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Dovetailed Hand Tool Cabinet #3: Flow with the go

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Blog entry by JasonD posted 05-03-2011 04:35 AM 3641 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: One man's trash - making the cabinet back from scraps Part 3 of Dovetailed Hand Tool Cabinet series Part 4: Making the tool holders »

While the pieces for the back were clamped / glued up, I spent some time practicing hand cut through dovetails for my next project. I had cut some where between 6 – 12 single tail practice dovetails off an on over the past 6 months or so. I’d never tried cutting an actual “set”; as in more than one tail and at least 3 pins (counting 2 half pins).

Well after cutting a practice set, I decided that the only way I was ever going to get any good at them was to use them more; not just in practice, but to commit to using them in a real project.

Here’s picture of my practice set:

Originally, my cabinet was going to be built using plans from a recent issue of ShopNotes. The plans called for the carcass joinery to be through tenons and dados. Here is a link to the ShopNotes website with a picture to show what their cabinet looked like.

The ShopNotes cabinet is a great looking cabinet, no doubt, but a big part of me wanted to make the case using dovetails now. I guess I was finding my Krenovian muse without realizing it.

I like the look of pins that aren’t too small, which meant I’d be limited to only two tails…but I wanted to do something different than just two equally sized tails. So, I decided to use one larger tail and one smaller tail. I positioned the larger tail toward the back of the cabinet. I can’t explain why exactly, but I felt that this just “felt” better visually as far as weighting the cabinet’s aesthetic. With the larger tail in the front, it would have looked awkward.

I cut the tails first. After sawing the sides of the tails, I tried removing the pin-waste from the tail boards a couple different ways in order to find which method worked best for me. Since the two cabinet sides offered four sets of tails, I figured it would give me a chance to try each of the three methods I had in mind and then finally use my favorite method to clean up the last set.

First, I tried cutting the bulk of the waste out with a coping saw, then paring the remainder at the shoulder line. On the opposite end of that carcass side, I tried drilling out most of the waste and then paring to handle the final clean up. On the third set, I chopped the waste out with a chisel the way I’d seen Roy Underhill do it in the tool chest till episode of the Wood Wright’s Shop this past season. You chop out a good chunk of the waste and pair the last bit up to the shoulder line; as with the other methods. The chopping method was my favorite and I found it to be the fastest for me personally. I used this method on the final set of tails at the other end of the second carcass side.

I used my tail boards to layout my pins and cut the cheeks with the my LV dovetail saw. I then chopped out the tail-waste on the pin board using the same method that I used on the last two sets of tails. Of course, I had to angle the chisel to prevent from cutting into the sides of the sloping tails. The dovetails came together pretty close at first, but did require a little bit of paring to get them to come together tightly without having to break out a big mallet to whack them into place.

After a quick dry-fit, I got busy cutting out the dados / grooves to hold the cabinet back. I don’t have a plow plane (yet). So, I had to figure out a way to do this with the tools I had. First, I scored the sides to define the dado with a mortising gauge. Next, I used a 1/4” chisel (the width of the dado / groove) and a small shop-made mallet to chop out the first 1/8” or so of the depth. After that, I used my marking knife to score the side lines deeper and got to the heavy whacking to chop out the bulk of the waste. I used a combination square to continually check to see when I got to my desired depth.

Once it was within 1/16”, I turned the chisel bevel down and used shoulder pressure to “shave” the groove to get a consistent somewhat-smooth depth. After I was done getting the dados / grooves chopped out of all four carcass pieces, I did one more dry fit of the cabinet to double check my dado depths.

While it was together, I placed the tools inside to get an idea of how they would fit and what it might look like. I moved them around a few times until I got the layout that I liked.

After this, I glued the cabinet up and clamped it for the night. The next day, I planed the tails and pins flush using my LV LA jack plane. I absolutely LOVE this plane. It is literally in my hand every day that I’m in the shop.



5 comments so far

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JasonD

180 posts in 1609 days


#1 posted 05-03-2011 04:45 AM

Oh, by the way: the title of this entry is not a typo. “Flow with the go” is an homage to a quote from Rickson Gracie used here as an homage to him. :)

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JasonD

180 posts in 1609 days


#2 posted 05-03-2011 05:53 AM

Oh, and I forgot to mention above. I used 2×12 pith scraps to make the back and tool holders, but the carcass pieces, door frame stiles / rails, and the glass stops were all made from a couple of pieces of 1×4 yellow pine boards.

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jsheaney

141 posts in 2736 days


#3 posted 05-03-2011 06:02 AM

I don’t like chopping out all that waste between the pins and tails. It may be pretty quick with soft woods, but it takes (me) and awful long time with hardwoods. It’s how I’ve been doing it, though, because I’ve never gotten used to turning the coping saw in that thin dovetail saw kerf. I finally figured out a way to do it on the project I’m just finishing up.

I take a Stanley FatMax and rip a big fat kerf right down the center of the waste as close to the base line as I dare. It takes about three long strokes and then a bunch of little ones to sneak up to the line. I have no trouble at all turning the coping saw in the gash left by that thing. A little cut to the left and a little cut to the right and I’m ready for paring.

-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

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jsheaney

141 posts in 2736 days


#4 posted 05-03-2011 06:07 AM

BTW, nice job with the groove. That’s awesome. I’ve chopped out short dados before, but never a long groove like yours.

One of these days, I should get a plow plane too, but I’ve been using a router table. I don’t particularly like routers.

-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

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JasonD

180 posts in 1609 days


#5 posted 05-03-2011 06:15 AM

Thanks for the big kerf idea. I’ll definitely try it out some time soon. The more I work with yellow pine, the more I fall in love with it, but I do plan on branching out and working with some oak, maple, and ash in the future in some other dovetailing projects I want to tackle. I’ll see how well the chopping serves me in those woods and decide then, but to be honest, I just really like banging away at a chisel with a mallet some times. lol

I HATE routers. I own one. I bought it with a router table a year ago when I started. I’ve used it a few times and I can’t stand it. WAY too loud, way too much saw dust, and way too much fear of losing a finger (or four).

As for chopping out the kerfs, I really found my groove after a few of them and when I had to cut some grooves for some of the tool holders, the work went really quick and I enjoyed it; whereas it felt like “work” when I was cutting out the first few in the carcass sides.

I appreciate my table saw and for certain things (cutting plywood for instance) I really love it. But I have no love for tailed routers. My router and router table are inside a big black contractor-style garbage bag sitting in the back of my shed; been there for months and not missed one bit.

One of the things I love most about hand tools is that I can work at 5am or 11pm and never bother my neighbors or wake up my wife and kids. Also, I don’t have to worry about hearing protection, dust masks, or goggles.

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