Friday, November 7, 2008


Dovetailing by hand is something that I a going to have to be proficient at.  Its the obvious choice for drawers and many carcass assemblies.  When customers see dovetails in a project it automatically elevates their opinion of the piece.

So I began my quest some time ago by watching dovetailing video's.  So far I have watch Frank Klausz's "Dovetail a Drawer" and Jim Kingshott's "Dovetails Made Easy."  Sadly I haven't watch Rob Cosman's video yet, although I have seen his method on short clips on the internet.  All Of these guys have their own method.  I feel you will impedes your learning if you keep trying different methods.  So I decided to pick the one that I felt was the best overall and run with it.  I chose Frank Klausz's method for 3 reasons:
  • Speed:  Frank has a certain amount of emphasis and being fast at this process.  He mentions in his video that he charges 20 minutes labor for each drawer.
  • Streamlined Process:  I feel that one way to tell how efficient a method is, is to see how many tools are involved in the process.  Frank only uses a dovetail saw, chisel, mallet,  and a pencil.  It doesn't get much more streamlined than that. There is virtually no layout for Frank's method.  I would be done with the joint using Frank's method before I could get the dovetails laid out using other methods.
  • Strength over vanity:  Most of the dovetails I have seen Cosman and Kingshott cut have very small pins.  This is supposed to be more visually appealing at the cost of loosing strength.  I'm a utilitarian guy,  I use this joint for its strength, first and foremost.  Guess this is what draws me to Shaker furniture.  Frank's method yields dovetails and pins that are roughly the same size.  Which also produces optimal strength.
So I began my quest.  Armed with a $20 Lynx dovetail saw and almost no hand sawing experience.  The first thing I did was watch Frank's video half a dozen times.  Just trying to pick up on the subtleties I may have missed.  Frank goes way to fast for you to pick up on everything the first time through.  After letting that info soak in for a while I went out to shop and give it a whirl.  It was ugly but I did learn a lot.  I was just happy that even though it was ugly it was surprisingly strong.  The biggest problem is I was trying to do it exactly like frank does.  He doesn't have to mark a few things that I do.  For instance he doesn't carry his layout lines across the end grain so that you can tell if you are cutting straight across the board.  So feeling bold one morning I decided to give it another shot but put a few more layout lines on the work.  I was simply amazed.  While the joints weren't perfect, they were d*mn good.  Especially for someone with no real sawing experience.  So I'm thinking this must be a fluke.  Go out the next morning cut the dovetails off my board and begin anew.  It looked a little better.  Still a few gaps, but not bad.  While my joints aren't great they are consistent.  So with a little practice I think I will have this thing down.

Its less than week before the Woodworking in America Conference.  Its no coincidence that I have 3 classes with Frank.  Two of them being dovetail classes.  Maybe I'll pick up on something at the workshop's that will propel me forward.

No comments: