Not quite ready for prime time

My last post on case assembly was only half of the story.  The other half is the ugly side of woodworking which is rarely shown in print for two reasons.

1 – Woodworking authors in magazines (or books) are better than I am. This is not just false humility, it’s an admission.  I work with wood 10 hours a week or less.

2 – It is too embarrassing to publish ugliness.  I suspect this is the primary reason.

So, here is some ugliness and my plan to deal with it.  I hope this will help other builders who are less than professional.


Here is the first half of the bad news.  My vertical divider split in two places (see the shadow lines) due to aggressive wedging action.  Stink.


Here is the second half of the bad news, which added insult to injury.  The case is not square.  It is out of square by about 1/8-inch over the diagonal.  This problem is made worse by the fact that not every joint is uniformly out-of-square.  Double stink.  I can’t explain that at all.  

Noticing these “opportunities” during assembly almost made me mad enough to build a fire and take care of the situation.  As those heated thoughts churned in my mind, I realized the need to quit before doing something rash.  Sleep did not come easily that night.

The next day I assessed the situation more calmly and formulated a plan.

1 – Deal with the splits?  Nope.  I’m doing almost nothing about them. Every joint of the case is tight and the splits are not visible unless the bottom drawers are removed.  I see no reason for the splits to open further.  I may need to smooth the surface a little for the drawers to move easily, but that is it.

2 – Non-square case fix?  I’ll build each drawer (and the case back) at the angles needed.  It should not be much harder than square drawers, but it is aggravating.  Such is life.  All’s well that ends well, so I hope this ends well.

Are there some valuable lessons here?  I think so.  First lesson – The next time I use a wedged mortise and tenon joint, I will use two separate wedges per tenon, like I saw on a Rob Cosman video.  That tightens the joint, but divides the wedging over two places and should make it less likely to split the tenon board.  Second lesson – I’m not ready to build with wood at a professional level, and I’m fine with that.

Bob Jones

7 thoughts on “Not quite ready for prime time

  1. das Fusel

    I’ve seen someone drill a hole at the end of the kerf for the wedge to prevent the tennon from splitting when driving in the wedge..

  2. jadam318

    This is a very encouraging post. I built a couple of things for family for Christmas this year. As a young (not in age, but it experience) woodworker, I got pretty frustrated as I had to spend more time cleaning up mistakes than actually building. I really appreciate seeing a more accomplished woodworker’s flaws and reading about how you intend to deal with them. Other blogs and videos tend to make the process look WAY too easy. Great post!

  3. rondennis303

    I can recommend 1/8th to 3/32nds inch hole at the bottom of each wedge location. Drill the holes first, and be sure to taper the wedge sockets. I cut mine with a 20 tpi dovetail saw or a 25 tpi Zona. But in my experience, keeping the length of the wedges and corresponding sockets about 1/2 inch in length if you are working in 4/4 material.

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