Choosing and making the right joints
Synopsis: Furniture construction can be broken into two main categories: carcase and frame. In carcase construction, boards are joined end to end using dovetails, tongue-and-groove joints, and the like, as in a drawer or hutch. But it’s difficult sometimes to know which joint to use. Tage Frid chooses the strongest but easiest joint to construct, avoiding over-constructing a piece. Here, he discusses joints at corners, making lock miters, spline miters, and multiple-spline joints, finger joints, and joints that don’t meet at corners. He explains full-blind dovetails and hand-cut sliding dovetails. He closes with information on inserting backs on carcases.
Furniture construction is broken down into two main categories: frame and carcase. In frame construction, relatively narrow boards are joined—usually with a mortise and tenon joint—as in a chair or table base, or in a frame and panel door. (See Fine Woodworking, Summer 1976.) In carcase construction, boards are joined end to end using dovetails, tongue-and-groove joints and the like, as in a drawer or hutch. When designing a carcase, the beginner may find it difficult to know which joint to choose. Some joints are excellent in plywood but weak in solid wood, and vice-versa. Many beginners are so concerned with the “craft” aspect that they design in the most complicated techniques. They use a complex joint where a joint easier to make would work just as well. I always choose the strongest but easiest joint to construct. I cannot see spending time over-constructing a piece. And I expect my furniture to last long after I do.
Most carcase joints can be made by hand, but are usually more easily and precisely made on a circular saw. I would advise people who don’t own a circular saw to buy a table saw and not a radial arm saw.…