Saturday, May 5, 2007

Handcut Dovetail Success....Sorta

I am currently making a G&G table with the SEMIWW group and decided to deviate from the traditional G&G box joint drawer and attempt handcut dovetails. This is the first time that I will have actually used this in a real furniture project. I have been getting close to having them look somewhat respectable but have been missing a few things. I practiced prior to doing these and finally figured out a few tricks including making a mess.

First, being able to saw a straight line is critical. I do tails first and I just worry about cutting straight and square for the tails since they will be used to mark my pins. Once you have the saw kerf started, I found it best to keep the saw very loose in my hand so the kerf ends up acting like a guide for the saw. This worked great for cutting a straight line.

Next, I used to use a coping saw to cut out the waste but I find that I am always cutting into the side of a tail or pin. I decided to chop out instead and found that it did not take too much longer but left the tails and pins much nicer with fewer nicks left in the wood. I chopped in about half way on both sides until the waste popped out as follows.

I also used to cut the end waste for the tails. However, it seemed that I would never be square on the ends of the tail board. Instead, I decided to cut the end off but left some waste that I pared with the chisel. This worked much better at keeping the ends square.

Once the tails are chopped out and cleaned up comes the difficult part of marking the pins. This is one of the most critical steps in order to get tight fitting joints. I carefully lay the tail board over the pin board to mark the pins. Once lined up and both boards clamped down, I used a retractable razer blade to carefully cut a line tight to the tale. I did not mark the knife line with a pencil as I find it to be a great guide to saw tight to the knife line. I did mark pencil lines on the side of the board to use as a guide to cut straight.

Cutting the pins is where I had difficulties in the past. You hear from others that you should split the line or cut to the waste side or leave some waste and pare down......enough to get very confused. I have tried all and finally found that by marking the line from the tail with a knife (no pencil) and carefully starting the saw cut by cutting just to the waste side of the line so that the saw shaves through the line. This will remove the line but the saw kerf is thicker than the line so you want to be careful starting the cut to the waste side. Once the saw cut is started it is then easy to cut the rest.

Overall, I think the drawer came out good with a few mistakes that will give it character. It is by far the best set of dovetails I have done yet. It is also the first set of half blind dovetails for me. I actually found the half blind dovetails slightly easier than thru dovetails as you can pare back slightly in the "blind spots" to make them fit nicely. Here is a picture of the completed drawer.

No comments: