Realign your splines
It doesn't take much work to put a new spin on traditional splined miter joints. Just install the splines at an angle, as we did as shown on a maple-and-walnut letter tray, and you get eye-catching results.
First, make a simple spline-cutting jig for your tablesaw, as shown below. Then, mark three evenly spaced spline locations on a piece of scrap the same width as the tray side.
Install a blade in your tablesaw that produces the flattest possible kerf bottom. (We used an outside blade from our dado set.) Tilt the blade to 15°, and raise it so that it extends about halfway into the mitered corner. Set your jig against the tablesaw rip fence, place your marked scrap in the jig, and adjust the fence to cut a test slot. Now make the other slots, readjusting the fence between cuts.
When you're satisfied with the design, place clear packing tape around the workpiece corners to reduce chip-out. Hold the workpiece firmly in the jig, and cut as shown in Photo A. Cut the top slot in each corner, adjust the fence, cut all four middle slots, adjust again, and do the bottom slots. Remove the tape.
Rip spline stock from the edge of a board of contrasting stock, as shown in Photo B. Match its thickness to the kerf—usually 1⁄8 ". Then, cut individual splines from the strips, making them slightly longer than the slots. Spread yellow glue on the splines, slip them into place, and let the glue dry. Trim them off at the surface with a flush-cutting saw, or use a dovetail saw followed by a chisel. Sand flush.
By varying the number and placement of the splines, you can come up with other designs. You might try different saw blade angles, too.
Photographs: Hetherington Photography
Illustration: Roxanne LeMoine
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