In Tricks of the Trade

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Sawing tenons by hand is tricky business, requiring good eyes, a steady hand and lots of practice. Even so, the tenon’s cheeks are usually uneven after sawing and need to be trued. I’ve often used a rabbet plane to do this, but things can go bad in a hurry. You can easily end up with a cheek that’s flat, but not in the same plane as the face of the rail.

I’ve switched to paring the cheek with a chisel, using a guide block. Here’s how it works. When you saw a tenon, stay just outside of the layout lines. Clamp the workpiece to your bench.

Make a block that’s the same thickness as the distance from your benchtop to the top layout line. Put layers of sticky notes on the block and start paring, making skewed cuts. When the cheek is flat, remove a few sticky notes and pare again. The purpose of the sticky notes is to control the thickness of the shavings; the thinner the shaving, the more accurate your paring will be.

Once you’ve peeled off all the sticky notes, you should be down to the layout line. Flip the stock over and pare the other cheek. If the tenon is offset from the stock’s center, use a block of a different thickness. -Brad Holden



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