Shelf assembly

When it finally comes down to assembly, it can be a little nerve-wracking when you get something this size, with this many joints.  This goes doubly for a build like this where there isn’t an option for subassemblies.  It’s all got to go together at once.

Since we’re going to wedge our mortice and tenon joints (and dovetails too!), we first kerf all the tenons to receive a wedge.  We’re going to align the wedges so they will spread the tenon in line with the grain, rather than against it.  This helps avoid any possibility of splitting the wood with the wedging force.

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Next, put everything together dry.  If anything binds, you should find out now while you can still correct it.

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I made my wedges for this project out of white oak.  I want the tenon to deform in the mortice, not the wedge.  Be sure to make extra!  And remember that you want them rather blunt, especially the ones for the dovetails.

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Now, this is going to take a little faith.  Make sure your hide glue is nice and hot (because the warmer it is, the runnier it gets) before you start.  IMPORTANTLY, a wedged joint is not the same as a drawbored joint.  These wedges will not draw the joint together, just secure it.  So do clamp your joints shut while you wedge them.

Drizzle your glue around your tenon, and let it wick down into the joint (a few seconds).  Then put a little glue on your wedge (MAKE SURE it fits the mortice first!), insert it into the kerf, and hammer it home.  You’ll know it’s in all the way because the sound will change from a tap to a solid clunk.  Once you’ve gotten it there, stop!  It does not matter if you still have wedge sticking out.  Once it is wedged, hammering harder won’t help.  As you work, make sure your glue stays hot, or it won’t run into the joints correctly.  Once you get all those little wedges in all those tenons, feel free to collapse from exhaustion while the glue dries overnight.

The next day, you can start to clean up.  Cut off the gross excess and then plane everything down.  I’ve taken a picture halfway through so you can see the difference.  It does turn out to be a pretty neat looking joint.

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And that’s the assembly done!  Tomorrow we’ll finish and install.

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