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Utilizing a dowel plate to peg a Shaker cat desk


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Every now and then, I prefer to construct one thing apart from device chests. So just a few 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 As a result of she lands like a two-ton hippopotamus, she wanted one thing sturdy; my wobbly outdated vintage bedside desk didn’t suffice.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 needed a desk a bit taller than typical: window peak 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 wherein to retailer my glasses at evening, as a result of somebody thinks they’re a toy.

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

page from Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture
This cherry aspect 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 is no such thing as 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 slim rail that runs beneath the drawer. (Sure, the highest helps, too, but it surely’s hooked up with wiggle room for growth and contraction.) So I used a belt (tenons) and suspenders (pegs) for the joint at both finish to ensure the factor would outlast Olivia.

However you’ll be able to’t simply stroll into the house middle 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 own home middle), so I all the time discover it finest to make my very own peg inventory. It’s quick and straightforward.

Look via your offcuts and seize the straightest-grained stuff you’ll find. 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’ve got a straight piece with no runout. I first break up a chunk off the three/4-in.-wide piece, then break up that piece in two. You’ll be able to see within the image above that I began the break up with the hacking knife within the middle of the inventory, however on the backside, the break 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 break up the items sufficiently small in order that they match into the outlet not more than two or three sizes bigger than what will probably be my completed peg measurement. (As enjoyable as it’s to bash sticks via the dowel-plate holes, I shoot for environment friendly use of time.) Then I level the tip of every earlier than transferring on to the dowel plate.

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

My first cross via 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 cross, via the 1/4-in. gap, rounded issues up. I wanted solely two 2-in.-long pegs; I might have simply gotten these from one among my roughly 5-in.-long blanks. However you by no means know what’s going to occur whenever you hit issues with a hammer, so I all the time make just a few additional. Plus you want some for checks.

dowel plate
A superb dowel plate is, in my view, a vital device.

It’s additionally crucial to strive 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’ll be able to break up the work. And if the outlet is simply too huge, sufficient glue may preserve the peg in place, however it’ll look kinda crappy (you don’t need your cat to be ashamed of you, do you?). I prefer to drill a gap 1/64 in. smaller than the peg (this is among the few instances in my work that I discover calipers a should) and take a look at that out. I whittle the sides off the peg, them drive it dwelling with a hammer. If I can whack it into the outlet with out splitting the work, nice. If it splits the work, drill an even bigger gap; repeat. If the outlet is simply too massive, drill a smaller gap; repeat.

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

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

Right here’s the completely happy 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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