Friday, June 17, 2011

Sliding Dovetails with Dennis Patchett

For our monthly Sin City Woodworkers meeting last Wednesday, June 15, we met at the shop of Dennis Patchett.  We had about 25 members at this meeting and I think I can speak for all of them when I say that Dennis presentation of cutting the sliding dovetail and work in his shop is excellent.

This is what a sliding dovetail looks like 

     Most people are familiar with the use of a dovetail on drawers and it is also used in casework, especially when using solid wood.  Where the sliding version comes in is to fasten shelves or dividers within the case.  The strength comes from the shape of the "tail"; it won't pull out of the side like a simple dado joint will.
     One of Dennis's traits is that he takes the easiest route to accomplish what he makes -- and that's said as a compliment.  The woodworking forums, magazines, and books would want you to believe that this type of work can't be done well unless you open your wallet to buy whatever whizbang gadget they're trying to sell!  Most would say you need a router table and fence to achieve this joint but what Dennis does is screw a fence that has been pre-bored to accept a screw, directly on his table over the hole where his router comes up.  In this picture you see him setting that up.  As a teacher I can only appreciate the attention that Allison is paying to him!

Setting the fence to cut the male half of the joint

Sorry about this break, let's call it a commercial message to show some other things that he shared with us Wednesday evening.  Just can't get the pictures to move where I want them to :-(

Using a large rasp to shape the beginnings of a foot for a chair.
Interesting note is that he got this from a  farrier who was going to toss it out!

His Carving Station

     Okay, back to the original story.  Here is a close up of the dovetail bit as it comes up from the bottom of the bench.  Something Dennis stressed was to have accurate measuring tools, he also mentioned how he makes a bunch (couple hundred) of shims from a 1x12, these taper down to nothing so are just great for setting a fence over a slight amount.  He made the joint pictured at the top of this blog out of MDF but when he makes it for a piece of furniture he always has extra material on hand to check his set ups.

Close up of Setting the Fence, notice his shims in the foreground
The remainder of the meeting had Dennis answering lots of questions about his work and techniques.  He is truly passionate about his work and it shows when he's talking about it.  He spends a great amount of time at the craft and gets pretty amazing results.  Like most woodworkers, he's quick to point out some errors in his projects but I think many of us strive to achieve the level of woodworking that he has.  During his demonstration he was asked how to do something and his answer was "there isn't any secret to these things, you just go out and do it" -- he's taken his own advice and succeeded!

The remaining meeting time was spent looking and admiring the work in his shop.  My guess is that his obvious passion for woodworking may have ignited a new spark among the members that were at this meeting.

Beautiful example of completed chest

Notice the bottom leaf? It extends over raised panel!
This linen cabinet is for his wife, hard to tell but the doors and side panels are carved linen fold.
All the remains is the finish and a granite top.
Believe it or not -- TOOTHPICKS!
They actually work and were carved with pins sharpened into chisels.

This is the brand of finish he plans to use on the linen cabinet

Corner Cabinet under construction
Notice the carved shell and the radiused door.
Very Impressive!

1 comment: