw. I was done in 10 minutes.
Similarly, when it came time to mortise the legs I used my hollow-chisel mortiser for the power-tool version of the table. My mortiser is always set up with a 1/4″ chisel that’s perfectly parallel to the machine’s fence. So when it came time to mortise the legs by hand I faced the same struggle. My mortiser was all set up and I could be done in five minutes. Or I could mortise the legs by hand, which would take a little longer and had the risk of me splitting the leg or wandering left or right. So I used the machine.
These little struggles reminded me of how I don’t understand how some people can work exclusively with hand tools or with machines. I know it can be done and done quite well, but just not by me.
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