In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Many cabinets with shelves are built using a common method: You plow dados in the sides of the cabinet. And then you glue the shelves into the dados. Perhaps you glue on a face frame to the carcase; perhaps not.

With glue alone, this is a questionable joint. The end grain of the shelf joins the long grain of the dado. And the end grain of the dado joins the long grain of the shelf. All that end grain is going to suck up your yellow glue and starve the joint. As a result, the joint will not resist racking forces well, though it will resist downward forces from weight being put on the shelves.

We think you need to reinforce this joint to do quality work. We’re going to be exploring the dado in Issue 5 of Woodworking Magazine, and we’re building reproductions of a nice Shaker cabinet with one door to work with its dado joints , each unit has four shelves. One of the techniques we’re exploring is adding cut nails to the joint, a common feature of Shaker furniture. Exactly how and where these nails should be driven in is still a question.

– Christopher Schwarz

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