A Quick Stopped Groove

The backs of these Boxed Sets we’re making are tapered and slid into a groove in the same way that drawer bottoms were often done in 18th-century cabinet shops. We plowed the 1/4" groove on the sides with a 7/8" groove plane (which was originally made to match a tongue plane). I prefer this tool for this task over the adjustable plow plane because fixed fences make the work consistent – all of my drawer bottoms are set 1/4" from the edge without ever setting a fence.

The complication to backs being paneled into a groove is that the groove in the top board would be seen in the dovetails if it ran all the way through. In this case then, a stopped groove is called for. This tutorial shows a quick way to do that.

In keeping with the spirit of the fixed-fence grooving plane, I made a fixed-fence scribing gauge whose pins correspond exactly to the plane. This gauge is nothing more than an L-shaped block of wood with two nails precisely placed and filed to sharp knife points in alignment with the side groove.

After scribing these lines as deeply as possible just shy of the ends of the board, I chopped 90-degree relief cuts with a 1/4" chisel down the length of the groove.


I chopped gently at the very ends so as not to breakout the end grain.

Then the relief chops were cleared out with the chisel at a low angle using hand pressure or gentle, controlled mallet strikes. It’s delicate work, so I avoided pushing aggressively. No one wants to break out the end grain or jump up out of the groove. The groove was pared to half the depth and the ends were gently chopped straight down. Any cleanup on the groove’s edges was pared with a wider chisel.

In pine, the whole operation only took me a few minutes – I’d guess maybe five or so. It’s not a lot of material to remove, but it just requires careful attention to fragile areas. 

I always explain to new woodworkers that working with hand tools can feel somewhat manic in that some operations are forceful, exertive tasks (ripping long boards, hewing large areas of hardwood, planing rough stock) and others require the most delicate touch and sensitivity to the materials. Being able to discern the right time for each mental state and having the ability to jump back and forth as needed is half the learning curve of pre-industrial woodworking.

– Joshua


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