A Square Deal (10)

Back to the shop for some furniture work, after the past week’s activities revolving around the Boston project.


After rough cutting the tenons by way of my portable grooving machine last time out, the table top had remained well behaved. Every time I am at the shop I check it with a straightedge and make any required minor adjustments to the clamps or the dunnage positions upon which the slab has been resting. So far so good, but every time I am faced with doing further cutting on the slab I tend to verge on a state of vigillance in regards to whether the top might move as a result of further material removal. As time goes on with this process, I have become more relaxed and confident about the outcome, but with solid wood there are always unknowns so one needs to remain somewhat alert to any changes as a result of cutting. I’ve got the sheep in the pen, so to speak, and hopefully we’re at a point where the border collie need only raise an ear and the sheep will decide against further misbehavior.

Even when I’m working on other projects, I still keep this one in mind, and consider the details often, and revisit the drawing to explore new ideas that arise. I have made a slight revision to the breadboard end detailing, just a slight dimension change and have increased the number of tenons to three since last time I worked on this.

My plan for today was to complete the trimming of the end of the table top tenon shoulders, and then process the groove on each side which are engaged by tongues on the breadboard ends. My weapons of choice were two new router bits, a Whitesite ‘Ultimate’ pattern bit, on the left, and an Amana flat bottom dado cutter with bearing (center):

A Festool collet sits on the right. This is the second of these new bits from Whiteside I’ve acquired, which utilize developments in cutter geometry derived from CNC routing. They’re good, but a bit pricey.

I had a couple of bits of aluminum plate left over from the jig I fabricated for the MFA project, and these turned out to be the perfect thing for aligning the top and bottom edge guides:

Here’s the basic set up:

After some careful mark out and triple-checking, I trimmed the tenon cheek and shoulder. The finish left by the Whiteside bit is excellent, with zero tearout:

Another view – these trims were accomplished using a climb cut:

The board is then flipped over  – taking pains not to disturb the metal guide rail positioning – and the opposing cheek and shoulder of the tenon are then trimmed. The target dimension for the tenon thickness is 0.5000″:

Now onto the other end of the board. Here I was also working to achieve a target dimension after trimming for the entire top’s length, so I was carefully checking as I set up. I have found that a lamp with magnifier is quite helpful for such tasks as spotting the marks on a ruler with 0.5mm graduations:

A look through the magnifier – I’m seeking to set a mark 71.5mm back from the cut line (this, the measured offset of the Whiteside cutter from the router base’s edge), which will reference the metal guide jig:

Another check is made on the other end of the cut, again, looking to mark an offset of 71.5mm from the mark:

Check the clamps were tight and everything in order, the completed the tenon trimming. I also took an extra minute and plowed out a few notches from the waste portion of the cut on each side as a means of reducing the wood grain’s leverage to move the slab:

This step was probably not absolutely necessary, but it didn’t hurt anything either. I wasn’t sure at that point if I was going to remove the rest of the waste from the tenon cheeks or not on today’s slate.

Next step was to plow out the grooves for the breadboard end tongues. Changed out to the Amana bit, set it up, and made the first cut:

At the far end of the cut I clamped a block in place to prevent any tear out as the cutter exited:

Flip the board over and repeated the process on the other side:

Then repeated the same two cuts on the other end of the board, to complete this stage.

After some mulling, I decided I could remove the waste from the tenon cheeks without affecting later cut out steps. The shaper seemed like a convenient way to accomplish that task, so I placed an Aigner auxiliary support table on the front, slid the sliding table forward a bit for extra support, and adjusted the cutter to position:

A closer look at the material removal nexus:

After a first cut had less than ideal quality, I decided to use a different cutter and reversed the feed direction. Here I’m halfway through the last tenon cheek:

The cutter was set to leave about 0.01″ of waste proud, which I then removed with a hand plane:

After all was said and done, the tenon is now cut out on both ends of the slab, and the slab has remained doggedly flat throughout the process:


A final look at the joinery after today’s work was complete:

Of course, I’m not planning to have one mega-tenon here, there is still a fair amount of cut out remaining to define the three tenons, the stub tenon, and the end joinery work after that. Things are rolling along well however, so I’m feeling pleased with the progress so far.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. On to post 11.

10 thoughts on “A Square Deal (10)

  1. It's non stop action at the Carpentry Way these days!

    Really enjoying following the progress on both these projects. It has struck me how vertically integrated your factory is.



  2. Hi Derek,

    I had to do a search on the term to see what 'vertical integration' referred to specifically, since I had only a hazy idea. Now that I have a better grasp on that, I'm unclear as to what you're referring to in the case of my workshop. Perhaps you were only being irreverent, given that I am a one-man shop and hardly a factory.

    Your comments are always appreciated even if I am not sure of your meaning. Glad you enjoy following the progress on these builds. I also continue to work on the project for J. Koons, however I don't blog about that.


  3. Hi again Chris,

    I looked up the Whiteside 'Ultimate' bit and saw the hefty price tag you speak of. Will you be giving a review of the various bits after enough time passes that you are able to include durability in your assessment? I can't see many people forking out the money for a bit that price unless they are working with woods like you have in this project. I know my own buying patterns will be influenced by you, whose interest in precision is unmatched by others I've seen. Also, I understand that quality tools, a craftsman do not make. But I'm fairly certain most of us are trying to understand where things lands on the value scale in comparison to our income and make the purchases we can reconcile in our own minds or in those of our wives!

  4. Chris,

    while it might be cold comfort, the costs of tooling are relative things. The cost of running poor or dull tooling is highest of all, and I would say that it is also a common situation. Most people let tooling get far too dull before replacement or sharpening. Dull tools are dangerous tools. Cheap tools can often be dangerous tools.

    If you have ever priced out shaper tooling, or diamond tooling, then router bits start to look decidedly inexpensive. Yes, a $150 router bit is at the more expensive end of the spectrum for a commecially-produced router bit. If you look at getting custom bits, just one or two at a time, the prices are a bit more again. I could have obtained a $65 down-spiral carbide bit instead of the 'ultimate' and I'm sure it would have done a good job. I have found those pricier Whiteside bits do an excellent job and are value for money. I like the larger cutting head, as the cut is slightly better. I'm not recommending others get them, it's simply what I am using on this job.

    At the end of the day, router tooling is essentially disposable tooling and typically can be accommodated in the job costing, along with planer blades and saw blades. Some router bits can be resharpened, always at a loss of adherence to tolerances. In some cases this dimensional loss is unimportant, but in other cases, like bits that run with bearings, doesn't work so well.

    The cheapest route initially looks the most expensive: get a insert knife router bit and buy carbide replacement knives. This works well for a lot of the standard profiles. The second best approach is to own a couple of the same bit, with one used to do most of the cutting, and the other kept in reserve to do the slimmest of finishing passes. Eventually the hogging bit is retired, the finishing bit takes its place and a new finishing bit is acquired.

    You're right that quality tools do not make a craftsperson, but on the other side of the coin a craftsperson should not need to be continually making accommodations and compensations for poor tools. It wastes time and materials. The cheapest way to do things is to do them right the first time.


  5. Perhaps I am using the term inaccurately. I have always taken it to mean an organisation that manufactures every or most components that constitute a more complex product. Now, whilst you don't grow the trees, you do have a hand in nearly every process from the foundations up…

    No irreverence intended (this time).



    P.S. Is the J. Koons project the Chinese Wheelbarrow? Did they ever spring for one with rockets?

  6. Thanks Chris,

    It's that kind of reply I appreciate. It's difficult to force one's self to purchase the more expensive option in certain instances but I have no doubt that it pays off in the long run (assuming you've done due diligence in researching the options). I'll be following your sage advice as I continue to acquire tools.

    As an aside, I really appreciate the thoughtfulness poured into each reply. It's rare to find someone so invested in their craft.


  7. Chris,

    thanks. I try to make a point of responding to each comment, though sometimes one does fall through the cracks. I sometimes look back over old posts and find a comment or two that I forgot to reply to, which is vexing.

    If I post a comment on someone else's blog and they do not reply it tends to discourage me from further commenting, so I do my best to get back to everybody. I definitely appreciate your input.


  8. The cutting of the end tenons, did you perhaps consider rather than investing in router bits, invest in a large diameter slotting cutter for the shaper. One cutter would have cut both the tenon face as well as the groove for the bread board ends below the shoulder. As we all understand one is rarely enough, two would do twice, another lesser diameter cutter on top gives you the shoulder. Your thoughts……………………Jack

  9. Jack,

    thanks for the comment and yes, I did consider the idea of using the shaper to cut the breadboard end joinery…but only after I had used the shaper to remove waste from the tenon blade. So, it won't be happening this time. Part of it I guess is that the shaper is still a new tool in my shop and I haven't gotten in the same habit of considering it in terms of executing certain joinery tasks. I had been thinking that due to the size of the slab I would be bringing the tools to the boards, and not vice versa, but it doesn't have to be that way of course as the work on this board with the shaper demonstrated.

    Further moving me away from this direction is that the cuts on the shaper would be happening, in all likelihood, with the end grain of the slab referencing the cut against the shaper fence, and I think I would have wanted to work with a more precisely executed end cut than my circular saw work achieved. That's why I've been working off of the two metal guide pieces instead of the end grain surface.

    There's also something about forming the entire tenon and groove arrangement in one go per side that is a bit apprehension-provoking. If something were to go awry, the board or joint could be ruined.


Anything to add?