Woodworking is all about shaping wood. While there are many ways to shape that wood, they can be broken down into two basic categories: cutting wood to remove parts and attaching pieces together. There are several different ways of accomplishing most woodworking tasks within each of those two categories.
Today, we have many different power tools that can help us do various woodworking tasks. The problem is that sometimes we buy too many tools and can’t afford them all. We then have to choose the essential tools for us and find ways of making do for everything else.
That’s why it’s valuable to know alternative ways of doing things. Those alternative ways might involve using other types of power tools to complete the task, or they might be the methods that our forefathers used, working with hand tools rather than power tools. Either way, they’re worth having in our bag of tricks.
- 1 The Rapid Cutting Router
- 2 Alternative Ways to Cut Grooves (Rabbeting)
- 3 How to Make Rounded and Chamfered Edges on Wood without a Router
- 4 How to Cut a Slot in Wood
The Rapid Cutting Router
We’ll look at alternatives for molding that are typically done with a router for this post. Routers are high-speed equipment in which a motor turns a tiny bit and propels it down at an angle of 90 degrees through a base. The bit’s height can be adjusted compared to the base, affecting exactly where on the workpiece the bit is cutting. There are several bit designs to choose from.
Routers may be handheld or placed on the workpiece upside-down on a router table, allowing the workpiece to be passed over the router bit. For large pieces of wood, the router is generally utilized without the table; for smaller ones, it is commonly attached to a table. Some woodworkers own two routers, allowing them to keep one on their router table.
A router is a helpful instrument for cutting grooves (technically known as rabbeting), slotting boards, and trimming the edge of the laminate. It may also be used to cut various tongue and groove joints to connect parts together. They’re also used to round or chamfer tabletops’ edges and cut molding edges right into them.
Alternative Ways to Cut Grooves (Rabbeting)
Rabbeting is the process of cutting a groove aboard. This groove may be found on the board’s edge, which is an efficient method of connecting boards at corners, or it might be in the middle, such as for a drawer slide. The router is the most common instrument for cutting these grooves in either case. But what if you don’t have access to a router to create a cavity in your workpiece?
Regardless of the method you choose to cut the rabbet; you’ll always want to start by marking the location where you wish to make a channel. “Measure twice, cut once” is just as accurate here as anywhere else. Use a straight edge rather than simply a convenient board when cutting a straight line. It’s amazing how many boards come out of the sawmill with rough edges that aren’t dependable.
Table Saw Method
On a table saw, grooves are typically cut with a dado blade. There are many types of these, including one in which the blade sways back and forth as it cuts out the groove and one that is simply a stack of blades. The width of the groove is adjustable by changing the number of blades on one side. Both types can be altered for the desired width of the groove, and both operate well; however, the wobbling blade style’s surface finish isn’t as good as that produced by the stack of blades.
Always make a test cut when cutting a dado or rabbet on a table saw, as the width and depth of these cuts may differ from what you expect. You should also measure the distance between the edge of the saw blade and your fence with a tape measure, as the built-in gauge for your fence will not be accurate with these blades installed.
You may also make grooves on a table saw with a standard blade if you don’t have a dado blade for cutting grooves. The kerf (width of cut made by the blade) of most table saw blades is 1/8″. However, there are some “narrow kerf” blades that only cut out a tenth of an inch.
To cut a wider channel than 1/8″ deep in the wood, all required is to make a succession of cuts, one after the other, which overlap each other. If your groove goes across the length of the workpiece, you may move the table saw’s table, and if it runs along the width of the board, you’ll need to use the miter gauge instead.
Whenever cutting a table saw that does not go all the way through the board, make a test cut to double-check the depth of your blade. While you may approximate the height of the highest tooth off the table and determine this, that measurement usually isn’t accurate enough.
Dremel Tool Method
With a Dremel tool or comparable instrument, you may cut a channel in wood; however, it is almost difficult to get a precise cut this way. By using a utility knife first to trim the edges of your cut, you can enhance the cleanliness of the cuts and avoid splintering.
Use a Dremel tool for short cuts since the rotary bit on this tool is tiny, and long cuts may be time-consuming. First, make sure the bit on the tool goes to the appropriate depth, then get started following your line. You’ll eventually reach your goal!
Woodworkers used a rabbeting plane to create grooves in wooden components before routers and table saws were invented. This might be a wooden or metal-bodied plane with the plane’s body equal in size to the blade. Rabbeting planes come in various widths, up to one inch, to match the most frequent groove sizes.
Rabbeting planes can be used in the middle of a board or at the edge. They’re compatible with both the grain and crosscutting. The primary difference between crosscutting and cutting with the grain is that you must use a shallower depth of cut than when cutting with the grain.
Some rabbeting planes come with a fence, which allows you to set the width of a rabbet when making the rabbet at the edge, but most don’t. Professionals get by without a fence by cutting a narrow groove with a sharp knife at the edge of where they want to make their cut. This groove can then be used to guide the plane.
If you’re not that skilled, an alternative is to clamp a straight edge, metal-bodied level, or straight board across the piece you are trying to cut the groove in, using it as a fence once you get a little bit of the groove cut, you can remove the fence, as the plane will ride in its groove.
You may always cut a groove with a chisel if you’re completely desperate and don’t have any power tools. This was the standard method of cutting a groove for ages, especially for novice woodworkers who didn’t have access to a rabbet plane.
As with the other techniques, begin by marking your groove’s boundaries on both edges. Then use a backsaw to cut along those lines, cutting to the depth you want to create your groove. Be careful on this, as it is straightforward to get the ends of the cuts to the full depth without getting the middle cut that deep.
It’s a simple procedure to cut out the material in the groove with a chisel once the groove sides are removed. A chisel that is as close to the width of the groove as possible without going too wide should be used. Be careful not to overcut when approaching the bottom of grooving.
How to Make Rounded and Chamfered Edges on Wood without a Router
By far, a router is the finest tool for modifying the edges of the wood, whether it’s making a rounded edge, a chamfer, or any other form of molded edge. Many of the specialized router bits on the market are intended for these uses. But what do you do if you don’t have access to a router?
A lot depends on the kind of edge you’re trying to make. Some are more difficult to accomplish than others. Much of this involves using various types of wood planes.
A lot depends on the kind of edge you’re attempting to create. Some are more difficult than others. Much of this is about utilizing a variety of wood planes. Planes have long been a popular woodworking tool. Most people would own many planes, many of which they had made themselves and each with its purpose.
Rounding and Chamfering with a Plane
A standard wood plane, often called a “Jack plane” or “bench plane,” rounding and chamfering edges is simple. You have to use the plane down the corner of the board several times until you get the edge you desire. For a chamfer, you must maintain the plane at a consistent 45-degree angle for all strokes and round it; you’ll want to vary the angle. Finally, sand out the flats generated by planning to complete the rounded edge.
When cutting the long edge of a board, always use a plane following the direction of the grain. The grain should move up and toward the edge as it moves away from you. Otherwise, the plane’s blade might catch in the grain, ripping out pieces rather than shaping it how you want.
For rounding and chamfering the ends of the board, where you are cutting across the grain, you’ll want to use a block plane rather than the planes mentioned earlier. These are smaller planes, but the critical difference is that the blade is set at a 35-degree angle to the surface, making it easier to cut across the grain. Always ensure that the blade is sharp to cut through the grain.
Rounding Edges with a Sander
Another alternative, which permits you to use a power tool rather than hand tools, is to utilize a vibratory or random orbital sander. This will not give you as smooth and sharp a rounded edge as the previous option; instead, it will give an appearance of wear at the corners. Working one edge at a time, carefully removing wood until you’ve reached a rounded profile that you like, is difficult. This isn’t always easy, but the end results are attractive and ideal for rustic furniture and woodwork.
Of course, the same thing can be done sanding the wood by hand, although it is much more work.
Using Molding Planes
Before the router was invented, carpenters and cabinet makers used molding planes to cut profiles in the wood’s edges. These planes were utilized for both ornamental wood cabinetmaking and architectural molding. Each unique profile that the woodworker needed to produce required its own specific plane.
The shoe of these planes would look like a mold of the profile to be cut and the blade would be ground, filed and sharpened to match that profile. In a carpentry or cabinetmaking shop, they will make their planes off a “mother plane,” which is the reverse of what they are trying to create. The mother plane would cut the profile into the shoe of the planes they would use, then they would grind the blade to match that shoe.
In many antique shops, you may buy these molding planes for a reasonable price. While they may require some cleanup and sharpening, the majority of them are in good shape. Just make sure that the shoe of the plane is whole and intact, as well as that the blade matches the curve of the shoe. They’re occasionally mixed up.
Molding planes are used just like you’re trying to plane the edge of the board, except that they will make a contour rather than making the edge of the board flat and smooth.
Molding with a Scratch Stock
When only a small amount of a particular molded edge, such as a triple beaded edge for the top of a dresser, was required, an easy tool called the scratch stock was employed in cabinet shops. This tool consisted of a clamp to hold the blade, with a lip to align it with the board’s edge to be molded. There was no shaped shoe, like on a molding plane.
Scratch blades were frequently ground from fragments of old, broken band saw blades. The writer used a broken Sawzall blade for scratch stock in the photograph above. The working end of this blade is not visible in the photo since it protrudes beneath the tool, but it is ground to produce triple beading on a board’s edge. All that would be necessary to employ this end is to reverse it in the tool handle.
How to Cut a Slot in Wood
Another task commonly accomplished using a router is to cut slots. This is different in comparison to cutting grooves as slots do not cover across the entire width on the surface. Slots of different types are cut to serve different reasons. There are several methods of cutting a slot using wood, without the use of a router. The method you select will depend on the type of slot you want to create, as well as depending on what equipment you already have in your arsenal.
Hanging finished work on the wall is one of the most frequent applications for keyhole slots. There will be a hole for the head of a screw to go through, and a small slot that the screw head cannot pass through it will be provided. Keyhole slots are cut through a board, making up the project’s back or into it, depending on how thick the board is.
These slots are typically cut with a particular bit on a router, using a fence to keep the slot straight with the router mounted on a router table. But they were in use long before the router or the router table were invented.
First, draw a line where the slot will be placed and which end the larger hole will be on. At the appropriate end of your line, drill a clearance hole through which the screw head may pass. This is usually about 1/32″ bigger than the screw head’s diameter. Then drill a hole of equal size as the slot at the other end of your line. This is generally 1/32″ greater than the screw threads, known as “the major diameter” of the screw.
Make two straight lines that are equal to the length of the hole that is smaller from the smaller hole to the larger one, making sure that they are aligned over the bigger hole. Cut the material in between the two holes using the keyhole saw. This is a smaller saw with a thin blade and a sharp point at the end.
Another method of cutting this material is to make several holes following the line, using the drill bit that is smaller in size. Then, cut out the remainder of the material using the smallest chisel.
Cutting Slots in Wood with a Jigsaw
If you’re looking to make an open slot into the wood, the Jigsaw may be the best tool. Begin with drilling 2 holes on the opposite ends of the slot. It is essential to ensure that, at the very least, one hole is wide enough to fit the Jigsaw’s blade. Then, cut the slot carefully and slowly.
Cut a Slot in Wood with a Circular Saw
It’s not usually recommended to cut plunge cuts using the circular saw for safety reasons. However, some woodworkers make it happen. It’s much safer to create a plunge cut using the circular saw rather than making similar cuts using table saws. To be safe, before you start, make sure you have a sharp, cutting blade for the circular saw. Make sure you wear the appropriate eye and ear protection to perform this job, and make sure to clamp your wood to the right position before starting. Finally, stand on your side and not behind the saw.
Lift your blade guard and set the blade at the correct depth, only one-tenth of an inch more than the depth of the timber.
Make sure the blade is aligned with the guideline. Then, tip the saw upwards and then turn on the blade. Once it’s fully powered, Double-check to ensure you’re not crossing your guideline. Slowly plunge your blade through the timber, then release your guard, and cut. It’s very beneficial to practice this method with scrap wood before proceeding to something more substantial.