Fitting small beads

Bead on drawer side narrower than top bead

Unless you have a strong stomach, you never want to get a group of bikers talking about bike wrecks or woodworkers talking about accidents with power tools. I have to admit, the older I get the more squeamish I am about blood and detached digits. Spent way too many years in a manufacturing environment and saw firsthand how easy it is to make a mistake that cannot be repaired. I even knew a guy once who worked in a stamping department and intentionally lopped a finger off so he could collect compensation to buy a new motorcycle. His nickname was “Spot”. I think that says it all.

 I’ve been in the shop fitting the beading on some drawer fronts on a reproduction. They present a few challenges. The bead that runs across top and bottom spans the drawer front thickness plus 1/16” to allow the bead radius to cast a shadow. On the ends, the bead is aprox ½” wide. This means that the miter on the top and bottom pieces stops half way across. You might notice on the photo that the top bead has a butt end flush part way across and then mitered where it mates with the side bead. I cut that stopped miter with a block cut at 45 degrees to act as a guide and used a chisel to pare down carefully. I mitered the side pieces the same way till I got down to the narrower drawers.

Precise miters on tiny peices is a challenge

The smallest drawer is only 2” high and that means trying to cut a precise miter on a little piece of beading with nothing to grab. In the old days I would have attempted to make the cuts on a table saw. Bad idea for several reasons. Miter cuts on small work like this is asking for a trip to the emergency room. Secondly, this fine of work requires quite a bit of fine tuning to get the fit perfect. That’s not something a table saw or miter saw excels at. Hard to get a table saw to remove just a small shaving or two.

 My solution. Use double stick tape to mount the small bead on a board that’s already cut to 45 degrees.

Shooting board is my solution on small parts

Use a shooting board to get a good clean miter. Best of all I can remove just a shaving or two and creep up on that tight fit I’m after.

 Anyone have a better idea? I’m all ears.

George R. Walker

About walkerg

Woodworker and writer
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5 Responses to Fitting small beads

  1. Shannon says:

    George, I can’t argue with the shooter to cut the miter but I am curious why you chose to make the top cockbead wider that the side. Wouldn’t it have been easier to plow the rabbet all the way around the drawer uniformly? What is the reasoning for this difference in width?

    • walkerg says:


      I agree that it would have been much simpler to use a bead the same width all the way around. In this case the customer wanted a reproduction as true to the original as possible. That locked me into this arangement. Something tells me that the original builder had worked out a couple of jigs that made this all a snap. I probably would figure out something much easier also if I had more than this one small chest.


  2. Jack Plane says:

    George, I’m afraid I don’t follow what you’re doing (excuse me, I’m irish), is the side beading narrower because of half-lapped dovetails?

    In the past I have fine tuned small pieces of beading such as yours with sandpaper wrapped around a block and used like a mitre plane. It grabs less than a plane – even with the sharpest blade.

    • walkerg says:

      Jack Plane,

      Not sure why the original was aranged this way. I have seen examples where the beading spans the entire drawer front width or sometimes half the drawer front width. In both cases the beading is the same all the way around. This arangement with the sides narrower actually does look nice, just a bother to horse around with.
      Sandpaper sounds like it would work well. I didn’t have any problem with spelch on the shooting board so I took that route.


  3. tico vogt says:

    You can also use a miter gauge set-up with a sanding disk. Since the bead doesn’t have a full backing when shooting, the plane blade can spelch the unsupported rounded edges a bit.

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