I'm a big believer in corner blocks. I'll use them as structural reinforcement whenever I can. The mitre is inherently a weak joint, and susceptible to breakage because of people pulling on the skirt to open the table. A block is necessary in this situation.
I think the difference between hand and factory made is in the details. Shaped corner blocks are one of the things I do to make my furniture stand out from pieces that are mass produced.
I start by milling two pieces of scrap 6/4 walnut. I then layout my blocks, two per piece, leaving room for the kerf between.
I then clamp the pieces together tightly, to avoid slippage, and use a 3/4" forestner bit to drill a hole between them.
The pieces are then reversed, and the second hole drilled.
The mitre saw is used to cut the parts from the stock.
A mark is drawn in the recess, 1/2" from the top, on both sides.
Two 3/16" clearance holes are then drilled.
The edge sander makes quick work of sanding the show faces and lightly champhering the edges.
A spindle sander drum and a hand block break the edges of the recess.
The skirt mitres have set up enough to be able to be gently handled by now. I glue and screw the blocks into position. Normally I use four screws, but these skirts get too thin for more than two. A folded piece of sandpaper acts as a shim to prevent the block being lower than the bottom edge of the skirt.
The joinery is cleaned up, glue squeeze out removed, and the bottom edge of the skirt is given a heavy break with sandpaper.
I like details like this, hidden from casual observation. They are like a treat for a person to find, a reward for study and observation. When found they become a secret shared between maker and client. They are a hallmark of quality and conscientious craftsmanship. I like to think they won't be noticed until the table has lost it's novelty, and will reignite the excitement felt when it was a new addition to the home.
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