Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dovetails Illustrated

At the meeting last Wednesday we had an outstanding demonstration by Rich Daugherty on how to lay out and cut dovetails.  Woodworkers, especially those that enjoy the challenge of hand tool work view the dovetail as a benchmark and continually strive to reach it.  The first step is the laying out of the joint.  As you can see, Rich has a formidable collection of tools to do his work.  There is an ongoing debate among woodworkers as to what to cut first -- the pin or the tail?  He does the pin first method.  The angle of the joint is usually 1:6 or 1:8 depending on whether it is a hard wood or a soft wood.

After laying them out and cutting down to his line with a dovetail saw the next step was to remove the waste in between the pins with chisels.  Since he wasn't in his own shop, he needed to improvise on ways to hold his board steady -- notice the Eugster Hold Fast (glad he didn't slip!)

The next step is to transfer the pins to the tail board.  Notice that he's using a marking knife which is much more accurate than using a pencil. It also gives a slit that makes it easier to start the saw.

Here you see a holding device Rich made for this demo, it's a torsion box.  Larry Yule gave a demonstration on how to make them and several members of the club have made them since then.  At this point it's apparent why dovetails are called "dovetails".  If this were a drawer this board would be the sides.  You can visualize the strength this gives, there's no way the pin board (which would be the front of the drawer) can separate from the drawer sides.  Careful paring with a sharp chisel is required to make these pieces fit.

After a bit of paring and fine tuning it all went together.  After a round of applause we had a discussion as to whether or not the time you spend doing these by hand is worth it.
       What was our collective answer?  DEPENDS!!  
The main thing to consider is the time factor and what the piece will be used for.  Some of the members decided there was too much time involved plus to do a quality dovetail you need quality tools which Rich had in abundance.  The quietness of working with hand tools is a pleasure when compared with the noise and dust of the routers.  However, unless you're a quick worker the time spent on these will eat into your profits.  So I guess that leaves us with making up your own mind.  Try doing a couple of dovetails with whatever tools you have.  Get them as sharp as possible and go to work.  If you get stumped put a shout out on the blog or Meet Up page and I'm sure you'll get someone to help you out.

Last of all, do sign up and join this blog by becoming a follower and also sign up for the Meet Up site.  I'm still waiting for more responses regarding the clubs dues.  How's your push stick coming along?  That's for our next meeting.

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