Most professional woodworkers use a table saw or router table when making box joints for different projects. The advantages of using a table saw or router table is the precision and accuracy that you can achieve. They also cut faster and hence save a lot of time as compared to using hand tools. However, these tools are expensive to buy and if you are looking for an alternative way to make a box joint without a table saw, this is the right article for you.
To make a box joint without a table saw, you will need to have woodworking dividers, a wood clamp, marking gauge, try square, a coping saw, a back tenon saw, and a chisel. With the tools, mark the wood using a pair of woodwork dividers to give you the precise number of fingers that you will cut, then measure the depth using a marking gauge, clamp the wood and do vertical cuts using the back saw until the depth mark, then use the coping saw and chisel to do horizontal cuts and to remove the fingers while doing the finishing.
It is important to note that using hand tools to make box joints can be a slow but sure process. This will need great woodworking skill and precision. Just like making dovetail joints, this is even simpler if you know how to make dovetail by hand.
Of course, box joints are common in most woodworking projects such as cabinets, wooden tables, decks, book racks, and shelves among other projects. Therefore, as a woodworker, whether a novice or experienced, these are the common tasks that are inevitable and you need the skill to accomplish whether you have a table saw or not.
5 Steps To Building a Box Joint Without a Table Saw
If you don’t want to use a table saw or a router plane, then the only option is to make your box joints using the simple hand tools that you have in your workshop. In this section, we will take you through a step-by-step process on how to achieve this without strain.
Step 1 – Do the markings
The first step is always to do the markings on your wood. You need to make some measurements and know the number of fingers that you can create on the wood depending on the width or the length of the wood. You can use woodworking dividers to help you divide and know the number of finger joints to create.
After that, mark the horizontal lines where the saw will align as you cut the horizontal depth. Before that, also measure the depth of your joints using the marking gauge, and mark them accordingly.
Step 2 – Clamp the wood
Clamping the wood tightly will help eliminate errors that would otherwise result from the movements while cutting. In this step, you need to clamp the wood such that you can see all the marks from the top towards the depth.
Step 3 – Cut the vertical depths
Using a back tenon saw, cut along the marked points vertically until the point where you have the horizontal mark, then repeat with all the points that you have marked to achieve the number of finger joints that you want.
Step 4 – Cut horizontally to create finger joints
This is perhaps the most challenging thing, especially if you are a beginner at woodworking. However, with the right tools, you can achieve this.
In this step, you need to use the coping saw and chisel. The coping saw is made for complex cuttings like this and with skill, you can cut along the horizontal marks by aligning the saw while cutting from the depth of the horizontal cuts.
While doing this cut, ensure that you cut alternately so that you can create interlocking joints with that of the other wood. You also need to ensure that the marks on the other wood will interlock perfectly once you are done creating these joints. The chisel is for finishing and ensuring that the joints are at right angles and precise for perfect fitting.
Step 5 – Repeat with the other wood
After you are done with the first wood, repeat the same process with the other wood that you wish to interlock with to make a perfect box joint. For the other wood, you need to cut complementary joints that will interlock perfectly by doing opposite alternating cuts.
Tips for making a box joint
Making a box joint, especially by hand requires great attention to detail. You need to do the markings perfectly and ensure that both blocks of wood will eventually interlock perfectly leaving no gaps or unpleasant grains. Some of the few tips to keep you on track include the following:
- Always use the right tools for the purpose.
- Make sure that your cutting tools are sharpened before beginning the project.
- Do the measurements accurately before beginning making your cuts.
- Always clamp the wood tightly to ensure that there are no movements while cutting.
- Ensure that the horizontal and vertical marks are visible when doing the cuttings.
Tools to help you build a box joint
To make a perfect box joint, you will need to be equipped with some of the hand tools that will make the work easier. Of course, not any tool will give you the accurate results that you want. For box joints, I would recommend the following tools:
A back saw
This type of saw is good for cutting wood, especially wood joints. The saw features a narrow blade, sharp and serrated teeth, and hence would cut accurately without leaving a lot of grain as compared to using the ordinary hand saws. A back tenon saw is, therefore, a good choice to use when making box joints on the wood and we recommend Spear & Jackson Back Tenon Saw.
Another good type of saw that you can use to make box joints is the coping saw. This one comes with a thin narrow blade and is great for complex cuttings that require high precision and accuracy. As we noted, you can use this type to remove blocks on the marked areas of the wood to create finger joints.
Chisel and mallet
These are the most common tools that every woodworker should have. A chisel and a hammer work together and are useful for most finishing works. Of course, you may not avoid using a chisel in most projects that require detailing. It is also useful in finishing the finger joints to create perfect fitting box joints.
This tool is useful for measuring and marking lines along with the points where you want to cut. They are adjustable and you can adjust to mark the points on wood that you will cut along. In box joints, this tool is good for marking the depths of the fingers.
Since box joints require great attention to detail, especially when making by hand, try square is an inevitable tool. They are useful for marking and also checking the 90-degrees angles on the piece of wood.
Of course, making box joints may require more than the tools that we have mentioned. Among the other tools that you will need include the wood clamp and woodworking dividers among others.
We hope that with this guide, you will be able to make perfect box joints without hassle. You just need to have the right tools for the task and master the steps above. Though it may be time-consuming as compared to using power tools, eventually, you will achieve that perfect fitting joints regardless of your skill level.