When I started designing this sofa table I really started thinking about joinery and doing something I really never used before. I could go as difficult as traditional mortise and tenon or I could go as easy as pocket screws. I wanted to skip the mechanical fasteners (except for attaching the table top, more on that in another article) but I wanted this to be easy enough anyone could complete it.
I didn't have the pockets deep enough for a Festool Domino, I don't think biscuits are strong enough, JessEm didn't have any Zip Slot Mortise Mills in stock. So Dowels it was... Now I needed to figure out what doweling jig to use. Dowel Max is widely known as the go to jig for everything dowels. I wanted to go in a different direction and find something that would do everything the Dowel Max would do and more. I decided to give my friends at JessEm a call and had them ship me their JessEm Doweling Jig. I will be giving this thing a proper review after I put it through it's paces.
I wanted to use the biggest dowels possible without drilling through the piece so I went with ½" dowels. To drill the aprons I need to determine the half thickness of the piece. on a ¾" thick board I needed to set the jig to ⅜". That way when I drill the bit will be centered on the work piece. I align the left side of the jig with the left side of the work piece. The drill bit needs to be set to stop a little more than half the distance of the dowel.
Once the ends of all my apron pieces are drilled I need to drill the legs. The 2 sides that were cut on the table saw will be facing inside. To have a ¼" reveal I needed to reset the jig. I had to add the ¼" to ⅜". The jig will be set to ⅝". The jig needs to be aligned with the top of the leg. Once I drill the four holes on one side it was time to flip the leg over and drill the second set of holes.
It is time to do the test assembly. I use and recommend the Fluted dowels or the Spiral dowels. The reason I use those versus the home center dowels is the glueing surface. If you have straight dowels then the glue has no where to go but up and out of the mortise when the dowel is inserted. With fluted or spiral dowels the glue will get trapped in the recesses on the dowel pin. Resulting in a tighter, stronger bond between the pieces. Dowels will swell with moisture, so they suck up moisture from the glue and swell to lock into place. What if you get your dowels and you live in a humid environment like I do here in Houston? Well most likely they will already be swollen. Try popping them into the microwave for about 45 seconds or better yet put them on a cookie sheet in the oven for 5 minutes on 350°. That should suck enough moisture out of them so you can tap them into the mortises.
Once I have all my dowels tapped into place (without glue) I will start to assemble the pieces together. This way I will see if I need to drill the mortises a little deeper to close up gaps and to make sure my table will be square.
In the next article we will add the beading detail to the apron, cut the groove for the S Clips, and assemble the top.