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John Morris

Constructing A Simple Wall Shelf Using the Porter Cable 4210 Dovetail Jig w/Pics

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I got a little shop time yesterday!

So I thought I'd make a little something for our daughter's violin teacher, she has taken it upon herself to give our daughter lessons pro bono, but we could not have that so I told every now and then I'd get something out of the shop for her. We are starting small at first so I can get an idea of her tastes, once I know what she likes in her home (mountain cabin with cedar walls) then we'll get more extravagant.

 

I decided on a simple little shaker style wall shelf with sliding dovetails.
Of course every project starts out with a plank of wood!

 

ning-mapleshelf01-24540-29.jpg?width=750

 

Then with a couple simple layout tools we can commence to just having some fun and layout some lines. It takes me a few tries before I get something that looks pleasing. It is purely a personal thing, and even after I do the layout and it all looks good on wood, I really don't know what I will think about it until I get it cut out and set it up to see how the proportions look. The idea here is to just have fun with it.

 

ning-mapleshelf02-24540-76.jpg?width=750

 

After about a dozen tries I finally came out with some lines I enjoy. This photo is the bottom of the wall shelf. You can click on this one to view it larger to see the line.

 

ning-mapleshelf03-24540-81.jpg?width=750

 

This next photo is the top of the shelf, I loved how this one turned out, I tried some tighter radius's and a thinner top portion, but then I went bold and just used my string bow for the radius. Click on photo for larger image.

 

ning-mapleshelf04-24540-72.jpg?width=750

 

I cut the first half out on the band saw, I only like cutting up to the line about a 1/6th proud, I am horrible at following a line on the line, if I try to cut to the line I typically cut over it and blow the layout, I am one of those unfortunates that do not have a good eye and steady feed to be able to cut right to the line so I leave the line in place, and spindle sand or plane to the line. Below you'll see the first half is finished, and it is laid up over the second half to mark out. I am pleased with the appearance of the layout after it has been cut out.

 

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I have a Porter Cable 4210 Dovetail Jig that is really handy for these smaller jobs. I like to use the sliding dovetail feature instead of dadoing the shelves in. I like the way the sliding dovetail lends that extra level of assurance that the shelves will not separate from the sides of case work like this. Think about it, an interlocking shelf that with all your might you could not pull apart even before it is glued up, then you add glue, and it would take a herculean effort to pull the sides away from the shelf, I like to make projects to last lifetimes, to hand down to generations. I know this is just a simple shelf, but 150 years from now, it will still be in one piece bar any disaster such as fire or landfill. You could drop this from 10 feet up and it will not separate. I like to think that anything I do will age and gain a rich patina, and the marks of wear from a century of knick knacks along with salt and pepper shakers that will have inhabited the shelf.

 

I like to do my runs in sets, to assure that the two Dovetail slots will line up perfectly. So I clamp my halves together and then I insert the halves in the jig. These halves will stay clamped together for the duration of the slotting operations. You want to be sure you position the clamp in a manner that you do not have to pull it off to make room for the next operation. If you do have to pull it off, you'll need to use a second clamp to secure the boards before you pull off the first clamp. Click on image to enlarge.

 

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Just another shot of the two boards in position, the dovetail slot is the longer narrow area in the middle of the template.

 

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Now the Porter Cable 4210 Dovetail Jigaw.aspx?B=2679&A=255&Task=Gethas a handy little feature just like the bigger jigs do, a router bit depth stop. The depth stop is marked out accordingly, 1/4" for routing dovetail slots in 1/2" lumber, 3/8" for routing slots in 3/4" lumber, and 1/2" for routing slots in 1" lumber. I forgot to say, the PC 4210 comes with bushings and a dovetail bit that are suited for this jig.

 

In this case I set my router bit depth to 3/8", I planed my lumber for the sides to 5/8" to give the shelf some depth and difference in the parts, and I wanted the slot to be routed as deep as possible without compromising the integrity of the sides. Click image to enlarge.

 

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With the halves in place and the boards set to the line in the jig ,and the bit depth set, the operation was completed, I am sorry I did not get any pictures of the actual operation, but it would have been difficult to hold the camera in one hand and the router in the other!

 

TIP:When you route the slot, come in from both sides as to prevent tear out. Start from one side, cut the slot length about 90 percent, back your router back down the slot to exit, then come in from the opposite side, this will prevent unsightly blow out of the edges.

 

One slot cut one to go.

 

ning-mapleshelf11-24540-1.jpg?width=750

 

As you can see the two halves are still clamped up! You want to keep them clamped up until your finished with the slot cutting operations.

 

Now the two halves are rotated 180 degrees (on this piece because of the location of the slots, yours will differ) with some operations you can keep feeding the work in one direction until you run out of room or support, but with this small shelf, it had to be rotated.

 

The opposite end is now in the jig, and just for assurance, even though I drew my lines out accurately, I check the board for squareness in relation to the jig. And the second slot is cut just as the first one was.

 

TIP: Do any sanding of the surface of the slotted boards before you slot them! If you sand them after you slot them, you'll ruin the reference to the dovetailed boards, and you'll create an unsightly gap between the ends of the shelves and the surface of the slotted board.

 

ning-mapleshelf12-24540-62.jpg?width=750

 

Now with my slots cut and clamp removed I set the two halves out of the way and I get set for the routing operation of the shelf ends for the dovetail style profile.

 

I start off with a piece of scrap the exact same thickness as the shelves.

 

TIP: If your going to thickness plane the shelves, make sure you plane a piece of scrap at the same time to use for a test run in this procedure. In my case, I did not plane the shelves, so I was able to use a cutoff from the band saw operation.

 

This portion of the entire operation is the only time you'll need to make some minor adjustments. The routing of the slots is straight forward, it is what it is, set the depth of the bit, line em up and cut. Routing the ends of the shelves is where all adjustments are made.

 

Set the scrap piece in the jig up to the template, keeping your router bit at the same depth throughout the entire procedure, make your first test cut.

 

ning-mapleshelf13-24540-89.jpg?width=750

 

Remove your test piece and see how it fits! As you can see my first test run turned out a sloppy fitting joint. Click image to enlarge.

 

ning-mapleshelf14-24540-18.jpg?width=750

 

To adjust this slop out, you'll need to adjust the black knob, then the brass knob, it only takes a slight twist clockwise of both knobs on each side of the jig to take up the slop, what this does is cut less of the material away by putting more of the lumber under the aluminum jig. You'll have to flip your test piece over or cut off the one end to make a new cut. Since I have slop, there is no re-using the same cut end. If it were too tight, I could turn the knobs counter clockwise, bring the board out from under the template thus cutting more away.

 

Sorry for the poor picture quality on this one, but you can see the adjusting knobs.

 

ning-mapleshelf13a-24540-8.jpg

 

Ahhhh, perfect fit now!!!

 

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You don't want the fit to be snug, you want to be able to slide the piece with some resistance, but not a whole lot, you'll need some room for the glue, and if your doing a multiple shelf glue up you'll be thankful you gave yourself some room, if you don't leave the room, your glue can freeze up the joint before you get it all in place.

 

Now we are ready for the actual shelf to be cut, the shelf is in place.

 

ning-mapleshelf16-24540-50.jpg?width=750

 

And the first cut is performed. Click on image to enlarge. Once you get it all set up, the rest goes quickly, I routed the ends of my two shelves in 3 minutes.

 

ning-mapleshelf17-24540-53.jpg?width=750

 

So, with the shelves now routed, the sides are slotted, we are getting ready for glue up.

 

ning-mapleshelf18-24540-67.jpg?width=750

 

The rest is academic, we all know how to spread glue and insert board "A" into board "B". The only thing I would recommend here is to do a dry fit first, sometimes the boards might fit a little too snug, in which case all I do is wrap some 220 sandpaper around a paint stirrer sized stick and sand the insides of the slots to allow a little more room for the board to slide in. Use plenty of glue, to allow for lubrication while sliding the joints in place. The natural instinct is to use too little,we think that just because it is an interlocking joint that a lil dab will so ya. That may be so, but that lil dab will do ya philosophy will get you in trouble as you slide the joints in place and it freezes up on you half way through.

 

Once the boards are in place, clamp it all up!

 

ning-mapleshelf19-24540-70.jpg?width=750

 

This project up to this point took me about 2 hrs to complete, it is a simple project, fun to wind down with and you are able to freestyle it. No plans, just your eye. If I would change anything about this one, I would rip the board down to 4" instead of 6" for proportional sake only. Nevertheless I think she'll be happy with the small shelf for the wall of her mountain cabin. The dimensions are 28" tall by 18" wide and 6" deep.

 

Though the routing setup and operation seemed like it took awhile in the tutorial, it actually only took about a half hr for setup, test cut, and final cutting. Once you get to know the jig just like with any jig, it all goes fast.

 

Today I will sand it out to 180, apply some TransFast Early American Maple Dye and we'll talk about the rest of the finishing process in the next post!

 

Thanks all for reading!

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MIke you might referring to the bigger pc jig at around 600 bucks, this one cost about 130 bucks at Lowes.

I love it, very easy to use and simple, instructions are laid out nice. Good quality. The 4212 is more at around 170 it has two templates, but the 4210 has suited me fine. The guides and bit come with the jig,

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Hmmm. look a little like my jig...

 

ning-sdc12996-24548-41.jpg?width=721

 

Might have to zoom in a bit. It is sitting under my Craftsman router that I got last spring. Shelf? yep, it can even do stopped sliding dovetails.

 

ning-sdc13007-24548-97.jpg?width=721

 

still have to trim them by hand, though. Slides right in place, on a very simple shelf.

 

ning-sdc13009-24548-28.jpg?width=721

 

Just some Beech. ( THAT didn't sound right, if you say it fast) Er, Beech wood shelf.

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It's a good jig Steve!

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Now that I have a router I can use on it, yep, it is a very good jig. A little dialing in, no big deal. I have had the jig almost since they came out, just now getting a router that will work with the jig. It will do some nice half-blind dovetails as well. I will be using that to make some drawers. After all, I'll need something for all them planes to sit in, right...

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Steve, the only confusing part of the jig, is doing rabbeted half blinds, the instructions are less then desirable for that operation, it is a pita, but once you scratch your head a couple times with that portion of the jig, it all makes sense. Let me know if you attempt the rabbeted half blinds, I'll see if I can recall the ol noodle to help ya out if you get as confused as I did!

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My goodness, it's definitely getting late! LOL

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Thanks Larry, glad you liked it. I am still chuckling at the planes, hangars, good one man. Like I said, it's getting late around here too, I am getting punch drunk.

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Bringing a nice tutorial up to the live forums from our Archives.

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