One of the skill-builders I've been planning to do is based on a suggestion in the Anarchist's Tool Chest. Its mentioned that making a joint a day for a month will provide much improvement. Its one of those things that sounds simple, but after day one, I am definitely hoping it gets faster, if not easier.
I used a relatively thick piece of alder (3/4") because I thought that larger joint components would be easier to manage. The "modern complication" of using a coping saw to remove the bulk of the socket waste was also forgone for the sake of simplicity. This might have been a mistake, as the chiseling seemed to take a very long time. I did not time this, but I believe this test joint took over 2 hours.
The end results are not great, but the joint did go together and is very, very strong without any glue. I am confident I will improve and will do as many of these test joints as I can in coming weeks, if not actually 30 of them.
I've learned enough just today to have my head swimming with geometry, chisel methodology, and the kind of tired muscles (and eyes) that only come from a long day. My shop lighting is turning out woefully inadequate for after-dark work. Viewing the baseline was very difficult, and the harsh shadows which develop once the ambient sun goes away will not be tolerable in the long term. Luckily we have very long days here in the spring and summer, and I have not been doing much at night this winter. In the future, though, this will need to be addressed.
Here's a couple images from the sample joint:
This shows the tails cut but not yet chopped.
Now the tails are chopped out, so that the pins could be marked for cutting.
I chopped half of the sockets and then flipped the board to do the other side from the other direction, in order to avoid tearout. This chisel work took much longer than the sawing, and possibly longer than the layout (which took a long time to wrap my head around).
And a completed joint. The gaps are cringeworthy and yet the thing is very solid. I did not glue it but it seems that it doesn't need it! I will probably work with thinner hemlock stock now that I have a handle on the process and don't want to burn up too much of my alder to practice.
Learning the layout techniques took much longer than I had thought. I am familiar with 4 or 5 methods, so had to choose one and roll with it. I ended up using the system that Rob Cosman suggests. I chose the width of the half pins, and then used dividers to space the tails (plus tail padding) between them. Straightforward enough for me and I will stick with it until I have a better command of the sawing and chopping skills needed to make tight joints.
Much respect to those who already have dovetails mastered and make it look so trivial!