Hand Tools Archive

Drawer fitting *PIC*

Bill Tindall, E.Tn.

A bit over 10 years ago woodworking quality in my machine only shop was stalled. The epiphany came during a visit to the College of the Redwoods (I do get out a bit). The students got precise fits with planes and chisels, not 4" belt sanders. I came home motivated to learn how to use a chisel and plane. It was not an easy adventure without having access to a mentor.

Hand tool enthusiasts learn/know a lot about planing and chiseling, and behind it all, sharpening. Through this forum I learned from them, though their single minded devotion to hand tools made it difficult for me to separate what I could get by with from the whole of it. Thankfully I eventually found that a cheap used plane and quick simple sharpening would suffice, for example. But one impediment remained, dreaded and unexpected tear-out. Knowledge of how to set the cap iron removed this final barrier.

Hand tools are the only way to precisely remove tiny increments of wood to result in a good fit. Hence, some hand tool techniques essential to fitting parts must be mastered. No where does this requirement become more essential than drawer fitting. I assemble drawers to be too tight, then plane the sides and sometimes tops to get the fit that results in a smooth working drawer.

I assemble drawers with grain orientation anticipating planning from front to back, essential in the case of these veneered drawer fronts. In the current case it was difficult to read the grain in some sides. Thankfully, optimum setting of the cap iron made worrying about grain orientation unimportant.

Note: These flexible drawer sides needed a shim under them to enable the plane to get a bite in the center of the sides. I used left over piece of resawed veneer for the shim.

Thanks to all that helped along the way.

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