The trial fit of the sub-top and side of the case. The side has a rabbet to receive the case back.
I dry fit joints while making them, but usually I don’t mess with full case dry assemblies. That puts me between the “no trial fit” and the “trial ’til it fits” crowds, and I’m fine with that. Too much fitting can make a good joint loosen, but I don’t have the nerve or ability to go without any testing. I aspire to that level of confidence.
Here are all the case pieces of the dresser laid out for the rehearsal. I always walk through the whole process before I open the glue to verify that everything is in place. You can see that I cut the dadoes for the horizontal dividers already.
When I glue up a big assembly, I get very nervous. It is the moment that all of my efforts have built toward, and I feel the pressure. There are many opportunities for problems (disasters) and they are all racing through my mind as I prepare.
Everything needed for assembly is laid on the bench – hammer and beating block, ash wedges, diagonal measurement stick, glue spreaders, and my measuring tape (the liquid hide glue was on the floor in a warm water bath).
I asked a lovely assistant (not pictured) to take pictures of the first stages, then she lent a hand with the gluing of the corners. I started with the vertical divider. Here I am joining the vertical divider to the sub-top. I triple checked that I put them together in the right orientation.
I turned the new assembly over so that I could add the ash wedges and corrective pieces to the mortises. With everything in place, I stood it up and drove the wedges into the tenons. The beater block was used to impact the cherry surface to be sure the joints were fully seated.
The second joint to assemble was the divider to the bottom. This makes a rather cumbersome and over-sized I-beam to move around, but since both joints were tight the whole thing handled just fine.
The next step was to glue the sides in place. Sorry, no pictures of those steps because my photographer was busy helping me glue those joints. Two sets of hands were much better than one for speed, and she kept my nerves in check with her calming demeanor. It’s too bad she doesn’t work in the shop with me more often, but someone has to keep our household going.
After all of the pieces were glued together, I checked the length of the diagonals (for square) and straightness of the sides (for bulging). I also checked each corner for square and made sure the case sat flat on the floor (no twisting). Small twists or non-square cases can usually be helped with a little nudge in the right place(s). That’s why I assembled the case in front of the bench, which makes a solid object to push against.
At this point I stopped and walked away frustrated and discouraged, but that will be the topic of the next post.