The Floating Credenza – Dovetails

Hello and welcome to my blog!  This post continues The Floating Credenza series in which I’m building a pair of wall mounted credenzas of American black walnut and American black cherry.  In the previous post rough lumber was prepared and brought to dimension, then cut to size.  In this post I will detail the process of joining the case.

The outside upper corners of the case will be joined with miter edge dovetails.  These are similar to through dovetails with the exception of a miter at the front and rear edges.  Having a miter at the ends of the joint allows me to run continuous detailing around the case exterior.

Before proceeding with joinery I must first check the stock to ensure that all corners are exactly 90 degrees.  I fine tune the ends, shooting them square to the sides.


Next I begin dovetailing, first by laying out and cutting the tail board.  Through dovetails can be ganged up and cut.


Next I cope out the waste.


Then mark the corners (I’ll be going back and forth between the two cabinets).


Followed by rough cutting the corners.  I leave the line intact because I want to work my way to the line with a paring chisel.


Then I chop the baseline (not shown) and mock up my tail boards against the pin board.  The thickness of this case, combined with a dark material make it difficult to ensure that my lines have transferred accurately and so I use a small light to check my marks.


Next I saw the pin board, first by making cuts only on the interior for pins nearest the mitered edges.


Followed by coping the waste and roughly sawing the miters.


Then I tune the miters with a paring chisel.


Test fitting reveals that the miters seat nicely and that the dovetails are a hair proud on both boards, which will allow me to plane them flush.



Now that the sides have been attached, I can layout and prepare the case bottom for installation.  The case bottom is joined using half-blind dovetails allowing the joinery to disappear under the case and also allowing the case bottom to set back from the sides.  This is an improvement on the dado and dowels method employed previously.

After sawing and chopping out the case bottom, I lay it onto the case sides to transfer marks.



Then I put the case onto the bench and cut out the sockets.


Now that the dovetails are cutout I can assemble the case and mark out where the divider will run.  In the cherry case, the divider will separate 2/3’s of the case for sliding doors from the remaining 1/3 which will be a stack of drawers.

The divider will have tenons extending through the case both top and bottom.  However, there will be some differences in how the top and bottom join up to the divider.  The divider will join to the top with a spear miter, matching the aesthetic of the mitered corner case sides.   The case sides join up to the case bottom without a miter and to accommodate that aesthetic the divider joins to the bottom with a finger joint.  The case bottom is set back approximately 1/16″ allowing for that joint to be chamfered.

This process begins by cutting a dado groove and mortises into the case bottom.


Followed by cutting a notch at the front to receive the tenon.


Next I rabbet the sides of the divider, then cut tenons into the remaining material.  Here I am coping out the waste between the tenons.


Finally the two pieces join up, note the setback of the case bottom from the divider.


Next I prepare the top of the case, first by cutting mortises then cutting the housing to receive the spear miter.  Two of those mortises run through case top and will be wedged, the others are stub mortises used for locating the divider.


Followed by trimming the spear mitered tenon.


Finally I test fit the joint.



The case exterior shows two through tenons and the major case joinery is now completed.  In the next post I begin building the doors and drawers which will complete the cabinet facade.  I hope that you have enjoyed following along and I look forward to your comments.


The Floating Credenza – Hikido



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  2. I was going to say I recognised that plane, Terry really makes wonderful planes and I love his idea of tapping on the brass to release the blade, much better than the conventional method. That sliding bevel is that from Vesper tools.

    How do you find that coping saw, is it any better than a regular one. If so what improvements are there.

    I’ve never worked on traditional bench before, do you find it awkward when sawing dovetails with the vice being so far away from you.

    1. Hi Salko,
      Good to hear from you! Absolutely, HNT Gordon are wonderful planes. The two I have treat me well. Same with the sliding bevel from Vesper, I love that tool.
      WRT to the coping saw, I’m at a disadvantage having not used any other style of coping saw for about 10-15 years, so I can’t really say specifically why this one is better. It does hold the blade very taught and has clocked rotational adjustments which I like.
      On the dovetails, I find it puts me at the right distance from the work, I don’t feel I’m reaching at all when I use that vise. The only issue with that vise is that I really only use it for dovetails, I don’t like it all that much for anything else.

      1. Thanks for your reply, it always seemed to look awkward to me but it maybe more suited to dovetailing than anything else. I’m not too fond of using my moxon vice for dovetailing even though I do have a bad back and really what it’s intended for, I guess I’m not used to sawing at such a high level but when I need the work held close up to me it works really well. I’m going to be building a bench soon as I need a longer one and I’m trying to settle on a design.

      2. If/when I build another bench this vise will probably be made redundant. If you have a leg vise you can simply use a clamp over the bench to accomplish the same thing without having 10″ of vise jutting out in your path.
        You can set the material low, which is what I usually do.
        Long and skinny! That is all I want in a bench too.
        Roubo is a hard design to beat, it’s basically a planing beam with permanent legs and holes for holdfasts.

      3. Yes I agree Roubo is the best overall design, but I want to be sure I am satisfied before I start the build. This will be my last bench I’m ever going to build again so I want it to be perfect to my needs.

      4. I agree completely, best to ruminate on the design for quite some time. I am overall happy with my bench, but would make some changes….however I think most people feel that way with anything they use daily.

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