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A Guide to Popular Woodworking Joints and Techniques

A Guide to Popular Woodworking Joints and Techniques

The Humble Egg Crate Joint

It’s not often you get a chance to use egg-crate joinery in period furniture work. In fact, building the Carolina cellarette in the February 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine was the first time I had used it, if I remember correctly.

When the time came to build bottle dividers for the bottom of the case, I looked at a couple of ideas to construct the unit. My original thought was to butt nail and glue individual pieces together. Obviously, that was not going to work long-term, especially using 1/4-inch thick material. I could have bumped up to thicker dividers, but that meant more work and a less-refined look.

Finally, egg-crate joints came to mind. I considered hand-sawing the slots needed to join my pieces. While I have the chops to cut at my lines – a must if that’s how you work – I couldn’t use my dovetail saw because the joint required a 2-1/2-inch deep cut, and my blade cuts a wee bit less. Also, if the joint were too tight, I would have to plane the adjoining side because sawing a hair’s thickness using a handsaw is not my idea of fun in the shop. It is, although, a snap using a table saw.

No, this was a table saw technique, and your first thought may be a dado stack. Sorry, think again. An 8-inch stack, which is common to use with 10-inch table saws, cuts considerably less than 2-1/2 inches when set at its maximum height. This needed to be cut using my regular 10-inch saw blade.

The Jig That Saved the Day

My first table saw attempt to cut the joint was a freehand effort using my miter gauge. Results were all over the place – thick cuts, thin cuts, there was no consistency. A second option of using stop blocks was too much of a hassle and not quick enough.

As I looked at my zero-clearance insert, ideas soaked into the mush I call my brain. A zero-clearance setup on my miter gauge fence would work. In order to see the edges of the cut on my fence, I needed a thin piece on the bottom that would extend in front of the workpiece – thin because I didn’t need to raise the workpiece any higher.

I nailed a piece of 1/4-inch plywood along the bottom edge, attached the makeshift fence to my gauge, then made a cut with my blade height at 2-3/4 inches (2-1/2 inches for the cut and 1/4 inch for the carrier). The sides of my cut let me know exactly where to position my layout in order to achieve the perfect cut. It worked great. Also, make sure your fence is tall enough. It’s messy if you saw completely through the fence. No, I did not do that.

Exploring Other Options

I cannot believe this is your first chance to use egg-crate joinery. There are a couple more ways to make the cuts. The first is to use the old radial arm saw. It makes it possible to very deep, narrow cuts. The bottom of the cut can be squared up quickly with a file.

The other way is to use a router. The depth of the cut is limitless. Great tip using the temporary miter gauge fence, Glen. I’m about to build the file slots and cubbies for a drop-front secretary. I’ll definitely use your approach.

To make it even easier, I plan to use my favorite new tool – the Freud Box Joint Set. With the two blades facing one way, I’ll get a perfect flat-bottomed 1/4-inch cut in one pass. It’s an 8-inch blade, but I don’t have to get as deep a cut as you did. I’ve used this blade set numerous times for 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch cuts, and fall in love with it again every time – even though I’ve yet to use it to cut box joints. With its flat-topped teeth, I can cut tenon faces and shoulders, perfect narrow grooves for raised panels and such, and narrow rabbets without ever messing with a dado set. I only wish I hadn’t held out so long to spend the money on it. It’s one of the best tool investments I’ve ever made.

Bringing It All Together

Great idea, Glen. I’m excited to put these techniques into practice for my upcoming woodworking projects. Whether it’s building custom cabinets, crafting heirloom furniture, or exploring the endless possibilities of joinery, the fundamentals you’ve shared will be invaluable.

As I continue my woodworking journey, I’m grateful for resources like Timber Building that provide expert guidance and inspiration. With the right tools, techniques, and a little creativity, the world of woodworking is truly limitless. Time to get back in the shop and start building!

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