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Locking Rabbet Joint
For strong, easy-to-assemble drawers, you'll want to try a locking rabbet joint cut on the table saw.
LIP COVERS FRONT OF DRAWER SIDE
DADO CAPTURES TONGUE TO LOCK JOINT
Besides handling basic rip cuts and crosscuts, your table saw is a great tool for cutting precision joinery. A good example of this is using locking rabbet joinery to build sturdy drawers. The entire job can be completed in short order without leaving the table saw.
The Anatomy. The drawing below shows how a locking rabbet fits together and why it's such an effective joint. In a nutshell, a rabbeted tongue is cut into each end of the drawer front and back. Then a dado, sized to fit the tongue, is cut into the drawer side. The result is a solid mechanical lock as well as good gluing strength. And to top it off, as you can see in
W-THICK DRAWER FRONT
the inset photo above, the appearance of the joint is unique.
The Pieces. A locking rabbet joint works best if the front and back are thicker than the sides. A thicker front gives you more material in which to cut the rabbeted tongue while still leaving plenty of thickness on the front lip. It also lets you create more separation between the end of the sides and the dado. This all comes together to make the joint stronger. For large drawers, 3/4"-thick fronts and backs and ^"-thick sides are pretty standard. (For small drawers, x/i-thick fronts and backs and 3/ft"-thick sides work well.)
When you cut the pieces to length, keep a couple of things in mind. The fronts and backs are cut to the width of the drawer open-
_^ ing, allowing for clearance.
The sides are cut to the full depth of the drawer, minus the thickness of the front and back lip.
CUTTING THE JOINTS
1/fe"-THICK DRAWER , SIDE
Once all the drawer pieces are cut to size, yoLi can start setting up the table saw.
Since most of the work goes into accurately cutting the rabbeted tongues on the front and back, this is where 1 like to begin.
The First Cut. There are two steps involved in making the rabbeted tongue. The first is to cut a groove or slot along the end. The table saw setup for this task is shown in Figure 1. In '-thick stock, I generally cut a V-wide groove that's positioned to leave a V-thick lip and a Vs'-thick tongue (a saw kerf's width), as shown in detail 'a' at left. And the depth of the slot needs to match the thickness of the drawer sides.
To make the cut, you'll need to stand the workpiece on end and pass it over the dado blade. A tall auxiliary fence and a featherboard help you with control while a backer board minimizes chipout.
Test Cuts. As you can see, the setup for this cut (and the ones that follow) is pretty basic. But, the real key here is the accuracy of the setup. So before making any cuts on the actual workpieces, I always tweak things with the help of a few cuts on test pieces the same thickness as the actual parts.
46 ShopNotes No. 93