I generally use biscuits for this (three per joint), and I have never had a joint fail (and a bookcase spending five years in an elementary school is a pretty fair test), but dadoes work great here as well. To assist with accuracy and consistency when using biscuits, mark your biscuit locations on a piece of scrap, and then use the scrap as a guide as you mill biscuit slots in each carcass member. The carcass top is attached so that it is flush with the top of the carcass sides. The carcass bottom is attached so that the top of the panel is 2-1/2″ above the floor (or the bottom of the side panel).
Don’t follow the temptation to cheap out and buy a cheap combination square. Because, like me, you will eventually have to replace it because of its inaccuracy. If you want your joinery to fit perfectly, then you need to scribe it accurately with precise marking tools. Unfortunately there is really only one company (that I know of) that makes a super accurate combination square. But fortunately it is amazing, and I use it daily. I’ll talk about it in-depth in the Layout & Measuring Tool Buying Guide.
1. Power jointer and thickness planer. I have developed various means of straightening the edges of my stock with hand-held tools, but I don’t see a way to efficiently flatten the faces of rough or reclaimed lumber without a power jointer. It’s part of the first few steps for any furniture project, and I want to be able to move through this step quickly and into the more interesting work. The thickness planer is also a huge time-saver, compared to hand-held tools.
Picture it: eight people with different skill levels, each trying to design a different project (which, by the way, they have no idea how to do) and hopefully cutting some wood by the third class. Meanwhile, the instructor is running from student to student, and then running to the table saw where a kickback has occurred. It is no wonder that at the end of the class not a single thing has been made and most of the students don't come back.
Description: In this 6-session class Angela will be guiding as you carve from a pre-roughed blank. (Check in with the store to see which blanks she will have available for this class.) Angela is an experienced, local carver and has designed this class to be fun and creative. This class is run in 6-session increments and may be repeated as needed as it will usually require multiple classes to complete your project.
A small jointer is better than no jointer, but a small jointer is not a great addition to a shop. A jointer needs table length. I would skip buying a small to medium size jointer. Once again, rely on your hand tools. They can perform as well or better than a machine that costs hundreds more, they require a great deal of room, and they should be run in conjunction with a dust collector. You can flatten boards with a jack plane and straighten edges with a jointer. With a little experience it becomes a quick task.