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  • Best way to make half lap joints?

    I'm just getting into woodworking, and so far it's been a lot of fun and very rewarding. My current project I'm working on will hopefully become a set of speaker stands. The design I came up with would probably be easiest to join if I use my 1.5" x 1.5" slats in a half lap joint to form an "X". I have a circular saw to make the cross cuts, though what should I use to remove the wood between the cuts? I was thinking probably some type of chisel. What would be best?

  • #2
    Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

    You can use the circular saw to do a dado by moving it over 1/8" (or the thickness of your blade's kerf) repeatedly. You can also do a lot of it that way and then use a chisel to clean up (or do the whole thing with a chisel.

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    • #3
      Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

      The multiple cuts to make a dado sounds easy enough, though I'll probably have to make a number of these. Will this put any significant wear on my blade? If so, I'll need to take a look at the cost of another blade vs. the cost of a chisel.

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      • #4
        Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

        It's definitely not the best way to do it, but with your limited tools I think that CPW's idea is about the only way to go. 7 1/4" blades are not very expensive and I wouldn't worry about this procedure wearing the blade out either.
        If you have a straight edge, I would use that for the edge cuts (so you know your straight), but you could just do the rest free hand and clean it up with the chisel.
        If you haven’t got a straight edge either, just clamp a board to the work piece that you know to be straight.

        Do you have a buddy with a table saw?

        Good luck.

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        • #5
          Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

          I did spring for a compound miter saw during this past Home Depot ultimate power deal which came in handy for my last project and will be useful for upcoming ideas I have. Wasn't sure if there was a safe way to set it up to make these joint cuts without slicing them clean through so I didn't even try it.

          I really wish I had a buddy with a table saw, plunge router, and a random orbital sander . Unfortunately, most of my friends aren't interested in woodworking and the one that is lives in an apartment and has no reason to own a table saw. My next major tool purchase might be a table saw, though my garage/workshop isn't very large.

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          • #6
            Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

            If you are thinking of a table saw, you'll need to put serious though into the cost vs. size tradeoffs. There are cheap little table saw,s ($100) but they are not as fun or safe as the larger ones. If you're on a tight space/money budget, you might consider more portable power tools instead of a stationary tool like a table saw (e.g., a router would do your half lap better than a circ saw or a TS w/o a dado). The table saw's biggest advantage, especially a little one will be for ripping.

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            • #7
              Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

              Originally posted by cpw View Post
              You can use the circular saw to do a dado by moving it over 1/8" (or the thickness of your blade's kerf) repeatedly. You can also do a lot of it that way and then use a chisel to clean up (or do the whole thing with a chisel.
              Ive done ALOT of half lap joints over the last 25 yrs,
              Doing it with a skill saw on the job site is the best way, tho a bit time consuming. and if thats the only saw youve got they work great.
              basically , mark a line with your square at the edge of your cut.
              then cut those lines - but just a "hair" short - and starting so that your saw moves
              from the blade to the far side of the shoe (moving either left or right depending on your saw),,,keeping as much of the shoe on the flat part of the material as you can. this way you can maintain the same uniform depth of cut across the joint.
              Like CPW said , repeatedly moving your saw over 1/8" or so.
              the last time I did this I built 3 gates for a fence around a house we were flipping. when it comes time to mate the two joints you can set up a straight edge along the edge of your cuts to fine tune them so they fit snug.
              cheers

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              • #8
                Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

                I've made do with just a circular saw until I recently bought the Ridgid R4511. If you build a long and short circular saw guide and a crosscut jig, you can accomplish most cutting tasks. A crosscut jig would also allow you to easily cut the dado you need. A good cutting table is also needed when using a circular saw.

                Instead of a table saw, you might consider buying a router for your next tool and building a router table. Good luck with your project.

                Dave
                Last edited by DaveWoodWork; 05-13-2009, 12:52 PM. Reason: Cutting table link

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                • #9
                  Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

                  Originally posted by cpw View Post
                  If you are thinking of a table saw, you'll need to put serious though into the cost vs. size tradeoffs. There are cheap little table saw,s ($100) but they are not as fun or safe as the larger ones. If you're on a tight space/money budget, you might consider more portable power tools instead of a stationary tool like a table saw (e.g., a router would do your half lap better than a circ saw or a TS w/o a dado). The table saw's biggest advantage, especially a little one will be for ripping.
                  I have noticed the cheap $100 table saws but steered clear of them. Reviews I saw on them were dismal. Motors wear out quick, surfaces are flimsy, adjustable features don't lock properly... the list goes on. Right now all my tools are portable except for the new miter saw that I bolted on to my makeshift workbench.

                  My garage setup is okay for now, though I do have an unfinished basement. Turning a small part of it into a workshop would be possible, and very convenient when I'm ready to take on the project of finishing my basement . The new Ridgid table saw everyone posts about looks really nice and sounds like a bargain for all it is capable of, but it's still a bit too costly for me. $300 is the price point I'm looking for, some Hitachi's are near there so I might make a move on one around Nov.

                  As for routers, any advice for a good first router? Seems they go from dirt cheap and then jump to expensive without much in between.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

                    Originally posted by DaveWoodWork View Post
                    I've made do with just a circular saw until I recently bought the Ridgid R4511. If you build a long and short circular saw guide and a crosscut jig, you can accomplish most cutting tasks. A crosscut jig would also allow you to easily cut the dado you need. A good cutting table is also needed when using a circular saw.

                    Instead of a table saw, you might consider buying a router for your next tool and building a router table. Good luck with your project.

                    Dave
                    Those are great links, I've actually been using an old aquarium stand that has a 36" x 18" rectangle frame as the top surface. I've been C-clamping my pieces to it and it works okay for the most part.

                    The circular saw guides look handy... I went through the manual and found out that my milwaukee saw (2630-20) came with a rip fence. Does this do the same thing as the guide?

                    As for the router suggestion, I am seriously considering it now. Just need to figure out which one to get. I know I will want to make some tables/desks and it would be nice to have edges that look a bit more finished than just square.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

                      Originally posted by wathman View Post
                      As for routers, any advice for a good first router? Seems they go from dirt cheap and then jump to expensive without much in between.
                      For router table use, go with a 2 1/4 HP router. It must be able to accept 1/2 inch diameter bit shafts and should have variable speed, allowing you to lower the speed with larger bits. Soft start is nice but not mandatory. Different routers use different methods to adjust the bit height. Some of these lend themselves nicely to use in a router table but any will be usable. Any reputable router is better than none. I'd look for a good used router on Craigslist or eBay. You can also buy refurbished routers for a good price.

                      The rip fence you have is ok for ripping if your cut is within the range of the fence. The cutting guide found in the link has several advantages. The edge of the baseboard acts as a zero clearance insert for your saw blade, preventing splintering on that side. Also, you can just set the edge of the guide directly on your cut line, clamp in place, and have a perfectly sized piece. Also, the rip fence you have requires that the edge you are guiding on is straight, something that is not required with the guide.

                      Dave

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                      • #12
                        Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

                        Originally posted by DaveWoodWork View Post
                        For router table use, go with a 2 1/4 HP router. It must be able to accept 1/2 inch diameter bit shafts and should have variable speed, allowing you to lower the speed with larger bits. Soft start is nice but not mandatory. Different routers use different methods to adjust the bit height. Some of these lend themselves nicely to use in a router table but any will be usable. Any reputable router is better than none. I'd look for a good used router on Craigslist or eBay. You can also buy refurbished routers for a good price.

                        The rip fence you have is ok for ripping if your cut is within the range of the fence. The cutting guide found in the link has several advantages. The edge of the baseboard acts as a zero clearance insert for your saw blade, preventing splintering on that side. Also, you can just set the edge of the guide directly on your cut line, clamp in place, and have a perfectly sized piece. Also, the rip fence you have requires that the edge you are guiding on is straight, something that is not required with the guide.

                        Dave
                        I'll keep those features in mind when looking at routers, that's exactly the type of information I was looking for.

                        I'll definitely put the circular saw guide on my project list also, this current project I'm working on is really teaching me the importance of "perfectly sized." I've been measuring each cut probably 4 times, yet still end up trimming down some edges.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

                          is you miter saw a slider? If so it should have a depth control mechanism, if so, you can use it safely to cut your dado, just take the time to get the depth right.

                          Also, re: table saws, hit up Craig's List or similar site, lots of tools being sold by people that need the money. There's bargains out there.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

                            Originally posted by Smack View Post
                            is you miter saw a slider? If so it should have a depth control mechanism, if so, you can use it safely to cut your dado, just take the time to get the depth right.

                            Also, re: table saws, hit up Craig's List or similar site, lots of tools being sold by people that need the money. There's bargains out there.
                            Tell us which miter saw you bought and we can be of more help. In addition check your local weekly shopper newspaper or even place an ad in the Wanted to Buy section. A $4 ad might save your hundreds. Someone out there may be drooling over the 4511 and wanting to sell their TS-3650 which would be WAY better than any model Hatachi saw.
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                            • #15
                              Re: Best way to make half lap joints?

                              Bob D has the right idea. You might be surprised what you find in the classifieds of your newspaper. Also, look in craigslist online, and you will find everything for sale in your region. You will be a whole lot better off buying a quality used saw (like the Ridgid 3650) than a cheap new saw.
                              "non illegitimis carborundum"

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