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designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
This blog is a record of my life in my studio.

Friday, January 13, 2012

My first dovetail

The dovetail: a classic corner joint, superior to almost all others for joining two boards at a square corner.  It's one of most recognizable signs of craftsmanship (especially for laypeople), one of the first things taught at most furniture schools, and the joint that spawned a million-dollar industry of products designed to avoid hand-cutting it, or avoid using it altogether. 

After nearly two years of teaching myself woodworking, I have read a great deal about dovetails.  So today, in the midst of what I think of as my first "fine furniture" commission, I decided to see if all my reading could help me make a decent dovetail. 

I decided to make a
single dovetail, by hand.  I grabbed a piece of scrap cherry and chopped it in half.  Then, I used a bevel gauge to set the angle of the tail, a marking gauge to set the depth, and a Japanese square to transfer the marks to the opposite face of my tail board.  I cut the tail with my Dozuki crosscut saw (it has a very thin kerf and a rigid back), almost to the depth line, then chopped away the waste on either side of the tail with a 1/2" chisel, using a large bench hook I use for planing.   

Next, I traced the shape of the tail onto the end grain of the pin board, used the tail board to mark the depth with a pencil, and then used the Japanese square to transfer the pin outline down to the depth marks on the faces of the pin board.  Then, I cut the two half pins with the Dozuki, and chopped out the waste in the middle with my chisel, on the bench hook.

It didn't take too many paring cuts to a) get the joint to slide together pretty firmly, and b) accidentally pare a curved shape into one of the faces.

But all in all, I can not complain!  With a little cherry wood filler, my first dovetail isn't half bad.  I look forward to joining my next case not with my Festool Domino or hollow chisel mortiser, but with my Dozuki and a chisel.

...and, of course, my sharpening stones ;-)


And by the way: that single dovetail joint is stronger than a m****rf****r!! I am stunned. 

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