Sunday, January 15, 2012

Another Dovetail, Another Saw

There have not been many updates because all I have been doing is practicing dovetails.  I have placed an order for a gallon of glue, yes a gallon.  This is to build the new workbench.  That will start fairly soon, weather permitting.

In the meantime, I am still cutting a dovetail joint every time I have a chance.  I have lost track of how many there are so far, but probably around 10.  They are getting better in some ways but not always.  I am inventing new ways to make mistakes all the time, and I foolishly decided to try a different technique: cutting pins first instead of tails first.  I would like to work either way, but really should master tails first before switching.  The seemingly trivial change actually creates a wholly different workflow and set of methods required.  Thomas does it pins first, but Rob Cosman has produced the clearest videos, so I have been using his methods.  Eventually, I will try to synch of with Thomas, but I am still struggling with the basics such as cutting exactly to the line, proper chisel technique, and so on.

The most recent joint is probably the best yet, but still flawed.  I split the board on one tail, meaning it was too tight.  Yet there are gaps on some of the other tails. It seems as though I bumped the board while transferring the marks; the shapes of the cuts were correct, but the placement on some of them was off by a millimeter or two.  Transferring the marks continues to be my biggest problem.  I feel like I am cutting and chiseling to my marks ok, but the marks are not always in the right place.  I expect this will continue to improve.

Here's the result of the last one (you can see the split near the top):

Other than the split, this one is possibly "good enough" but not nearly perfect enough for me to continue with the schoolboxes.  Its possible that the 31 sugggested for "dovetail month" will suffice, but I might be slow.  Anyway, I won't give up, but I won't post every single one here, either, so the blog will be slow.  I will post some "worst of" soon, detailing the mistakes I have made and what I have done to improve them and the lessons learned.  I believe so far that no matter how much one reads and understands this process, its really a matter of hands-on practice.

In other news, I did obtain a new saw, completing my core collection.  This is a fine crosscut panel saw, created by Matt C who runs and a great saw rehabilitation service.

In Matt's words, it is "a D-23 plate cut to match a #7 pattern and a custom tote in osage orange".   

Similar to a Lie-Nielson panel saw in size, its 10 points and cuts very nicely!  Its razor sharp - and I would encourage anyone needing work done on saws to give Matt's service a try.  His tote is as comfortable as can be and the saw cuts as nicely as any I have seen.  Look at the beautiful "lamb's tongue" detail, where the lower swoop of the handle connects to the part contacting the saw itself.  Thanks for sharing it with me, Matt!

It's shown here underneath a Wenzloff panel saw based on the Harvey Peace design.  Its pleasantly small, light, and wonderfully ergonomic.  I am really happy with this saw.

As always, thanks for following along and stay tuned for some more project-based updates (including the workbench build) coming soon!


  1. Wow, what painstaking work. Very interesting reading--thanks for sharing!

  2. Keep it up. I tried the dovetail-a-day-for-a-month test, and made it two and a half weeks into it before life got in the way, but I plan to take it up again. My first week was tails first, second week was pins first, and based on that I decided that I preferred tails first right now, but the practise doing pins first helped me keep sharp and intensified my concentration in order to be accurate. I will always have my own favorite methode, but keeping additional skills in my bag of tricks will always come in handy.

    Keep at it, and thanks for posting, your progress is inspiring.

  3. Thanks! I did one more last night that I feel is actually passable. Can't wait to do the next 15 or so and see where my skills end up...


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