Day 3, By Hammer and Hand, Dovetails

We are now into the meat of the class, and we started out with some dovetail history and instruction.    The layout part of the lecture revealed a lot for me, including the use of two dividers.  For some reason, I’ve read this technique several times and it just never took root, but seeing it in action made it all click.  This is the major advantage of taking an actual class as opposed to flailing around in your shop, though videos do help demystify many things if they are done well.  So first you gauge the thickness of your pin board (we did tails first, but you can do either) on the tail board on all four sides.  You then pick the width of your end pins and for 3/4″ stock, 3/8″ is a good place to start.  Too small and it won’t be very strong, and too big has the aesthetic quality of East German apartment houses.  You decide the number of tails you want to have, and roughly set your 2nd set of dividers and step them off.  Too short?  Widen the dividers.  You begin at the true edge, and basically want the final step to be beyond the 3/8″ mark but short of the edge of the board.  That difference is what your pin tops will be.  Mine I think were a hair over 1/4″.  Now that both your dividers are set, you can lay all the tails out and they will be fairly equal.

We did a few practice boards in some scrap pine and they sure went together nice.  CS showed us his rabbet trick which does help with the layout on the pin board.  I then lay out my tails on my real stock.

The tails are the less stressful part in tails-first because they are basically just the layout for your pin boards.  At the end of the day I had 1 corner together.  Thankfully we started on the rear of the box because these were certainly not perfect.

This has always been my problem with dovetails, the gap on the underside of the pin board.  The second from right I undercut the baseline, but the others I had a slight hump in the board board end grain which kept the gap.  By then a day of work had me pretty tired, so I decided to chase the humps the next day.

I really didn’t take many photos, and no videos, as it was pretty focused practice and work.

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