Quick Tips — Tips 1

1. Sled for cutting key-miter slots

Adding solid-wood keys to mitered picture frames or mitered boxes not only makes the joint stronger, but it also adds interest. Typically, I use only one key per joint when making a picture frame. When making a box, I’ll add several keys to each joint.

A key miter is made in three steps. First, the frame or box is glued up. Then a slot is cut in the miter joint. After that, the key is made and glued into the slot. Once the glue dries, the key is trimmed flush.

No matter how many key miters I add to a joint, the sled shown here always makes it easier to cut the slots. In use, it slides front to back while bearing against the fence of a tablesaw or router table. The location of the slot is set by moving the fence toward or away from the blade or router bit.

The sled is made of plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). It consists of a V-shaped trough made up of two sides – one wide, one narrow – that meet at 90°. The ends of the trough extend to runners, where a pair of cleats, some wood glue, and a few wood screws join everything together. When connected to the runners, the sides of the trough intersect the saw or router table at 45°.

To cut a slot, the work is nestled into the trough and butted against the inside runner. As a result, I can hold the frame (or box) securely in place (keeping my fingers away from the path of the sawblade) as the work is passed over the blade or bit.

2. Jig makes it easier to plane sides of drawers

It usually is necessary to plane the sides of an assembled drawer to get a perfect fit in the drawer pocket. But it can be a chore to hold the drawer in place for that task.

The typical routine requires that you clamp the drawer to the side of a bench, take a pass with the plane, unclamp the drawer, check the fit, reclamp, take another pass with the plane, and so on.


This simple jig saves time and effort. It consists of two main parts: a yoke that mounts in the end vise and a support board that clamps to the workbench.

Once the jig is set up, you simply slide the drawer in place and plane. Slide the drawer out to check the fit. The jig provides support so that the sides stay flat. It also holds the drawer in such a way that I don’t feel like I’m stressing the corner joinery.

The yoke is a rectangular piece of 3⁄4-in.-thick plywood. A 1-in.-wide slot cut in the yoke accepts either the drawer front or back. Attaching a hardwood cleat to the underside of the yoke allows it to be clamped in the vise.

The support board has slots on each side to accommodate drawers of different depths. I hold it in place by sliding a clamp through one of the benchdog holes, which keeps the clamp clear of the planing area. A bench hook also would work. By flipping the piece end for end and moving the clamp to different benchdog holes, I can fit drawers of almost any width or length. If I can’t, I just cut a new slot in the plywood.

3. Improved tabletop button fits slot every time

An apron slot that’s a little too high or low won’t make a difference to this tabletop button. A kerf under the working end of the button gives it the flexibility to bend up or down as needed to slip into the slot.

A lot of woodworkers fill smallish dings, dents, and splits with homemade putty made from sanding dust and wood glue. To make the putty less visible, I go a half-step further and use dust from the same species of wood that’s getting filled. To ensure a ready source of different types of sawdust, I store dust from several common wood species in individual containers. A sawdust source is never a problem; I just empty the dust-collection canister on my random-orbit sander after using it on a particular species of wood.