Wood Slithers work – Paul Sellers’ Blog

Sliding in a well-cut slither of wood will work better than wood filler and you are more likely to create a permanent fix with a match to existing wood that will change colour with the surrounding wood if you do use a wood slither. It’s not that unusual in our flawed thinking and humanity to have at least one slice with a saw on a tail or pin that leaves the slight gap that shows the more when the others beside are all perfect. No matter how small, these gaps are usually in unseen places or at an angle where they will never be seen. Open a drawer and you have to do some gymnastics around the neck to check out someone’s dovetails. Most passers-by will never know it’s not supposed to be that way anyway but bug us it does Most people today will open and close a drawer and never notice anything about the drawer anyway but there is something in us that doesn’t like to see even the thinnest of gaps. On my recent project, I had a couple on the prototype I made ahead of the main one which I intended to keep for use elsewhere other than the Sellers’ home house. I try not to waste the prototypes because I have invested time and money and energy into them. Out of 72 hand-cut dovetails, I would be surprised not to have a couple of flaws in there somewhere.

Different waste from pin and tail recesses give us pieces to rework into slithers and slices, wedge-shaped for corrective needs. It’s not the goal but we shouldn’t let our disappointment thwart our enjoyment. I like the fixes as much as the perfect dovetail I think . . . not really!

Removing the waste from a pin or tail recess the way we do means we should have a stubby chunk lying on the bench that came directly from an identifiable recess. I usually keep these until the joint is fully seated and I can see if indeed the joints are good. Fixing any joint that needs a facelift is not cheating! It’s no different than edge glueing wood to wood. Mixing sawdust and glue is cheating. Ask me what makes the difference and I cannot tell you. Perhaps it just feels different, more careless, something like that. It’s something I did once at fifteen and I never did again and will never do again. That said, there are fillers that you can make with sawdust and glue that are not intended to deceive — I am thinking of knots that have rotted or elongated fissures and not the ends of joints or joint lines.

This flaw is at the bottom back corner of the cabinet. I would not fix it. But it came in time to give you a how-to in case it was at the top front edge corner.

Here I had an issue where somehow I did not hit the spot but it certainly did not show until I took the clamps off. Keeping the offcuts from the joints enabled me to find a half-decent colour match but, not the adjacent location.

It’s important to try to orient grain direction as I did in this end grain growth ring aspect.

I first angled the block to a similar orientation with regard to the growth rings and drew an inline angle to saw to.

Lining the saw up with the waste piece in the vise keeps it secure and my cut is only 1/4″ deep in this case.

I cut down to depth disallowing any wobble in the saw which would create fluctuations in the line and show as a gap. Then I cut an angled cut into it to make a shallow wedge.

I small amount of glue and a gentle tap in place secured the wedge . . .

. . . followed by trimming with the chisel.

This is the end result.

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