Houndstooth dovetails use varying sizes of tails (or varying sizes of pins…depending on your perspective). I’ve wanted to try them for quite a while now. This blog shows most of the process I’m currently going through. To get the effect it seems to me you need more tails/pins per corner than one would normally think about. In this case like a few of my other recent boxes posted, I’m using Caribbean rosewood and curly maple.
Most often, (when you see them at all) these are done by alternating two different sizes of pins to create the traditional houndstooth pattern. Even though I’ve not tried the traditional ones (except for a couple practice joints) on this box I decided to go with three sizes of pins as you can see in my layout drawing below:
The picture below shows the marking tools I use to establish dovetails on the box sides. These are the tools I used most often. The marking squares are Veritas from Lee Valley as is the marking gauge. Even though the marking gauge is only a few years old, it already needs a new cutting wheel, I guess that’s to be expected when you’re using it on very hard wood fairly often.
I play with this setting until I get the right number of tails I want with an appealing amount for the pin width. Once these are set, I take no measurements. I’ve indicated measurements in the picture above for this blog, but this isn’t something I normally do. I simply start at the point of the end pin and marking out successively the combination of one-tail/one-pin and work my way across the endgrain, then repeat this process from the other side. Rob Cosman explains this technique in his DVD series on dovetails. Working from both sides, this “automatically gives you both tail and pin markings.
I then place a pencil in the point created by the calipers for each pin/tail, slide the 1:8 ratio marking “square” up to the pencil and mark out the tails.
In my practice houndtooth corners I cut the different pin depths by hand, however in this box I wanted to improve consistency and avoid grain run out, so I decided to try cutting the majority of the pin depth waste using my router table:
In the picture just above, you can still see the marking lines for the different pin sizes. I finished this by hand with a chisel being careful not to go beyond the markings.
Here I’m gluing up the box sides. Notice I’m using a stretcher clamp to keep the two sides from bending in from the pressure of the clamps. This was precautionary, because I put a little more pressure on the clamps than I normally do, to draw up the corners nice and tight.
I’m paring out the inside of the border of the lines I marked for the inlays. This must be done very carefully, but to me it’s worth it because it makes the border very visible for the remainder of the cleanup:
I then used a trim router to clean out the interior of each inlay:
I also wanted to carry the houndstooth theme into the lid handle as seen in the next several photos:
The picture above doesn’t show the clamp I used across the handle to hold it in combination with my bench tail vice.
I hope you enjoy the blog.
-- Martin, Kansas