Mortise Guides at the Ready

We often use guides in my actual work and then, or especially, in my teaching others be that via video or in classes one on one. In the past it was simple enough to get my students to cut their tenons to the parallel guide lines because, after all, they are so clearly visible, but guaranteeing the inside walls of mortise holes to correspond with parallel walls following the outside face or faces was almost always impossible and especially so for the new woodworkers. Consequentially such inaccuracies led to shoulderline issues and the inevitable severely twisted frames. What to do?

Twenty years ago one of my classes was due to start in an hour’s time. Whereas I worked through the issues described with each of my students individually over the years, it did take my time from the other students. You see they rarely ever had muscle memory to rely on because they had not done the same before. Of course muscle memory can work in the wrong way too; if you are developing bad habits instead of good. Like sharpening plane irons into a skew instead of square on. That’s to say that, just as practice makes perfect, practice, good and bad, can also make permanent and bad habits are hard to undo. As I walked across a field towards the workshop an idea resolving the problem kept revolving in my brain. At the workshop I set to to put my idea into action. I quickly ripped oak pieces and crosscut them to size. In a matter of twenty minutes I had my first prototype guides ready to go and when the class was assembled round my workbench I chopped my first mortise using one in front of the class. It worked flawlessly and a class of 20 made 80 mortises perfectly. Ultimately I added brass wear plates that saved on wear and tear.

My gathered collection here handles most of my daily needs for mortising. I worked out (after all these decades) that my mortise positioning always works in from an edge at 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 1/2″ and 3/4″. For other sizes or in metric I can make dedicated guides according to need, no problem.

For my set I used plywood for its stiffness and resilience. Cutting 3/4″ plywood down to thickness is no different than solid wood and of course you can use solid wood if preferred. In my case I was able to use up some of the offcuts from my plywood workbench making.

The steps for mine are as follows:

Cut pieces 3 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ and 1 3/4″ by 3 1/2″. The thickness depends on the size you want i.e. distance from edge of stock to mortise hole cheek side.

Drill, countersink, glue and screw small piece to large piece as shown.

Use plastic laminate or similar hard and resistant material to face the guide. You can also use brass or steel plate.

Use contact adhesive to glue both together. Apply glue to both meeting surfaces and let dry until tacky.

Press together and clamp to expel air. Once this is done the guide is ready.

Plane up the edges.

I sized my thicknesses using digital vernier calliper.

Add the thickness of the laminate to the side of the distance piece, set the calliper to distance and use a knife to mark the cut line.

Set the bandsaw fence to match the knife mark and then rip. Plane to get dead size as needed.

I made a rack to contain my guides and to keep them orderly. It tilts back to self locate the guides.

Whereas my guides are being used globally these days, when I made the garden bench it was easier to use the plywood offcuts for a couple of different guides because the mortises were mostly 3/4″ in from faces. I just used plywood on plywood without any facing and they felt so firm. Why would I use up good and solid hardwood on something like this, I asked myself, when the scraps are already there? Why not save it for when I need it. But beyond that, I did notice that the plywood versions seemed to sit more squarely to the work and the lack of compressibility in the structure as in wood meant perfect parallel clamping throughout the vise jaws, keeping the guide firmly to the workpiece each time I clamped or moved things.

63 Comments

  1. Mario Fusaro on 4 April 2019 at 10:10 pm

    Nice idea! Looks like I have another “tool project” to build. 😆

  2. Paul Bouchard on 5 April 2019 at 12:29 am

    These are great. They really cut down the twist in cabinet door frames, so you don’t need to lose half your thickness getting then to fit flat. I’ve only made one but nearly everything I make seems to be between ¾” to an inch.

  3. David on 5 April 2019 at 12:52 am

    Plywood again. I suppose it won’t be long before you build a plywood chair.

    • Richard on 5 April 2019 at 12:58 am

      And that would be next year’s April Fool’s project!

    • Anthony on 5 April 2019 at 2:28 am

      Really? Paul is probably the world’s leading authority on hand tool woodworking, and you’re giving him grief over a few plywood projects. Perhaps you’d prefer that shop jigs be made of dovetailed curly maple?

      • David on 5 April 2019 at 3:12 am

        Up until this point, all the jigs Paul has made in the many years I’ve been subscribed to his channel and been paying for his master classes have been made of hardwood. Two of those jigs are a mortise jig and a dovetail template.

        This is the second time he’s made a mortise jig, and I fail to see how it’s improved on the one he made of hardwood some years ago. One he made with hand tools, not a band saw.

        Paul has also made a cabinet scraper honing guide, a poor man’s beading and marking tool, a poor man’s router, a poor man’s miter box, a poor man’s rebate plane, a thicknessing jig, and a shooting board. All were made using hand tools and lumber.

        I don’t like this new trend of plywood, bandsaw, and screws. If you do, that’s your business, but it would appear you don’t know much about Paul’s previous jigs and “poor man” tools.

        • Richard on 5 April 2019 at 3:19 am

          “I don’t like this new trend of plywood, bandsaw, and screws.”

          Neither do I know anyone in my woodworking circle who does.

          Plywood has its place in jigs or builds such as door panels or box bottoms, but small jigs like these guides do not need plywood at all. May be soon Paul would cover CNC machines too, and plywood certainly has a lot of uses there…..

          • David on 5 April 2019 at 3:45 am

            There must be a half-dozen of his videos where, in a few minutes, he fashions a mortise guide using a marking gauge and a hand saw. In one of the projects he made it from an off-cut on the end of a rail (or stretcher or stile). There are no “measurements,” per se. You make the jig to conform with the marking gauge and the chisel width. There wasn’t any electric dial caliper, either.

            It’s disconcerting to watch him go down this road.



          • p mcc on 14 April 2019 at 2:05 pm

            I am with david on this one…



        • Peter Akhurst on 5 April 2019 at 6:26 pm

          I believe Paul made a plywood shooting board, or at least has shown one in the video making the shooting board.

          Using plywood is a good option if you have some spare, and some times people don’t have hardwood off cuts of sapelile laying around.

          It is showing we can all use what we have to hand which fits the bill, is convenient and works. This is only a jig after all, it is not going to be displayed anywhere.

        • Marcus on 6 April 2019 at 7:36 am

          Perhaps read and comprehend, and stop complaining? Or better still, just don’t comment at all.

          You seem unfamiliar with the saying, “form follows function”.

          Your logic of ‘not whinging about this design implies not knowing much about Paul’s previous jigs…’ is failed.

          You DO complain – every time plywood is used. It’s annoying and uncalled for. Besides, what’s your point anyway? Don’t bother, nobody cares.

          Oh, your “improvement” is stated below.

          Pretty basic stuff, David.

          “Why would I use up good and solid hardwood on something like this, I asked myself, when the scraps are already there? Why not save it for when I need it. But beyond that, I did notice that the plywood versions seemed to sit more squarely to the work and the lack of compressibility in the structure as in wood meant perfect parallel clamping throughout the vise jaws, keeping the guide firmly to the workpiece each time I clamped or moved things.”

          • Juan Gonzalez on 8 April 2019 at 11:56 pm

            Keep in mind that Mr Sellers is not getting younger, using power tools reduces physical fatigue. Also, using new materials is a sign of him changing to be up to date with the reality of the world around him.



          • Paul Sellers on 9 April 2019 at 7:12 am

            Hello Juan, Whereas I admit I am not getting younger, I think my audience may not realise that not only do I make the pieces they see me make I also make an identical version before the premium one, usually from pine. I also male all of the joints by hand too. There is no hidden mortise machine hidden to take over off camera and no second person cranking stuff out for me. Every surface gets hand planed too. I am not really changing much in mu=y use of materials. Most likely `i would never use MDF or chipboard but plywood deserves its place as an acknowledged quality material provided the grade is there. Plywood is a superb material with proven longevity; a marvellous invention. I don’t know too many people working 5 1/2 to six days a week for 8 to 10 hours a day on their feet anyway, let alone at almost 70 years old.



    • Keith on 5 April 2019 at 6:21 pm

      If a restaurant you liked changed its menu and it didnt suite you any longer, would you continue to buy meals from them every week and complain, or would you just stop going there?

      • David on 5 April 2019 at 7:00 pm

        I don’t complain “every week.” I still gain very useful instruction from Paul while building his projects that remain within his original mission of teaching hand-tool woodworking. As I’ve expressed above, I’m concerned about his recent trend of using plywood and a bandsaw for reasons that still aren’t clear, but that doesn’t mean I get my money’s worth each month. There are many projects in the video library wherein Paul expresses disdain for the notion of cutting a curve with a bandsaw instead of hand tools. I mean, his entire mission has been to teach hand-tool skills in a machine world.

        And yes, if the restaurant changed from a meat-and-potatoes place to some strictly vegan, raw-food joint, I’d stop giving them my custom. But as of now, Paul hasn’t gone all vegan. Let’s hope he doesn’t. He’s still the best hand-tool woodworker alive.

        • Evan on 8 April 2019 at 7:54 pm

          How are the reasons not clear? Paul had pretty explicitly explained why a bandsaw, and why a plywood bench.

          I dont really care for plywood, but it has it’s uses. This seems like a veey good use of plywood, especially if you already have off cuts from the bench build. And how was the bench build targeted at? The guys with machines. So it makes since to talk about jigs for the guys that just made a bench. All of this is a gateway to make hand tools approachable for the machime woodworker.

    • Zeppos on 6 April 2019 at 11:59 am

      There are some beautiful (and very expensive) plywood design chairs, and I don’t think they could even be made without the use of plywood.
      What’s wrong with plywood? If you use plywood and with that compromise design and/or function then that’s not good of course. That’s not how Paul uses plywood but rather as an equally valid and sometimes better alternative.

    • Dave Alvarez on 8 April 2019 at 12:08 pm

      Not a terrible idea, by any means. We built plywood chairs at the cabinet shop I used to work at (selling them for ~$500 each) and they looked great!

    • Brian on 8 April 2019 at 4:09 pm

      Poor David, hardwood envy is such a pitiful disease…

  4. Luca on 5 April 2019 at 3:44 am

    With respect, Richard and David, I suspect one reason for using plywood for a jig such as this (and Richard, you yourself stated that plywood was useful for jigs before stating that this jig need not be plywood!) is that it will never, barring extraordinary circumstance, warp, distort, or noticably change shape in any way or any dimension.

    This is a useful property for a reference surface, and plywood provides many of those properties with the added benefit that it can be shaped and worked with the same set of tools any woodworker would have for natural wood.

    I don’t have a bandsaw, yet, but nothing prevents me from using a handsaw to do precisely the same operations that Paul demonstrates in this post. I might use a hard tooth saw instead of my beloved Disston, but a handsaw nonetheless.

    Indeed my only predicament is a lack of plywood in the grade that Paul uses here. Baltic Birch plywood is expensive, from the perspective of a person on a very limited budget, so I don’t have any yet. However, once I have acquired some I am certain this will be one of the first projects on my list! For now, I’ll settle for a lesser grade of cabinetmakers veneer core plywood, which I suspect will be sufficiently fit for purpose.

    I could wish for some drawings to clarify the details though, lol. 🙂

    • David on 5 April 2019 at 4:12 am

      Sorry, but if the mortise jig were to “warp, distort, or noticeably change” you could spend five minutes making another one using a marking gauge and a saw.

      • David on 5 April 2019 at 4:15 am

        But realistically, a five inch piece of 3/4″ oak, maple, or even pine isn’t going to “warp, distort, or noticeably change” unless you drop it into a pail of water or leave it outside for a couple of years.

        • Paul G on 5 April 2019 at 8:51 am

          If I want a 5″ piece of hardwood in my location I’ll need to buy an 8′ board. If I want a few offcuts of plywood, they’re in the bin by the door of my local builders providers.

          You’re also completely ignoring the fact that the post isn’t about making guides from plywood. It’s about making mortise guides. Material selection, as always, is up to the person to decide.

          This is woodworking, David, not rocket science and while I applaud people taking the time to pay attention to detail regarding the final product they produce, this anti-plywood stuff is becoming tiresome.

          • David on 5 April 2019 at 3:35 pm

            You don’t have any lumber scraps left over from building furniture? I’ve never heard of anyone buying lumber at retail to make a small mortise guide like this.

            Perhaps all you use in your woodworking is plywood and that’s why you need to use it to make jigs.



          • Paul G on 5 April 2019 at 9:29 pm

            David, in reply to your ‘smart ass’ dig, what you have or I have available to make a simple jig is irrelevant. You’ve been very vocal as a critic here and I think you should take the time to realise that you’re coming across as a total snob, keen to make a point that nobody really cares about. If you want to use walnut burl to make mortise jig, fire away. If another man wants to use an offcut of construction grade white-deal, plywood or even a piece of MDF, that’s more than good enough if it helps them practice their craft. Do you understand that, or are you still struggling to reconcile your snobbery with the practicalities of getting on with things? If Aldi chisels, a basic S&J panel saw and other budget/basic tools can be perfectly good enough to do a good job with, what makes you think folks should avoid using plywood for similar purpose? I hate snobs.



    • Richard on 5 April 2019 at 6:04 am

      Luca,

      Please read my remark about plywood again. “SMALL” jigs don’t need the kind of stability of plywood. Read David’s comment about warping, too.

      • Paul Sellers on 5 April 2019 at 3:16 pm

        But when they are made from scraps of plywood from the waste bin they save other wood for good use, they don’t get burned and they don’t go in the landfill either. What’s more they work equally well to any other material so it’s a win win for me and others too.

  5. Tassos on 5 April 2019 at 6:11 am

    What a lovely idea.
    Thanks Paul
    Tassos

    • Paul Sellers on 5 April 2019 at 7:41 am

      I liked it too, especially the zebra striping with plastic laminate facing – and the screws to keep everything together, nicely concealed beneath the laminate to keep up the good looks. Very happy. Will be using them a lot through the years to come now. Also, they go well with my plywood workbench. I used the scrap strips from the workbench to make them and the holder from so zeroing in for zero wastage.
      I also made my sharpening plate holder using the same birch plywood. Once coated with three coats of waterborne finish, very hardwearing, flooring-grade clear finish, they are really watertight. All tones in nicely if you get my meaning!

      • Tassos on 5 April 2019 at 10:39 am

        Plywood mortise-guide-set…here i come!

      • 4MLA1FN on 8 April 2019 at 11:34 am

        thanks for these paul. really great tool. (and let me put in my vote for the practical and functional use of plywood.) like Luca above, the readily available plywood here is full of voids and thick plied. i’m thinking to make these gauges using poplar with laminate or hardboard facing, at least for an initial test use. you mention compressibility in the vice. would it be significant with this soft “hardwood”. are we talking thousandths? if significantly greater, i would imagine i could “pre-compress” the whole reference piece before assembly? thanks again and congrats on the new house!

  6. Paul G on 5 April 2019 at 8:28 am

    Great idea!

    Now, give it 24-72 hours and watch the usual bunch over on YouTube start publishing videos showing this guide and variations, as though they’ve been doing it for years, all without mention of the fact they’re inspired by this blog!

    Paul, you’re like the Ronseal of practical, common sense woodworking for all. “Does exactly what it says on the tin”.

    Thanks as ever,

    PaulG

  7. Steve on 5 April 2019 at 9:43 am

    Great idea and a good use for plywood. I used one to chop out the mortises for the workbench – I had never done it before and had to do eight in 4 x 4 legs. All came out in alignment.

    • Keith on 5 April 2019 at 5:24 pm

      I might experiment with this idea. For scale models I cut mortises in for example 1/4″ square section. Having tried drilling out then cleaning with a needle file – a recommended method – I made miniature chisels and cut them by traditional methods, but still use needle files for final fitting. A piece of brass strip could be used to give the correct distance from the edge. Just thinking the idea through, out loud.

  8. AD on 5 April 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Hello Paul,

    I’m a bit confused about the role of guides in skill development. In your early videos you have always chopped mortises freehand, I assume you weren’t using them throughout your working career. While it’s clear how a newcomer benefits from a guide, wouldn’t it prevent from developing a skill? Or are we supposed to use it as we use miter guide? If we do, why don’t we make a dovetail guide for sawing and a guide to chop to a baseline?

    In other words: where do we draw a line and decide where a skill is needed and where a guide?

    • Bert on 5 April 2019 at 8:04 pm

      I think that’s up to you…you can use them….or not…what makes you happy?

    • nemo on 5 April 2019 at 9:49 pm

      “where do we draw a line and decide where a skill is needed and where a guide?”

      I figure in a case where it absolutely, positively has to fit perfectly and look the part, where there’s no option of fumbling about a bit to correct or conceal imperfections, I’d use a guide if my skills weren’t sufficient.

      For other projects where things are less critical I’d practice my skills and accept the less-than-perfect results as the price of learning.

      I’ve always sharpened my tools with a homemade jig. Last weekend I didn’t have the benchspace nor time/inclination to set up everything, so I grabbed the benchstone and sharpened the chisels I was using freehand. The result was very acceptable. I figure as time and skills progress, the sharpening jigs will see less use. I’d expect the same from such mortise-and-tenon jigs. Perhaps the best analogy is using training wheels on a bicycle. You can learn to ride without them but will fall occasionally. The training wheels prevent that, but there comes a time when they’re no longer needed and can be removed. And some (very, very few) people will always need to use them or ride a tricycle because they’re incapable of keeping a bicycle balanced (the elderly, infirm or people with disability). No shame in that.

    • Paul Sellers on 6 April 2019 at 8:51 am

      Most people who work with their hands have a perception of 90-degrees. They can relate to vertical and horizontal even when the wood is held in the vise out of perpendicular. This ability is not natural to computer geeks who only work in a lab or only with computers in a two dimensional sphere. In times past, a hundred or so years ago, people were mostly makers of some kind. Building fences or an ox wagon took their reference from verticality, centrality and horizontality too. They worked by referencing their surroundings. That’s far from true for the majority today. Students from the classes had great difficulty chopping, planing and sawing square to a surface, which is required much of the time. Whereas some tasks can only be developed by rote practice, as with sawing and planing, others can have an aid. The aid helps you to balance out biases a b it like riding a bike with training wheels to take away some of the risk to get you started. When you have seen me mortise without a guide, perhaps a table with four legs and other adjacent mortise and tenons that counter the one, often there is no issue because the frame keeps things in alignment. On things like doors it’s different. The greater the accuracy the greater the successful outcome. There are some things that go quicker without the guide and others need great accuracy. Eventually you get to know which ones matter and which ones require which.

      • Zeppos on 6 April 2019 at 12:07 pm

        I don’t have much time to practice unfortunately, so I can use all the help from guides. Making mortises though without a guide so far, what helped a great deal is to stand looking towards the length of the mortise, rather than looking perpendicularly to it. It’s much easier to see that your chisel is perpendicular to the wood, once you’ve done the first pass it doesn’t matter so much anymore.

  9. nemo on 7 April 2019 at 5:25 pm

    Off-topic to your blog-post but just wanted to share a little victory….

    Have started making a collapsible wall-mounted drying rack for in the bathroom today, using off-cuts of 3/4″ high-grade used plywood. When I was cross-cutting the strips of plywood I noticed that, surprisingly, somehow, all my cuts ended up perfectly square – in both directions. Out of routine I followed up with the shooting board… but there was really no need for it. Was amazed at myself with the results. Not sure what the reason is, improved skills or the ‘new’ saw, or perhaps even both.

    When the panel saw was given to me about a month ago along with some other, more valuable tools, I was immediately the most happy with the saw: the size (16″), teeth (9 PPI), the way it felt and handled, even though the hole in the sawhandle is a tad large it just felt right. Not sure exactly what it is that made me immediately like it.

    I had to bend a curve out of the plate and use a hammer to remove a sharper bend/kink, with succes. The teeth were grossly overset to 2.5 mm. Reduced that to nearly nothing using your hammer-method, re-sharpened the saw and set the teeth to 1.2 mm (plate thickness is 1.0 mm). Made a few test-cuts with it and they were all fine. But today I was using it for real for the first time and all eight cuts ended up perfectly square. It was hard to wipe the grin off my face….

    • RODNEY MAGEE on 8 April 2019 at 11:35 am

      Being in my 70s and having arthritis in both hands, shoulders, back, both hips and both knees, I will tell you power tools have a place in my shop, mostly donkey work. Plywood is a versatile and viable product, hardwood veneers save a lot of of money for large panels and what are going to do with the off cuts. Finally, Paul is reaching out to those that do use these products, take the time to read his reasoning, it’s very illumanating. Lastly, I’m an American, yes, one of those damn colonists. I believe whole heartedly in the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, you know, the one that takes about free speech, by implication I don’t have to listen to what I wish not to so I won’t bother to read David’s and other bigoted posts.

  10. 4MLA1FN on 8 April 2019 at 12:06 pm

    hi paul & company. i get the whole concept but the pictures and instructions seem way out of order. for example, the bandsaw rip is shown as the last step but it looks like you’re cutting smaller piece (that establishes the depth off the reference face) that was previously attached to the 3 1/2″ x3 1/2” backing. shouldn’t that rip step happen between the two caliper pictures earlier? also, in the middle of the post, you say ” Press together and clamp to expel air. Once this is done the guide is ready.” but then four more construction steps are given.
    finally, there are two pics of the gauges in the rack? intentional? no harsh critique…mistakes happen. just trying to help.

    • Paul Sellers on 8 April 2019 at 8:47 pm

      Just following the text is good. I just padded out with pics cos they looked nice.

  11. John James on 8 April 2019 at 12:22 pm

    I think that the most encouraging thing about Paul’s posts is that he DOESN’T condemn so many of the things that seem to distress our purists. If one has production time issues, it is perfectly within the bounds of our growing skills to accept the help of a good band-saw or table-saw. Also with plywood. (Organ building and maintenance would be a very fraught business without it!)
    I think David would probably be happy for Paul to restrict his instruction to hewing out green lumber with a flint adze (tut-tut Paul, selling out the stone age by using Iron tools!), but personally I love the breadth of scope of Paul’s instruction.
    If one finds (as I do) that one’s hobby also has become a sometime money earner, and you are having to build something to order and a deadline, then a judicious mix of machine, jigs and hand tooling still affords you the luxury of meticulous finishing (the enjoyable bit) without you needing unnecessary time-outs to remake jigs or hand saw pieces just because they have to be cut by hand. Notwithstanding that, I still prefer to cut mortises by hand, and recently built a potting shed/ log store that had 72 mainly mortise and tenon joints, cut by hand in half a day, using Paul’s method with a bevel edge chisel for the mortises and band-saw for the tenons, trimmed up with a hand router. -……..and I hugely enjoyed myself, which is the point, really!

  12. Trapnell on 8 April 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Paul, and the surveyors of the time, like George Washington, practiced to tell time from the position of the sun rather than relying on a watch. Navigators, too, developed a sense for latitude and longitude even though they found their mostly correct position using a watch, sextant, and logs (that’s a book) as well as with a rope with many specially spaced knots and a piece of wood to approximate speed. Today, GPS… What happens when the damn thing breaks? I, like a tree, prefer a little support in the formative years. And yes, when a nugget lands at the ship for the first time, there is no instructor alive that is going to the ship with him/her.

  13. Randy on 8 April 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Right on time for me! I’m building a doll’s high chair for my granddaughter. The plans call for biscuits but I’m using mortise & tenons. I don’t need to buy a machine when I want to improve my hand skills.
    Thanks for the great idea, Paul!!

  14. Steve on 8 April 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Are these of value even when using the newer Paul Sellers Mortise and tenon technique?

    • Paul Sellers on 8 April 2019 at 8:41 pm

      Absolutely. These are really consumables in reality, whether made from solid wood or plywood. The facing of harder material however means you can replace just the facings when they wear too much.

  15. Jeffrey Murray on 8 April 2019 at 7:30 pm

    Okay, since the choice of plywood seems to offend a few readers, just refer to it as faux zebra wood.

  16. Adriano J. M. Rosa on 8 April 2019 at 11:27 pm

    This is a good idea and the artifacts are good.
    I am a novice in these wood works, especially to use the saws and chisels. These gadgets will help me make the holes for the gums.
    In relation to the material in which they are made I agree with what you say.
    What I have against the maritime plywood is that I have to sharpen the blades of the planers more often.
    Thanks for the idea.

  17. David Dunnison on 9 April 2019 at 2:21 am

    Hi Paul,

    First, am perfectly comfortable with plywood.

    Following earlier instruction, I have now made quite a few including some ‘permanent’ ones as you have done here. Future iterations may use plywood.

    A couple of suggestions, though.

    Not all of us have the nice and very firm vice that you have. Initially I had problems with slippage and even occasional skewing. This problem arose particularly with wider and longer pieces due to the torque forces (e.g. long 3×3 posts where I was working with 15″ long mortises) and wider mortises as more force is required to drive the chisel.

    Thus, I have modified your design to be at least 6 inches long (with 2+ inch faces) and have also glued sandpaper to the face that contacts the workpiece. The two in combination provide a pretty secure setup. You obviously have to allow for the sandpaper thickness when sawing/surfacing the guide to get the correct spacing.

    The sandpaper was attached with simple spray adhesive. I tried various grits, and have settled on 120 grit. Anything finer is more likely to slip, and can leave an unintended sanded surface.

  18. Mike Charles on 9 April 2019 at 7:50 am

    The complaining brigade who are arrogant in the extreme forget that new woodworkers like myself have never seen such a gauge before. I am so grateful to Paul for his expertise! As for plywood versus hardwood, I personally cannot afford to buy hard wood to used for thing like gauges. Please be grateful for Pauls sharing his expertise!
    THANK YOU PAUL! PLEASE IGNORE THE WHINGES, I AM THANKFUL FOR YOUR TUITION!
    Mike

  19. Steve on 9 April 2019 at 9:45 am

    Plywood is an excellent stable material . I’m sure Thomas Chippendale would have used it for veneer substrate if he had lived in an era with access to it.

  20. Marcelo Dapino on 9 April 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Regardless of the material and tools used to make the guide, the article could have shown how the guide can be used to mark (with the marking knife) the edges of the mortise and of the tenon cheeks ahead of cutting them. This is one of the key developments behind the “new and improved” way to make the guide that Sellers introduced some time back using the router plane to establish the edges of the mortise and tenon cheeks, and to pare the tenon cheeks to final dimensions. Of course the guide alone (regardless of what material is made of) cannot be used to pare the tenons, so the router plane is still necessary. Also, the “old” guide was cut from the same piece of wood as the rails/stiles and without measuring anything. So, yes, the guide presented here does represent a conceptual shift relative to the previous technique, which at the time it was introduced was labeled as a game changer over the brass-faced guide of old. The “new and improved” guide technique has worked wonderfully well for me throughout many projects. The one presented here seems like a step back, especially without addressing how to mark and cut the tenon cheeks.

    • Paul Sellers on 9 April 2019 at 8:26 pm

      I think that you may have missed the point but I am not sure why because it is so simple. That series, via youtube, was and still is a game changer for those make flush frames such as doors, picture frames and the like, but it only works when the thickness of stile and rail materials are the same thickness and it is developed to make matching components. That is, less applicable on many projects and often impossible when say making projects where rails and legs are of different thicknesses as in most tables, chairs and a wide range of other projects or, as in many cases too, the rails are not inline where the rail may well sit back from the leg face rather than flush with the mortised piece. So, it is in no way a “step back” or retrograde step in any way at all, just for different applications.
      I often see my critics make judgements like this and say this is a lesser quality or retrograde step, “a step back”, and when I point out the fallacy of what’s said I am accused of not liking criticism or of being defensive when in reality that’s not the case at all. I do think some critics toss comments over their shoulder without thinking or understanding often times. Also, again in my defence, I have used these guides for over a decade now in all of my films and teachings etc, so most people will have seen them in use and already have a thorough understanding of their functionality. Surely I am free to write a simple blog on how to make a set of practical guides and keep the blog short and to the point if I feel to.

  21. Shane on 9 April 2019 at 10:31 pm

    David and other sceptics,

    Plywood is simply two or more sheets/pieces of timber laminated together. If you have laminated table legs, benchtops, table tops etc. then you have created plywood. Get over it.

  22. Harvey Green on 10 April 2019 at 12:48 am

    Good plywood, such as Baltic [Finnish] Birch is dimensionally more stable than most hardwoods. This is important in mortise and tenon joinery, since even a tiny error in chopping a mortise will probably be visible in the joint or cause a twist.
    Plywood is not a material of the modern industrial age of the twentieth century. It has been used in fine cabinet shops for over 150 years. In the US, New York City cabinetmakers John Henry Belter (1804-1863) and Joseph Meeks (1771-1868) were using 5-ply laminated rosewood as early as 1845. It enabled him to make sofas and chairs with very thin, but sturdy backs, on which were carved ornate floral decoration.

  23. Rene Baerends on 10 April 2019 at 2:13 pm

    Nice project to make.

  24. Sylvain on 11 April 2019 at 1:17 pm

    – Nice use of scrap wood from the plywood workbench.

    – if one doesn’t have a band-saw to cut very thin slices of wood, one can use the method shown in the blog “perfect mortise and tenon” dated 11 September 2017. That is using a thin small blog, glue it to the big block and use a router plane to dig in the big block to achieve the desired overhang with a perfect flatness and parallelism with the small block..

    – I have once made such a guide with the thin block in plywood and the big block in solid-wood. The plywood gives a nice flat surface on which to ride the router plane. Although it might not be recommended as plywood and solid wood don’t behave the same way.

    – P.S.: “But beyond that, I did notice that the plywood versions seemed to sit more squarely to the work and the lack of compressibility in the structure as in wood meant perfect parallel clamping throughout the vise jaws, keeping the guide firmly to the workpiece each time I clamped or moved things.”
    Paul always advocate working with sensitivity. Resist any temptation to push the chisel hard against the guide to avoid any flexing in the big block which would defeat the guide’s purpose.

  25. TO on 12 April 2019 at 9:33 pm

    Plywood? I made two of Paul’s trestles from plywood and 2x4s. Then I made two 6×2 foot platforms from plywood and 2x4s to put on the top and bottom rails. I then hauled it around the outside of the house as a scaffold and work table making the plywood hurricane shutters for the new house. God Bless plywood.

  26. Zairul Nizam on 4 May 2019 at 8:36 pm

    Dear Paul,
    Have gone through all ypur videos regarding the plywood workbench and it’s really something I (and really, anyone) can attempt. But it has gooten me thinking.
    I am a relative newbie in woodworking and am attempting to set my workshop up with some ‘big’ power tools. Would you recommend a table saw or a bandsaw for someone in my position?
    Thanks Paul

    • Paul Sellers on 4 May 2019 at 9:54 pm

      I certainly would never recommend machines unless you plan to make projects commercially. A bandsaw is all I need and I don’t really need that, just prefer to have it for heavy cutting to dimension wood more quickly..

  27. James Suhay on 3 August 2019 at 8:34 pm

    Wow people. Great job Mr. Sellers you inspire me to not only be a better woodworking but a better person. I hope I can walk at 70.

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