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Utilizing a dowel plate to peg a Shaker cat desk


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On occasion, I wish to construct one thing apart from instrument chests. So a couple of months in the past, I made my cat, Olivia, a desk out of some good walnut. As a result of she lands like a two-ton hippopotamus, she wanted one thing sturdy; my wobbly outdated vintage bedside desk didn’t suffice. Plus, I wished a desk somewhat taller than typical: window top so Olivia can comfortably lounge whereas watching the squirrels whereas I’m away on the store (my mattress is fairly tall, so it really works out on each counts). I additionally wanted a drawer by which to retailer my glasses at evening, as a result of somebody thinks they’re a toy.

My inspiration was a facet desk from Shaker Village at Nice Hill, in central Kentucky, as proven by Kerry Pierce in Nice Hill Shaker Furnishings (2007, Common Woodworking Books) – however with chonky legs (for my pile driver of a cat) and a slight underbevel on the tabletop. (I suppose ultimately mine appears to be like extra trendy than Shaker…or like a well-fed Shaker.)

page from Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture
This cherry facet desk was within the basement eating room of the Centre Household Dwelling at Nice Hill in 2007.

The important thing factor to note concerning the desk is that there isn’t a rail above the drawer; the underside of the highest acts as its kicker. Subsequently, the piece that primarily serves to maintain the desk collectively and sq. throughout the entrance is the slender rail that runs beneath the drawer. (Sure, the highest helps, too, however it’s hooked up with wiggle room for enlargement and contraction.) So I used a belt (tenons) and suspenders (pegs) for the joint at both finish to verify the factor would outlast Olivia.

However you possibly can’t simply stroll into the house heart and purchase straight-grained walnut dowels with no runout that completely match the walnut for the remainder of the desk (in case you can, I want I lived close to your house heart), so I all the time discover it finest to make my very own peg inventory. It’s quick and straightforward.

Look by your offcuts and seize the straightest-grained stuff you will discover. In my case, that was a 3/4-in.-thick piece from the desk aprons.

splitting walnut
Walnut is straightforward to separate.

It’s finest to separate the items off if doable, as a result of wooden will break alongside the grain traces, thereby making certain you could have a straight piece with no runout. I first cut up a bit off the three/4-in.-wide piece, then cut up that piece in two. You possibly can see within the image above that I began the cut up with the hacking knife within the heart of the inventory, however on the backside, the cut up ran off to the left, following the grain. That’s precisely what you need, as a result of the straighter the grain, the stronger the peg (also called a trenail or trunnel).

I attempt to cut up the items sufficiently small in order that they match into the outlet not more than two or three sizes bigger than what can be my completed peg measurement. (As enjoyable as it’s to bash sticks by the dowel-plate holes, I shoot for environment friendly use of time.) Then I level the top of every earlier than transferring on to the dowel plate.

3/8 dowel plate pass
The primary move peels off the corners to make an octagon.

My first move by the plate on this case was within the 3/8-in. gap, which principally created an octagon because it peeled off the sq. edges. The 5/16-in. gap added 4 extra aspects. The ultimate move, by the 1/4-in. gap, rounded issues up. I wanted solely two 2-in.-long pegs; I might have simply gotten these from one in all my roughly 5-in.-long blanks. However you by no means know what’s going to occur while you hit issues with a hammer, so I all the time make a couple of further. Plus you want some for assessments.

dowel plate
A very good dowel plate is, for my part, an important instrument.

It’s additionally crucial to attempt the match of your pegs in a take a look at gap – drilled in the identical materials and in the identical orientation because the workpiece – earlier than getting out the glue and going to city on the precise work. If the outlet is simply too small, you possibly can cut up the work. And if the outlet is simply too huge, sufficient glue would possibly hold the peg in place, however it should look kinda crappy (you don’t need your cat to be ashamed of you, do you?). I wish to drill a gap 1/64 in. smaller than the peg (this is without doubt one of the few instances in my work that I discover calipers a should) and check out that out. I whittle the sides off the peg, them drive it residence with a hammer. If I can whack it into the outlet with out splitting the work, nice. If it splits the work, drill a much bigger gap; repeat. If the outlet is simply too massive, drill a smaller gap; repeat.

test fit a peg
That’ll do. You possibly can see that the top I whacked with the hammer is a bit mushroomed; the straight grain of the peg helped to maintain it from breaking.

If you’re certain all the pieces will match properly, drill your holes within the work, level the pegs (or simply take off the sharp edges with a knife) in order that they’re simple to get began, put somewhat glue on them, then drive them residence with a hammer. Cease hitting one whack earlier than it breaks. (You’ll hear the sound change when it’s all the best way residence.) After the glue dries, flush the pegs to the work floor, then sand as wanted earlier than ending.

Right here’s the completely satisfied buyer. (I want I might have shot the opener right here…however I didn’t assume Olivia would sit nonetheless whereas I dug out my lighting package.)

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