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  • Plywood dovetail drawers

    Hi All.....

    I have just started building the lower cabs for a big built-in desk project and I have to start thinking about the drawer boxes soon. I usually make the boxes out of poplar but I have a full sheet of 1/2" birch ply that might save a set of planer blades if I can use it. However, I have never cut dovetails in plywood.....would this even work? I have a funny feeling it might foul-up the bits with all the glue and such, but wanted to know if anyone has done this. I have also thought about Locked Rabbet Drawer Joints but have no experience with these. Are they sufficiently sturdy? This is for a customer project so it has to be perfect.....

    Many thanks and Best Regards,
    Zeno
    “Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure that there is one less scoundrel in the world.” —Thomas Carlyle

  • #2
    Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

    Zeno -

    I had an experience with router bits and plywood, check out this thread, my router bit saga starts at post #12.

    I've pretty much concluded that there may, indeed, be "stuff" in plywood that can damage router bits. But rather than quit using plywood, I decided to buy lower cost router bits. I bought the three-bit plywood set from MLCS, and although it may be too early to say, so far I like them. I've been using the 31/64" bit (for 1/2" plywood) monkeying around with box joints (and I cut a few slots in melamine with it), and it's still sharp, making clean cuts. I've cleaned it a couple times, but that's to be expected, especially with pine.

    As for cutting joints in plywood with router bits, plywood is definitely more prone to chip than solid wood, but it can be done. My very first box joint was with plywood, and it looked decent. Here's a pic.

    I know you asked about dovetails, but I hope this info about router bits and box joints might help.
    Maybe you could try one with the plywood and see what happens...let us know!

    - djb
    sigpic

    A Democracy is 2 wolves and 1 sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

    Restore the Republic.

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    • #3
      Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

      Bummer....Well, I suppose it's back to the poplar....
      “Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure that there is one less scoundrel in the world.” —Thomas Carlyle

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      • #4
        Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

        I have cut a lot of dovetails in plywood, although to be fair it has always been Baltic Birch plywood. An intrinsic value of cutting dovetails in plywood is that if you mess up, the joint can be filled with wood filler. I usually give the inside of the cabinets and the inside and outside of the drawers two coats of high gloss polyurethane as a sealer for a couple reasons. One is the high gloss will hide some of the glue squeeze out that you might have missed. The other is that if I use wood filler to tighten a dovetail joint the wood filler really stands out when covered with the gloss polyurethane. (If you can't hide it make it stand out as though it was meant to be there.) If anyone asks about the different color streak in the side of the drawer where the dovetail was cut I tell them that the nature of plywood is that different plys of the wood may be from different trees and different trees accept finish differently. As a matter of fact for my own kitchen I cut all the half-blind drawer dovetails loose. I filled every one of them and then oiled the drawers before applying the polyurethane. The 1/32" line or so of wood filler really stands out and because birch is kind of neutral in color when finished with polyurethane, it gives a nice added dimention to the sides of the drawers.

        Tom

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        • #5
          Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

          Originally posted by zenophus View Post
          Hi All.....

          <snip>

          I have also thought about Locked Rabbet Drawer Joints but have no experience with these. Are they sufficiently sturdy? This is for a customer project so it has to be perfect.....

          Many thanks and Best Regards,
          Zeno
          I was hoping to hear something on this bit too, Zeno. I bought MCLS' 3-bit cabinetmakers set a while back when it was on sale and now have reason to use it on some 14" deep drawers - too big for a dovetail jig. I chucked up the miter-lock bit and read online that it was best to make the cut in one pass. Much against my better judgement I tried it. On wrenched wrist and nicked finger (from the wood kickback) I wished I had listened to intuition. So, it would be nice to hear from someone who successfully uses the 'locked rabbet' bit.

          TIA,
          Chiz
          Later,
          Chiz

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

            Ironhat,

            I don't have one of those lock miter bits but plan to order one this week. My understanding is that you are supposed to cut the 45 first and then run the bit against the 45 and cut the lock miter. Did you do that? If so I don't want one of the things. I will continue to cut my own lock miters with my dado set or use a box joint on the corners.

            Tom

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

              I was actually of the opinion that it cut the 45* and the lock in one shot and it by the look of the diagram and instructions here http://www.jesada.com/instructions/lock_miter.html it would seem that's right. No mention there of cutting the 45 and if you did, a portion of the lock miter would be removed. Here's a the joint I was talking about - more siomple. http://www.rockler.com/findit.cfm?page=5709 It's still a lot of mass spinning even at the lowest speed. I've got to try it with larger stock than the 1x4 that I was using and tried to drive into my wrist. I can't wait until I try a raised panel bit if this little one intimidates me - sheesh!
              Later,
              Chiz

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

                The directions for use of the Lock Miter bit sure don't say anything about cutting the 45 first. I don't know where I read that but if I come across it again I will post it. And, I plan to wait until I hear of more positive experiences before I order one. I have used my panel raising bit often - from a Freud set. I set my router on the slowest speed and make multiple passes, maybe too many passes, because it takes a lot of time, but I don't want the panel to be torn from my hands.

                Tom

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

                  http://www.woodshopdemos.com/cmt-lm1.htm
                  ---------------
                  Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
                  ---------------
                  “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
                  ---------
                  "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
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                  sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

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                  • #10
                    Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

                    I tested the dovetails on birch ply and I am quite pleased with the results. I got a little worried at first when I tried a piece of standard 3/4" ply and a huge chunk of the veneer popped off, but the birch was fine. I noted no bit damage or discoloration. Also, the joint actually looked quite nice.....I'm very suprised and pleased. I also ordered the lock joint bit this morning from Rockler and will try it as well before I make the final decision.

                    Thanks for all the great advice.....

                    Best Regards,
                    Z
                    “Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure that there is one less scoundrel in the world.” —Thomas Carlyle

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

                      The Lock-Joint bit arrived today and I tried it on some scraps....This is the way to go. Does anyone remember the first time you tried a pocket hole joint? I remember being flabbergasted at how sturdy they are, and the same with this joint. I don't want to imply that they are stronger than dovetails, but wow.....I have no problem recommending this for plywood drawer boxes. Quite impressive.
                      “Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure that there is one less scoundrel in the world.” —Thomas Carlyle

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

                        A quick Q or two for you, Zeno. Did you make several shallow cuts to final depth as you would with othere contour bits? The reason I ask is that I was looking for instructions on Miter Lock Joint bits and one site said to take the entire depth in one pass. Didn't sound safe so I backed out. Secondly, did yours come with setup instructions? Was it a pain to get to the correct depth?
                        Later,
                        Chiz

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

                          I really like the drawer lock bit if I do not feel the project merits dovetails

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

                            Originally posted by ironhat View Post
                            A quick Q or two for you, Zeno. Did you make several shallow cuts to final depth as you would with othere contour bits? The reason I ask is that I was looking for instructions on Miter Lock Joint bits and one site said to take the entire depth in one pass. Didn't sound safe so I backed out. Secondly, did yours come with setup instructions? Was it a pain to get to the correct depth?
                            Ironhat,

                            One pass and no problem at all. As far as the depth of cut, I have a guage that measures height for blades and bits, and as long as the TOP of the 45° is at the top of the cut you are OK. Everything else is gravy. I am very, very impressed.

                            Just as an aside, I ran into some trouble with the dovetails with ply later on after my last post. The problem is cavity defects, where there is no ply between the layers, which seriously chips the outer laminate. The issue is you never really know where these defects are in plywood, but with the lock joints it makes no difference.

                            I am definitely going with this option for this particular project.
                            “Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure that there is one less scoundrel in the world.” —Thomas Carlyle

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Plywood dovetail drawers

                              Originally posted by zenophus View Post
                              The Lock-Joint bit arrived today and I tried it on some scraps....This is the way to go. Does anyone remember the first time you tried a pocket hole joint? I remember being flabbergasted at how sturdy they are, and the same with this joint. I don't want to imply that they are stronger than dovetails, but wow.....I have no problem recommending this for plywood drawer boxes. Quite impressive.
                              Zeno -
                              I've been looking to buy a lock joint miter router bit...you're pushing me over the edge...
                              - djb
                              sigpic

                              A Democracy is 2 wolves and 1 sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

                              Restore the Republic.

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