Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stanley 140 Trick Without the 140!

     When I teach dovetails I like to mention the Stanley 140 trick because I like how it gives the inside of the case a more finished look plus it's a nice way to establish the edge.  However, I don't have a set of skewed, rabbet block planes nor do I have the $400.00+ to buy Lie-Nielsens beautiful pair.  So, where does that leave me?  One way I've accomplished this technique is to use a rip blade on the tablesaw and cut a small slice off the end of the board being dovetailed.  This certainly works but I always hesitate showing this because it probably isn't the safest way to go about it.  Holding the piece on end against the fence to remove an eighth of an inch or so is probably not OSHA approved.  It could be safer if you used a tenoning type jig that would straddle the fence.  Another downside is that you probably keep a combination blade in your saw which won't cut a flat shoulder so you'd need to change the blade anyway.

Table Base
     All of that being said, there's still a couple of "buts"; not everyone has a tablesaw and it's a safer and quieter operation to do with only hand tools.  For that reason I wanted to experiment with it.  This is what I've been working on in between projects.  It's a sofa/console table made of Sapele.  Initially I referred to it as the Star Jasmine table but have decided to not do any carving on it.  There will be a drawer at either end with a shelf on the bottom.   The shelf will be a framework of the Sapele with two sections of radio weave caning.  As you can see, I've been working on the half blind dovetails that connect the table.   This is a good place to practice them before I get to the drawers.  All traditional joinery for this project.

     I thought of two different methods to modify the Stanley 140 trick without having the skewed set of planes.  They both start out with marking the length of the tail on both ends of the board.  This piece is the center one and three inches wide.

Scribing the End of  the Board
     This shoulder was then cut with my dovetail saw for both of the methods I wanted to try.

Cutting Shoulder Line
One End, Sawn
     On one end, I cut it as if it were a tenon but left it over-sized.  The approximate size of the material being removed is 1/8" by 1/2".

     What I did to the other side was to use a chisel to remove the material almost to the scribed line.  Not sure which method is preferred but you can experiment with both and see what suits you.  I think the grain structure and type of wood you're using could determine your choice.

Chisel Work

    To flatten the cut and make it uniform was be done by taking the small router plane and setting it to the required depth, 1/8" in this instance.
Setting the Router Plane
    I had also thought of using a rabbet block plane like I do on tenons but it can be too easy to cut a taper, especially on a narrow half inch wide piece like this is.  As long as pressure was maintained on the plane, the resulting cut was level.  You could also place a piece of wood that is the same thickness to support the plane on the other side.  Skewing across the board and taking a partial cut on the ends as you began your cut made things easier.

Refining the Cut

     The only slight drawback is that the router plane dug into the shoulder a bit but a chisel remedied that.

Squaring Shoulder
     Did it work?  I think it did.  Would it have been easier to set up a rip blade, fence, and tenoning jig on the tablesaw?  Probably but since I wasn't in any rush this was a good way to hone my hand skills and gives me a technique to share with my students.  I'd be interested in hearing from other hand tool woodworkers and get your opinion on this.


  1. This will work for someone who has lots of time in the shop...not me. A shop trick is supposed to help a woodworker; the procedure as presented seems to cause a lot of more work and time.

    1. Couldn't agree with you more, as shown this "trick" is definitely not a time saver! I'll be doing them the real trick way with my tablesaw fence and a rip blade. The purpose of this exercise was to see if I could come up with a way for a student to do this that does not have a tablesaw. Many of my students are just getting started, some just want to use hand tools and prefer not to buy lots of power tools.

  2. John,

    I'll be making some hand made doves soon and I'll give it a try. Good excuse to use my small router plane.

    1. Sounds like a plan, let me know if you come up with a good way to sharpen the blade in the router plane. Kind of tricky but I hold it on the edge of a stone and hope for success!

  3. Jay, I should have added that I also plan to do this technique using the rabbet block plane I have. It'll be interesting to see how it will work, I mean in a sense I'm creating a tenon first and then cutting the tails out of it! I'll keep you posted.