Vertical Divider – Part 3


Vertical divider resting in the dado in the bottom of the case

For those still tuned in, this is where I wrap up the vertical divider.  In Part 1 I explained the joinery and made the simple dado in the sub-top and bottom of the case.  In Part 2 I made the tenons in the vertical divider (top and bottom are the same).  Now, in Part 3 I will use those tenons to layout the mortises in the sub-top and bottom of the case.


Stand the vertical divider inside the dado.  You may need to clean the dado out with a SHARP chisel.  No need for a specialty plane on the dado walls, just have a careful hand.  Once the tenon fits cleanly inside the dado use a pencil to mark the ends of the mortises.


Start chopping!  I use the same shop made mallet for striking everything wood. My dead blow gets to strike the holdfasts.  Yes, I am that picky with my tools.

With the mortises marked, it is time to get chopping.  This is one of the more fun things to do with hand tools – making a square hole.  Some people recommend drilling out the waste first, but I generally don’t bother.  Smacking a chisel is just too much fun.  Plus, I read somewhere (I think in the Essential Woodworker) that drilling a mortise first was a bad idea because it created a second source of error.


Mortises being chopped in the dado. I was more careful on the long grain sides than the end grain – long grain is where the glue will work best

I’m not going into detail on how to chop a mortise because that is covered everywhere by better writers.  I’ve tried a few approaches and all have worked fine.  This project is actually a good time to try multiple methods because this joint will not be visible unless someone sticks their head under the dresser.  On that point, if someone were to stick there head under any of your furniture you should tell them to get out of your house.


Test fit time!

Once you think the mortises are chopped completely measure the walls for square to be sure.  After you are sure, try a test fit.  Don’t push too hard or you can blow out the grain on the backside of the mortises.  If the divider does not fit, look for places where wood needs to be removed and do so with a sharp chisel.  Work slowly. It is ok if you need 5 test fits if you are just doing this for fun (not profit).


Click on the picture to see it full sized. My mortises are not super clean, but the long grain surfaces look good and the whole thing will tighten up with wedges.

After a successful test fit the joint is finished for now.  Just before case assembly I will lay a kerf (saw is a noun) diagonal through the tenons and make some wedges to drive in during glue-up.  No need to kerf the tenons yet since that would make the tenons more susceptible to damage.

This Vertical Divider writeup has been my most involved yet, so I sure hope someone finds it helpful.

Bob Jones

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