In my shop, I use dado blades a lot. In fact, I use them so
often, I keep a dado blade in one of my table saws all the
time. And I never go on a job site without making sure I've got
dado blades in my truck. I use them for cutting tongues,
grooves, rabbets, tenons, and, of course, dadoes. One of my
favorite dado-blade operations is making drawer boxes. I call
my technique the QQQ method — for
"quarter-quarter-quarter." If you ever have to make drawer
boxes for cabinets or built-ins — whether in the shop or
on site — you may find that this approach saves you some
It all depends on precision, starting with the material. I use
a 1/2-inch 9-ply prefinished Baltic birch plywood called
ApplePly (States Industries, 800/626-1981, www.statesind.com).
Unlike some 1/2-inch plywoods, it's exactly a half inch thick,
and the ApplePly 1/4-inch ply is a true quarter inch. This is
key to my drawer setup.
When setting up the dado blade, I use a dial caliper
to make sure
it's cutting a groove exactly 1/4 inch wide. I also use the
calipers, plus a 1/4-inch-thick piece of material, to set the
blades exactly 1/4 inch above the table
and the rip fence exactly 1/4 inch
from the dado blade
With this triple-Q setup, I can make all the cuts I need to
build my drawer boxes without making any changes.
For a typical production run, I first determine how many
drawers I need of each height and rip the plywood accordingly.
With average-size drawers, I can usually get all four sides
from each rip, with maybe enough left for an additional side. I
then cut all the sides, fronts, and backs to length.
I generally make the sides 2 inches shorter than the overall
depth of the cabinet box (22 inches for a 24-inch-deep cabinet,
for example). Figuring the widths for the backs and fronts
requires more time: Starting with the cabinet opening, you have
to subtract for the drawer slides (typically 1/2 inch per side,
or 1 inch total); subtract for the drawer sides (two sides at
1/2 inch, or 1 inch total); and then add back in the length of
the two tongues that fit into the dadoes in the sides (1/4 inch
each, or 1/2 inch total). This means I end up subtracting 11/2
inches from the width of the cabinet opening to determine the
cut length for the fronts and backs.
Once the parts are cut, I stack them near the table saw, sides
in one pile and fronts and backs in another. I take a side, cut
the dado for the joint
, then turn it around and cut the dado for the
. I cut
all the sides, then move on to the fronts and backs, first
cutting the rabbet that creates the tongue
cutting the slot for the bottom
Finally, I dry-assemble the drawers and measure for the
bottoms, adding only 7/16 inch (instead of a full 1/2 inch) to
the inside box dimension to ensure a trouble-free fit.
Dry-fitting is especially important if you have only one table
saw, since you'll have to install a regular saw blade to cut
the bottoms and will lose the QQQ setup. Better to make sure
everything fits first.
Steve Phippsis a cabinetmaker and millworker in
Woodland Hills, Calif.
Easy Brick Cleanup
When I'm setting bricks, I like to concentrate on getting
full, compressed joints instead of worrying about keeping the
brickwork clean. Acid-washing is the usual method for cleaning
off mortar, but with some bricks this messy step isn't
necessary. I've found that I can usually clean smooth-faced
brick using just a nonmetallic abrasive pad, such as Norton's O
pad. The trick is to clean the brick twice.
I do my initial cleanup while the mortar is still setting up,
typically an hour and a half after striking off the joints.
Since the mortar is still soft, I simply rub the face of the
bricks lightly with my dry abrasive pad, being careful not to
dig into the joints or use any water (left). This step is
similar to the initial cleanup of freshly grouted tile.
The following morning, I use the same abrasive pad with plenty
of water to get any remaining smears off the brickwork (right).
Because the mortar has set up, I can be as aggressive as I need
to be with the scouring pad, eliminating the need for further
John Carrollis a mason and builder in Durham,