Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

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Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by vintage frames » Fri 01 Oct, 2021 11:34 am

I've made this largish frame and wanted to find a secure way of joining the mitres so that it could travel safely by courier.
After looking again in Paul Curson's excellent book, he describes how to make and use tapered keys to join the mitres. This is the traditional and standard way of jointing wide moulding frames.
He goes on to mention tenon saws and wood chisels and my first reaction was - sod that!
However the frame was to travel a long distance and what if, what if ..
So I knuckled down and got on with making some tapered keys. And it was all surprising easy. Yes it helps to have a table saw.
First the frame was glued, clamped and left to dry overnight.

For the keys I used some off-cuts of oak moulding. Ran them through the saw to 10mm flat thickness and then angled the blade to 15 deg. to shape the sides and at the same time, give a slight taper to the length.
The trick now was to cut a 15 deg face on to a block of wood and use that as a guide for the hand saw when cutting the slots into the back of the frame. Adding two additional parallel slots between them makes chiseling away the wood as easy as cutting into butter.
Now the keys were glued and hammered sideways into the frame corners.
You could tell things were going well when the sound turns to a satisfying "Thonk" as each key is hammered home.
The next day. the keys were sawn flush to the frame.
I have to say I'm really impressed with the strength and rigidity of the joint.
IMG_3283.JPG
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by Gesso&Bole » Fri 01 Oct, 2021 12:27 pm

That certainly looks like a proper job!
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by JFeig » Fri 01 Oct, 2021 3:20 pm

That is a very stable joint.
I was a bit puzzled until I saw the photo of the joint. I would call it an interlocking spline joint.
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by GeoSpectrum » Fri 01 Oct, 2021 4:34 pm

I screw a removable piece of plywood to the back, leave it to project a little and it gives a little corner protection too.
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by fusionframer » Fri 01 Oct, 2021 8:00 pm

Very nice, easy (ish) as long as you do have nice sharp chisels and it is one of those jobs that is very satisfying.

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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by Not your average framer » Fri 01 Oct, 2021 8:05 pm

I have seen frames produced using this same technique from well respected frames, producing hand made hand finished frames for up market galleries in and around London. There are tutorial videos on the internet about producing such joints. These joints are often refered to as sliding dovetail and the dovetail keys commonly taper, so I you tap the in to position, the key becomes tighter in the dove tail groove across the two parts of the Mitre. The two ends of the key are then cut flush with the outside of the frame after the glue in the joint has fully set.

Of all the frames, which I have seen using this techniqe, the frames have been hand finished, but not to fully hide the fact that there is a sliding doetail key across the mitred joint. It is normal to make the sliding dovetail key perhaps twice as long as it needs to be, with one end about 1/16 of an inch bigger than the slot end. Because of the the extended length of the sliding dovetail key, the taper is fairly gradual and this gradual taper contributes to a really tight fit after driving the sliding dovetail key tightly and fully home.

This is also a very old and traditional joint, which goes several centuries in the the past and is know to stand the test of time. It is still quite common from modern craftmen to still produce such joints using traditional methods and hand tools. Using modern day electric power tools, does not appear to be all that quicker, more advantageous as the people doing the video demostrations but hand are reasonably fast at doing it by hand. Joints like this are definitely a real mark of quality and craftsmanship!
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by fusionframer » Fri 01 Oct, 2021 8:31 pm

This is the much quicker, but not nearly so satisfying modern equivalent.
20210715_161035.jpg
Done with the Festool domino so no skill required, but makes a strong joint, and handy if you have lots to do.

Vintage frames the old traditional method with angles and hand tools to do it, just thought i would show the modern day 'cheat'.

I would always prefer the traditional methods, but time does not always allow.
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by vintage frames » Sat 02 Oct, 2021 9:02 am

as long as you do have nice sharp chisels
Like the one you promise to always keep sharp and ends up being used as a screwdriver!
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by prospero » Sat 02 Oct, 2021 9:43 am

I once did a massive moulding (about 3.5" x 2") using 2 biscuits and cross-screwed with 4" woodscrews. Added a steel 'L'
plate for good measure. Unfortunately the moulding was twisted so there was a misalignment on one corner that I could not correct.
Eventually I decided to break it down. Even after removing the steel plates I was incapable of breaking the corner joints. Even with
my great strength. :lol: I think I put a saw though it in the end. :P

I have come to the conclusion that a well-clamped tight joint is 99% of the corner strength.
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by Not your average framer » Sat 02 Oct, 2021 10:53 am

I have a fairly useful electric sliding mitre saw, it does not tilt the blade vertically both ways, as always there are ways of cheating a lttle to get around this by packing between the the base of the saw and the wood being cut. I have one of these bevel boxes which is a digital replacement for a spirit lelel and this can resolve angles down to 0.1 degrees, so getting the dovetail angles right is a bit of a no brainer. It is possible to cut the sides of the dovetail recess across mitre joins which have already been joined. I find that it is very helpful to remove some of the wood in between these outer cuts, with spaced apart vertical cuts still using the sliding mitre saw. Following my stroke, there is a limit to what I can still do with my right hand, but I still have the right handed brain which I was born with! Try to work with a chisel using my left hand only ever produces hopeless results, but my right hand is quite limited in strength and stamina. Making the spaced out saw cuts to the right depth to reduce some of the volume of the wood left between the two angled outer saw cuts is very helpful to me, as it reduces the need for strength and stamina from my right hand, but only so much. It does not enable my to cope very well with chiselling out the waste from hard woods like oak, which it currently for me at this stage of my recovery quite impossible.

Trying to produce the sliding dovetail keys to be a good fit is very hard to do at all for me. It requires very accurate sizing and tapering, which I find very hard to do using any sord of wood which is of any significant hardness. Neither my surface planer, or my electric hand panner are very helpful in this requirement and I don't have much success with my normal hand planes either.. It's not what I would prefer, but I find myself limited to softer wood typres for producing the sliding dovetail keys, which I not that great at all. There is an adjustable angle fence on the surface planner which enables me to accuately plane the side angle on to the sliding dovetail keys, getting the right width is a bit of a trial and error process. I was hoping to make someup market ready made frames using this method, but it just is not currently and economic option at this point in type. I have a 1/4 inch router bit set, which includes two dovetail bits, but both bits are much to small to be of much use for what's needed. If I was to use a dovetail router bit, I would want it to be wide enough to cut both side faces of the dovetail cut out at the same time, which might be something for the future if I get an 1/2 inch router, at a later time! The whole process seems much quicker and easier whatching the on-line videos, but that's not how it was for me!
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by fusionframer » Sat 02 Oct, 2021 4:11 pm

vintage frames wrote:
Sat 02 Oct, 2021 9:02 am
Like the one you promise to always keep sharp and ends up being used as a screwdriver!
Yep, or to open a tin of paint!
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by Not your average framer » Sat 02 Oct, 2021 4:34 pm

It's often not that easy to keep chisels sharp, even when you are not doing bad things. One of my favorite chisels is a skew chisel and it is just so useful, but there does not seem to be any easy and proper way to sharpen these, or at least not one that I know of.
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by fusionframer » Sat 02 Oct, 2021 7:16 pm

Easiest way is start with fine diamond stone, which despite being fine will get a sharp edge and then i use a Japanese waterstone (8000 grit) to finish. Takes a bit of practice, but it is pretty easy to get a good edge.

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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by Not your average framer » Sat 02 Oct, 2021 9:05 pm

My problem is not knowing which angle to grind the two sides and what the sideways sloping angle to also ment to be. It still works, at least sort of, but it looked different when I first got it. Grinding normal chisels it a doddle, but skew chisels don't even look like normal chisels and nobody tells you what the right way is to correctly sharpen them.
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Re: Joining a Large Frame using Tapered Keys - For theFirst Time

Post by Terry L » Sun 10 Oct, 2021 1:52 pm

Beautiful work.

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