Sunday, June 21, 2015

how to mess up your dovetails

I came across these old photos from when I was making my anarchist's tool chest, and thought I should share some of the mistakes I made while learning a lot of techniques.

But there are already too many blog posts with contradictory information telling you how to cut nice dovetails, so I'm going to tell you how the mess them up:

Use a jack plane with a heavily cambered iron to surface your lumber, then decide that's good enough. Do this on the inside surfaces to ensure visible gaps.
Crosscut your lumber after surfacing. This means more work to get out large cups & bows, so you definitely won't have energy left over to get out a smoothing plane.

Warm up your sawing arm with some haphazard cuts.

Decide that dovetails are first class cuts and waste lots of time making knifewalls, even though the angles don't really matter on the tails (assuming tails first)
If that takes too long, decide they are second-class cuts so that you still waste some time with knifewalls.

Orient the board so you are cutting against the grain. (Actually I was using a dozuki, so this was the right way).

Train your eye to see square by looking at an engineer's square from the wrong direction. Don't "undercut", because it might be considered "cheating"

Cut the tails way inside the lines so it doesn't fit right off the saw.
Fuss with the joints a lot so you have plenty of opportunities to go past your lines.

Glue it up with the minimum of clamps so that the glue has a place to go.

If you're cutting grooves, make sure they go out through the end (this is from a different project)

Repair the blemishes with a few small slivers of wood and some glue, or if the gaps are small, just hammer the endgrain until they disappear. Flush plane them and they'll look fine. I'm serious about this one--it's easy to repair dovetail problems.
...but you can still point out your mistakes to anybody who sees the tool chest.
You can also point out your mistakes to the whole internet.
And don't paint over them so you can keep pointing out your mistakes.
But seriously, you can fix all this and they will come out great. The important thing is to make the attempt so you have the opportunity to succeed.

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