Top and Battens – Part 3


I was pretty discouraged after botching the sliding dovetail.  I’d already slipped with the saw and chewed the top in places, and wandered the kerf too wide in other places.  And besides, I was not in any way confident that the second kerf was in the right spot to fit the batten.  It could easily have been too lose, and then what?

I thought about getting yet more alder to make a new top.  But it had been such a challenge to find the second set of boards, what were the chances of finding the same or better a third time?  So then I decided that I could make the slot a little wider to cover the mistake, and buy some new wood to make new battens.  I wasn’t thrilled with the battens anyway.

I also reversed the process.  So this is my advice to anyone who’s a clumsy hack like me: make the dovetail slots first, whether by hand or machine, then rip the battens slightly oversized and carefully plane them down to fit.  I think this is less risky.

I bought a 14° dovetail bit for the router to make the angled side walls.  The first battens and kerfs had been 16°, so this was pretty close.  I made a jig to guide the router, with a couple removable pieces in the middle that could be set up on one side or the other, since the sliding dovetail slot was too wide for the router base to bridge all the way across.

Even with the router and jig, the angled sidewalls weren’t perfect, probably from climb-cutting where I shouldn’t have.  Still, all-in-all they turned out pretty clean and nearly parallel.

When I moved on to the second slot, I once again made saw kerfs and knocked out most of the waste with a chisel, to reduce the strain on the router.  Then I set up the jig as before.


I went back to the candy store and bought some 8/4 cherry (really cherry) for the new battens.  I used the dovetail bit to set the angle on the tablesaw and made the first beveled rip.  I smoothed it with handplanes, checked the dimension against the slot in the top, and then set the tablesaw fence to rip just a little wider.

Then it was a careful back-and-forth process of handplaning a little and checking the fit, until I could drive the battens all the way through.