Simple fixture flattens curved drawer fronts for joinery
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about how I rout the drawer bottom grooves in curved drawer fronts and cut them to length. I followed up with one about grooves for asymetrically curved drawers and how to cut more than one front from a longer blank. And although it might seem I’m moving at a glacial pace, I’ve finally got a third installment on how I deal with curved drawer fronts. This time, I’m explaining how I make rabbets in the ends of the fronts for the joinery. (The sides of the drawers are joined to the front with pinned rabbets–I plan to use copper nails for the pins, but might change to just a wood peg.)
MORE TABLESAW SLEDS
First, the problem: You can’t use a rabbetting bit or dado set to make the rabbet, because they only cut 90 degree rabbets (the two sides of the rabbet meet at 90 degrees). And none of the rabbets on a curved drawer front, at least not mine, meet are 90 degrees. That’s because one side runs parallel to the front of the drawer, which is curved, so it always intersects the the other side at an angle greater or less than 90 degrees. My solution is to use a standard table saw blade to cut the side of the rabbet that is parallel to the end grain and then get rid of the waste with a chisel. Works greeat, but you do need some way to hold the drawer front in the correct position as you run it over the blade. The best solution I could come up with (if you have a better one, let me know) is to make a craddle that matches the curve of the drawer front. It’s simple and easy. I like that. Take a look at the photos to see how it works.
One more thing. The cradle I made is half the width of the cabinet, but I can cut all of the rabbets with it. All of the outside rabbets are cut with the low end. All of the rabbets that are at the midway point of the cabinet are cut with high end. From there, I’ll just cut the cradle shorter so that I can make the rabbets that fall inbetween the middle and the outside edges.
The solution. It's actually simple. Just a cradle that's curved on the top to match the curve of the drawer fronts.
At the right angle. The cradle holds the front so that the end is parallel to the blade.
The kerf is, too. The blade cuts a kerf parallel to the end grain, which is exactly what I want.
Clean up is easy. After cutting the kerf (right), I simply pop the waste off with a chisel and then pare the last bit to make a perfectly angled second side for the rabbet (it's parallel to the drawer front).
Repeat for the other rabbets. For the ones that fall in the middle of the drawer, I just flip the craddle end for end. I'll have to cut it shorter for rabbets that fall inbetween the middle and outside.
The problem. I needed to cut rabbets on the ends of all these drawer fronts, but they are curved, so I can't use a rabbetting bit or dado set. (Also, I don't think I'll ever again design a cabinet with this many small curved drawers!)