Measure twice, cut once


Is this an oversized mortice or undersized tenon?

The title of this post is not just a good book or a clever saying, it’s a good principal to apply.  Too bad I didn’t take this advice at this stage of my dresser project.  I first noticed this error as I was performing a test fit of the joint.  The mortices were in the wrong places and I was confused about how until I turned the divider around.  I accidentally marked the locations of the mortices in the sub-top with the vertical divider backwards.  After attempting to kick myself in my backside (and failing), I decided to come up with a better plan.  Repair.


All of the mortices were off location (picture taken after the repair process started), some more than others.  You may also notice the missing knots.  This piece is the sub-top, so only the front edge and end grain edges will be visible.  The knots were annoying me while planing the board, so I knocked them out.

I will not over-dramatize the error.  It is simple enough to fix and this joint will be completely hidden.  Even still, it is a good “opportunity” to practice making good repairs.  I’ve learned two really good tips on repairs (from forgotten references) that I will pass along here.

1 – Save all off-cuts, no matter how small.

2 – Repair the “end grain” surfaces


See the scrap pieces placed between the tenons.  I’ll use them to make the repair.

Thankfully I have not had a bonfire since cutting out the tenons.  I dug in my scrap bin and pulled out the sections that were sawed away from the tenons.  I then layed them out where each piece originated.  Hopefully the pieces I have will be in the location of the gaps.


Next I put the joint back together and opened up the mortices enough that the vertical divider fit in the sub-top.  Then I marked the sizes for my repair pieces.  I attempted to use the scrap that came from that location and orient it the same way it came from the board.


I took the scrap piece to my bench hook and cut it to size.  I used a chisel to trim it for an easy (loose) fit.  The joint will be tightened up with the wedge during assembly.


Here is my fitted repair block.  I’l now mark the block and save it aside. There is no sense in glueing them in place yet.  I’ll add the repairs when I add the wedges during assembly.  That will be an anxious time for sure!

Gaps that were less than ~1/4 inch will be filled with a wedge during assembly.  I will probably end up using 2 wedges on most of these tenons.  Of course, this error happened as I was congratulating myself on dovetailing all four corners without messing them up.  Pride comes before a fall.

Bob Jones

3 thoughts on “Measure twice, cut once

  1. Mike

    I think that part of the value of woodworking, in addition to the joy of creation by one’s own hand, is that it is very humbling!

  2. Pingback: Assembling the dresser – moment of truth | The Christian Tool Cabinet

  3. Pingback: Recap errors and how I “fixed” them | The Christian Tool Cabinet

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