How To Make Table Saw Spline Keys?

If you’re looking to add strength and visual interest to your woodworking projects, learning how to make table saw spline keys is a valuable skill to have. Spline keys are small strips of material inserted into jointed pieces to increase their strength and durability. They not only provide a secure connection but also add an attractive decorative element to your finished piece.
  • Building a miter spline jig is the first step in making table saw spline keys.
  • Choose spline material with long grain for added strength.
  • Cutting spline recesses requires precision and the use of a miter spline jig.
  • Properly gluing in the splines ensures a secure joint.
  • Trimming and flushing the splines will give your project a clean and professional finish.

Introduction to Spline Keys

Spline keys are small pieces of wood that are inserted into the joints of woodworking projects to provide added strength and prevent joint failure. They are particularly useful in projects where a strong and durable joint is essential, such as in furniture construction or cabinetry. By using spline keys, you can enhance the structural integrity of your woodworking joints, ensuring that they can withstand the test of time. Whether you’re building a table, a drawer, or a picture frame, incorporating spline keys into your project can make a noticeable difference in its strength and stability. Woodworking tips and tricks often include the use of spline keys as a way to reinforce joints. They are relatively easy to make, and with the right tools and materials, you can create spline keys that perfectly fit your project’s needs. In the following sections, we will explore the process of making table saw spline keys in detail, providing step-by-step instructions and practical advice to help you achieve successful results.

Why Use Spline Keys?

Spline keys serve a dual purpose in woodworking projects. Firstly, they provide additional strength to joints, preventing them from weakening or breaking over time. This is particularly important in projects where stress or weight will be applied to the joint, such as in chairs or tables. Secondly, spline keys can add a decorative touch to your projects. By choosing different wood species or incorporating unique designs, you can create visually appealing accents that enhance the overall look of your piece. Now that we understand the importance and benefits of using spline keys, let’s dive into the process of making them.

Building a Miter Spline Jig

To create the spline keys, we’ll first need to build a miter spline jig. This jig will guide the workpiece through the table saw or router table, ensuring precise and consistent cuts for the spline recesses. To build the miter spline jig, start by cutting the fence slider pieces and assembling the fence slider. Then, build the face piece and attach it to the slider. The dimensions of the jig will depend on the size of your workpiece and the desired spline width. Ensure that the miter slider fits snugly in your table saw or router table’s miter slot, providing a stable base for the workpiece. The face piece should be aligned perpendicular to the fence, allowing for accurate cuts. Once you have built the miter spline jig, you are ready to proceed to the next step of cutting the spline recesses.   To make accurate and precise cuts for your spline keys, you’ll need to build a miter spline jig. This jig will serve as a guide to ensure that your cuts are at the correct angle and depth. Follow these steps to build your own miter spline jig:
  1. Cut the fence slider pieces: Start by cutting two pieces of plywood to serve as the fence sliders. These should be the same width as your table saw’s miter gauge slot.
  2. Assemble the fence slider: Attach the two fence slider pieces together using screws or glue, creating a T-shape. This will allow the jig to slide smoothly along the miter gauge slot.
  3. Build the face piece: Cut another piece of plywood to serve as the face piece. Attach it to the fence slider, ensuring that it is perpendicular to the sliders.
  4. Attach the face piece to the slider: Secure the face piece to the fence slider using screws or glue. Make sure it is flush with the bottom edge of the fence slider to ensure accurate cuts.
  5. Align the jig: Place the miter spline jig onto your table saw or router table, aligning it with the miter gauge slot. Adjust the position of the face piece if necessary.
Once your miter spline jig is built, you are ready to start cutting spline keys for your woodworking projects. This jig will provide the necessary guidance and support to achieve precise cuts, ensuring a strong and secure joint.  
Materials Tools
Plywood Table saw or router table
Screws or glue Miter gauge
Screwdriver or drill

Choosing Spline Material

When making spline keys, it’s important to choose the right material that will provide the necessary strength and durability. There are several options available for spline material, each with its own advantages and considerations. One popular choice for spline material is solid wood. This can be made from the same type of wood as your project, ensuring a seamless and cohesive look. Solid wood splines can be easily created using a table saw or router table, and they offer good strength and stability. However, keep in mind that solid wood splines may be more prone to expansion and contraction due to changes in humidity. Another option is plywood or hardwood veneer splines. These are made by cutting thin strips of plywood or veneer and gluing them together to form a thicker spline. This can provide added strength and stability, particularly when using hardwood veneer splines. Plywood or hardwood veneer splines also offer the advantage of being less susceptible to changes in humidity, making them a good choice for projects that may be exposed to varying environmental conditions.
Spline Material Advantages Considerations
Solid Wood – Seamless and cohesive look – Good strength and stability – May be prone to expansion and contraction
Plywood or Hardwood Veneer – Added strength and stability – Less susceptible to changes in humidity – Requires more preparation and gluing
Other Materials (e.g., metal, plastic) – Different aesthetic options – Potentially increased durability – May require specialized tools or techniques
Lastly, consider exploring other materials for spline keys, such as metal or plastic. These options can provide different aesthetic choices and potentially increased durability. However, keep in mind that working with these materials may require specialized tools or techniques.   Choosing the right spline material is important for ensuring the strength and durability of your woodworking joints. Solid wood, plywood or hardwood veneer, and other materials like metal or plastic are all viable options. Consider the advantages and considerations of each material to select the best option for your project.

Cutting the Spline Recesses

Once you have your spline material ready, it’s time to cut the spline recesses in your woodworking project. This step is crucial as it creates the space where the spline keys will be inserted, adding strength and durability to your joints. To cut the spline recesses, you will need to use a miter spline jig on your table saw or router table. This jig allows you to make precise and consistent cuts, ensuring a perfect fit for the splines. Start by setting the cutting depth on your table saw or router table to match the thickness of your spline material. Then, position the miter spline jig against the fence and secure it in place. Make sure the face of the jig is flush with the edge of your workpiece. With everything properly set up, carefully guide your workpiece through the table saw or router table. Apply pressure in two directions – sideways into the jig’s face and down into the 45° fences. This will help prevent any tearout and ensure clean and accurate cuts. Repeat this process for each spline recess, making sure to maintain consistency in depth and alignment. Once all the cuts are complete, you will have perfectly sized and positioned spline recesses ready for the next step in your woodworking project.
Spline Recess Cutting Steps:
1. Prepare your miter spline jig and set the cutting depth on your table saw or router table.
2. Position the jig against the fence and secure it in place.
3. Guide your workpiece through the saw or router table, applying pressure in two directions.
4. Repeat for each spline recess, ensuring consistency in depth and alignment.
  By following these steps and using a miter spline jig, you can easily and accurately cut the spline recesses for your woodworking project. This technique will ensure strong and reliable joints that will withstand the test of time.

Gluing In the Splines

After cutting the spline recesses, the next step is to glue in the splines for a strong and durable joint. This is a critical step in the process, as it ensures that the splines are securely positioned and bonded to the project. To begin, cut the spline material into smaller pieces that will fit each recess. It’s important to apply glue to both the surfaces of the recess and the back edge of the spline. This will ensure proper adhesion and a solid bond. Slide the spline into place, making sure that it is aligned correctly and fully seated in the recess. Apply gentle pressure to the spline, ensuring that it is firmly in position. Allow the glue to dry for about 30 minutes before moving on to the next step. During this time, you can clean up any squeeze out that may have occurred during the gluing process.  
Tools and Materials Safety Gear
  • Miter spline jig
  • Spline material
  • Table saw or router table
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Gloves

Tips for Successful Gluing:

  • Ensure that the surfaces are clean and free from dust or debris before applying the glue.
  • Apply a thin and even layer of glue to both the recess and the spline for optimal bonding.
  • Use clamps or weights to apply consistent pressure on the spline while the glue dries.
  • Wipe away any excess glue with a damp cloth or sponge before it fully dries.
By following these steps and using the right techniques, you can achieve strong and durable joints in your woodworking projects. Gluing in the splines adds structural integrity and ensures that your projects will stand the test of time.

Drying and Cleaning Up

Once the splines are in place, it’s crucial to let the glue dry properly and ensure a neat finish by cleaning up any excess glue. To achieve this, follow these steps:
  1. Allow Sufficient Drying Time: Depending on the type of glue used, it may take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours for the glue to fully dry. Check the glue manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended drying time.
  2. Ensure Proper Clamping: If necessary, use clamps to hold the splines securely in place while the glue dries. This will help maintain the alignment and prevent any movement during the drying process.
  3. Remove Excess Glue: Once the glue is dry to the touch, you can gently scrape off any excess glue using a putty knife or chisel. Be careful not to dig into the wood or damage the joint while removing the glue.
  4. Sand the Surface: After removing the excess glue, use sandpaper or a sanding block to smooth out the surface and remove any remaining traces of glue. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper and gradually work your way up to finer grits for a smooth finish.
By allowing the glue to dry properly and taking the time to clean up any squeeze out, you will achieve a professional-looking result. Take care to maintain the integrity of the joint while removing excess glue, and always follow safety precautions when working with power tools and sharp instruments.   To achieve a seamless finish, the splines need to be trimmed flush with the surface of your woodworking project. This step ensures that the splines are level with the surrounding wood and creates a clean, professional look. There are a few different methods you can use to flush cut the splines. One option is to use a flush trim saw, which is a small hand saw with fine teeth designed for precision cuts. Simply align the saw blade with the surface of your project and carefully trim the splines flush. Take your time and make slow, controlled cuts to avoid any mistakes. Another method is to use sandpaper or a hand plane. Place a sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface or secure it to a sanding block. Gently sand the splines until they are flush with the surrounding wood. Alternatively, you can use a hand plane to shave off any excess material, working with light, even passes until the splines are flush. Here is a table summarizing the different methods for flushing cutting the splines:
Method Description
Flush Trim Saw Use a small hand saw with fine teeth to trim the splines flush with the surface of your project.
Sanding Secure sandpaper to a flat surface or sanding block and gently sand the splines until they are flush.
Hand Plane Use a hand plane to shave off any excess material, working with light, even passes until the splines are flush.
Choose the method that works best for you and the specific needs of your woodworking project. Remember to take your time and double-check your work as you go to ensure a professional, seamless finish.   While the basic spline key design is effective, there are also more advanced techniques you can explore to add unique visual elements to your woodworking projects. One creative idea is to incorporate angled splines into your joints. By cutting the spline slots at an angle, you can create an eye-catching design that adds a touch of elegance to your project. Angled splines can be particularly effective when used on mitered corners, creating a seamless and visually interesting transition between the pieces. Another creative approach is to use dovetail key splines. Dovetail joints are known for their strength and precision, and incorporating dovetail key splines into your woodworking projects can add both functional and aesthetic value. By cutting the spline slots in a dovetail shape, you can create a secure and visually striking joint that showcases your craftsmanship. Experimenting with different spline designs and materials can elevate your woodworking projects to the next level. Whether you choose angled splines, dovetail key splines, or another creative approach, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and explore new possibilities. Remember, woodworking is both a craft and an art, and the splines you incorporate can serve as a testament to your skills and creativity. angled splines
Spline Design Advantages Disadvantages
Angled Splines Enhances visual appeal, adds strength to joints, seamless transition in mitered corners Requires precise cutting and alignment
Dovetail Key Splines Provides strong and secure joints, adds unique aesthetic value Requires advanced woodworking skills and tools

What are the Benefits of Using Spline Keys for Cross-Grain Work with a Knicker Plane Iron?

Using a knicker plane iron for cross-grain work offers several benefits when combined with spline keys. The keys provide added stability, preventing the wood from splitting or tearing during planing. This combination also reduces the risk of tear-out, producing a smoother and cleaner finish. Overall, utilizing a knicker plane iron with spline keys enhances precision and efficiency, resulting in superior woodworking outcomes.

Safety Precautions

As with any woodworking project, it’s crucial to prioritize safety by taking the necessary precautions and wearing appropriate protective gear. When working with power tools like a table saw, there are several safety measures to keep in mind. First and foremost, always wear protective eyewear to shield your eyes from flying debris or wood chips. It’s also advisable to use hearing protection, as power tools can be quite loud and prolonged exposure can damage your hearing. When operating a table saw, make sure to keep your fingers and hands away from the blade at all times. To do this, use push sticks or a push block to guide the wood through the saw, keeping your hands a safe distance from the blade. Additionally, it’s important to use a dust collection system or wear a dust mask to minimize your exposure to airborne particles. Woodworking can produce a significant amount of dust, which can be harmful if inhaled over time.  
Protective Gear Description
Eye Protection Protective eyewear to shield eyes from debris
Hearing Protection Earmuffs or earplugs to reduce noise exposure
Push Sticks/Blocks To keep hands a safe distance from the blade
Dust Collection System To minimize exposure to airborne particles
Dust Mask Alternative to dust collection system for personal protection

Prioritize Your Safety

By following these safety precautions and wearing the appropriate protective gear, you can minimize the risk of accidents or injuries while working on your woodworking projects. Always remember that safety should be your top priority, allowing you to enjoy your craft and create beautiful pieces with peace of mind. Not only do spline keys add strength to your joints, but they also provide a decorative element that can elevate the overall design of your project. Whether you choose to incorporate angled splines or dovetail key splines, the possibilities for creativity are endless. Remember to always prioritize safety when working with power tools. Wear appropriate protective gear such as safety glasses, gloves, and a dust mask. Take your time and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific tools and equipment. Now that you have the confidence and know-how to make table saw spline keys, why not start experimenting with this technique in your next woodworking project? With practice and attention to detail, you’ll be able to create beautiful, durable joints that will impress both yourself and others. Manual of Woodworking” by Albert Jackson and David Day, and “The Essential Woodworker” by Robert Wearing. Woodworking Forums and Communities: Engaging with fellow woodworkers can provide valuable insights and tips on making spline keys. Join online woodworking forums or participate in woodworking communities where you can ask questions, share your projects, and learn from experienced craftsmen. Websites like Woodworking Talk and Sawdust Making Community are popular platforms for exchanging ideas and knowledge. By exploring these additional resources, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of table saw spline keys and discover useful woodworking tips and tricks along the way. Happy woodworking!
Scroll to Top