Practice Dovetails

One thing I love about hand tool work is that I can hear, and breathe while do it. Much less dust, much less noise. I can hear my music, and enjoy it while working up a sweat and breathing not clouds of dust, or struggling to breathe in a dust mask. It’s a very nice side benefit, it really is.

Tonight I started a new set of dovetails for a shop box. I got discouraged after my last set where I screwed up which direction I was going, and ruined a perfectly good box. This is intended to be a quick project (I should insert some kind of joke here about time, but let us just move on shall we?) to practice dovetails, and work out some hand tool techniques.

It was very quickly apparent that I hadn’t been down there in a while, as the skills were rusty, but I did manage to not screw up irreversibly tonight, and got one corner done. I had to trim the tails to fit more than I would have liked, and I really really need to learn to pay attention to my face marks. I nearly botched it again with the wrong face out. It would have been an easy fix, but still it’s something I’m not used to looking for.

I did fine tune somewhat the little dovetail saw I picked up. My attempt at sharpening is just that, an attempt, but it doesn’t cut too badly. It was binding a lot, so I think it needs some set added to the teeth, which will be interesting at that size. But, a little bit of beeswax on the sides fixed most of the binding, and I think I need to touch up the teeth with a little more care.

Also, you can see the Vise in action here. I am actually VERY pleased with the vise set up, it is night and day from what I was doing before, and makes quite a difference in how I did tonight.  I was able to gang-cut two tails, and cut one set of pins fairly quickly with this MacGyver setup.  I wish it was a bit more secure, but I would need a stronger bench top than the 3/4″ MDF top this bench has.  But it worked for my purposes.  Plus I was able to remove it, use my bench hook, and then put it back on in a matter of minutes.

I need the practice, that much is clear, but I wasn’t totally adrift down there, so that was good.  I hope to actually finish this box (fingers crossed) before my big San Diego trip, but I am not going to make any promises I probably can’t keep.  We shall see.



  1. Jay July 9, 2010

    Very messy bench. Just like mine. Have you tried poplar for your dovetails? I’ve been doing dovetails off and on now just like the corner you did, and then cutting it off, just for practice. The tulip poplar is greenish and sickly looking, but boy is it nice to pare with a dovetail chisel; much easier than the #2 pine. If you should think of it, give it a try. It has allowed me to concentrate on the technique rather than struggle with the pine.

  2. Badger July 9, 2010

    I had this pine on hand and so it was easy to grab. But yeah, I think it might be worth my while to maybe get some better wood than this crap pine. 🙂

    And Poplar can actually turn fairly interested if stained right. Plus it’s pretty cheap.

    As for the messy bench, yeah, that’s what happens when I have so little time to spend in the shop.

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