Ming Inspiration (45)

I think I might want to rename this thread Ming Perspiration. Another longish day today, and one in which I was pretty amped up with stress as I made each cautious triple-checked step along the series on the precious top planks. I find it quite exhausting, the intense concentration required at this point in the project. It’s one of the costs associated with working with expensive material and close tolerances. I can now relate to how it must be for a jeweler cutting facets on a million dollar diamond or someone’s treasure family heirloom….

Today I tackled the sliding dovetail slots on the back of the table top panels. Starting point was to carefully fit and align the jigs made yesterday, and detailed in the previous post) to the panels. Then it was time to rough out the slots using a guide collar and a solid carbide spiral bit:

The roughed-out dovetail slot, round 1:

A double check to see if I had a consistent depth, the target dimension being 0.2550″:

Looks good:

Once all the slots were roughed out, I set a different size guide collar into the baseplate of the router, re-checked the centering of the collar to the collet, and then switched to the 8mm collet and Japanese dovetail bit:

That metal-working vise you can see on top of the jig is one of the treasures I brought back from Japan many years ago – – it serves to keep things flat and tight together. It’s not convenient generally to use clamps in the middle of wide things, though sometimes one can spring press-down sticks off the ceiling.

At last, all the dovetail slots are completed and I can remove the jigs:

Here’s a look at one end of the dovetail slot:

Next I chucked up the same 8mm dovetail bit in the router table:

I then routed male dovetails on 5 of the battens (the short side one with rod tenon mortises) – testing the fit as I went along. At last the dovetail was making an entry:

Fiddle, fit, fiddle, fit, and the first batten is pretty much there:

These dovetail slots are straight sided, not tapered. Normally, this would be a problem for fitting, however given that the remaining meat left in the board below the dovetail slot is only about 0.25″, I can readily bend the board slightly to open up the slot and allow the batten to enter more easily. Once un-sprung, I can check the board with a straightedge and if the panel is kinked around the batten, then it is slightly too tight still and needs some adjustments.

It turned out that there were a few spots here and there where the router work hadn’t completely milled the sidewall of the slot to the mark. Wish I’d checked more carefully before removing the jigs from the panels. So, rather than attempt to reset the jig, I used a Japanese dovetail plane to make small trimming adjustments where required:

Once this tool is set up, it will take decent shavings- I vastly prefer it to those short little Lie Nielsen replicas of Stanley #98 and #99 trimming planes (anyone want to buy mine?). Here’s what I mean by decent shavings – it’s end grain bubinga after all:

A little fit massaging, and the batten moves along nicely:

Once all the battens were fitted to that top panel, I was able to offer it up to all the rod tenons from the opposite side set of battens, to see if my jig had worked properly to align everything. Those rod tenons were fitted without room to spare to the rod mortise on the battens I just installed – they were slight interference fits actually, so I was pleased when the entire panel, with battens attached, slid down with a gentle swoosh noise onto the 5 rod tenons. Whew! It actually worked. So far anyhow….

Next step with that assembly was to trim the panel ends with their mitered spur returns. I scribed directly off the frame, measured and transferred the marks, and then used the kebiki to knife the cut lines:

I stay just a hair to the outside of my pencil lines with the knife so I have room to shave it down if needed to a good fit.

I used my circular saw to make the cuts:

A few swipes with the handsaw to sever the waste piece out completes the cut. The ends are now roughed out:

A closer look at the mitered return:

The next step there will be to trim back to the other line so as to leave the tongue.

All for today. I’m taking the day off tomorrow for the table, but Monday should see me through the completion of the work on these panels, hopefully even fitted up to the table. This coming week, probably around mid-week, will bring the final finishing and oiling.

Thanks for dropping by and if you have anything you’d like to add, of were wondering about anything you’ve read above, please feel free to leave a comment. Up next: post 46

2 Replies to “Ming Inspiration (45)”

  1. Hello Chris,

    I've been looking through some of the older entries in the blog and from what I can tell you don't have a dedicated workbench. Some other blogs I follow praise the workbench as one of the most critical tools to woodworking.

    Have you ever considered building one or are the sawhorses all you need?

  2. Jared,

    I find working off of two sawhorses, sometimes with a plank spanning them, and in concert with the planing beam I have set up, perfectly adequate for my needs at this time. I don't see a workbench as “critical”, however I have thought of building one – check out the post from last year called “Screen Play then Benched” (March 5th, 2010) for more.


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