Work Smarter


Work Smarter:
How often do you wish there was a better way to do something? We show you easier ways to get things done.

A mess of clamps and glue, unless each part is done as a sub-assembly first

If you are trying to put a project together, you start with a design – maybe just a sketch – then make all the components, a dry assembly after that – hopefully you don’t skip that all important step and finally glue up. That is the most stressful time of all especially if it is a complicated piece of work. It is the time to be left alone, unless you need another pair of hands with absolutely no interruptions. Unfortunately, with glue oozing out, an assortment of parts and a lack of enough clamps of the right size, it can all go horribly wrong.
So, let’s go through the process to get it better. At the design stage, try and consider how your great project will finally go together. If it is possible make it so it goes together as several sub-assemblies. Granted this isn’t always possible, but by modifying the design at the outset it may allow this to happen. Let’s take, for instance, a table. If two legs, top skirt and a lower rail are jointed and glued together that is one side. Do the other side and you then have two sub-assemblies, which can be made nice and square and all surplus glue wiped away, ready for fitting the two remaining in-between skirt and rail sections the next day. 

A dry assembly of the overall table minus various infill components to check it goes together properly

A neat method of making corner leg tenons using Domino components, but being in-line may cause sub-assembly problems

The trick is to ensure the second lot of joints are either offset from the first ones, i.e. you don’t have tenons meeting in the leg because glue would harden and ruin the sockets for the final assembly, or cut the final joints after the sub-assemblies have dried. Dowels are an example of a joint that can be done later so as long as you have an accurate  jig to guide the drill. Likewise, a router could be used if the sub-assembly can be held precisely while machining.
Of course, if you want to chop mortises by hand the second set can be done that way so long as the workpiece is properly supported. In other words, by all means prepare as many components to completion as possible, but maybe consider doing a secondary lot of joint cutting if it helps make subassemblies easier to do.

A test joint with mortises offset using split Dominos so they are easy to remove

The first sub-assembly, with stub mortises so glue cannot harden at the bottom of the unfilled mortises

Another sub-assembly, this is the lower shelf

What you avoid is a kind of 3D mess of legs and rails, which have to be checked and corrected in all planes while applying and reapplying clamping pressure until all is square, and using a glue that promises to be ‘quick setting’ (and how often have we been there?) – only enough clamps to effectively hold part of an unwieldy ‘scaffold’ of components.

The whole table minus the top. For a small project is has quite a complex set of joints

So next time you are planning a project, bear in mind how you could make it better, more satisfying and importantly –  make it less stressful by employing the strategy of using subassemblies…


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