|Project by Alin Dobra||posted 10-05-2007 04:39 AM||1978 views||2 times favorited||10 comments|
This is a traditional dovetail candle box that I truly enjoy making. The joinery is hand-cut dovetails, the lid and the bottom part (which is solid cherry like the rest of the box) have hand-planed bevels, the indentation in the top used to open the box is hand carved. The box is sanded by hand and finished with linseed oil.
As the name suggests, this type of boxes was used to store candles (before Edison’s time). The proportions on this box are not similar to the candle boxes of 1800. I opted for proportions using the golden ratio since it looks better (does not look boxy).
If you look carefully, you will notice that the top is book-matched (so is the bottom but it is not visible in any of the photographs). The sides have continuous grain at all 4 corners (a cute trick I’ll explain below). The whole box was made from a single board that was re-sawed with the bandsaw. To obtain the continuity of the grain at all 4 corners, see the sketches at:
One thing I like to do in general when I cut dovetails by hand and is easy to exemplify on this box, is to place the pins by eye. I do not draw any kind of layout lines and I guess the angle of the dovetails as well. Since I mark the tails from the pins, any positioning of the tails and any angles can be copied on the tails and accurately cut. By placing the pins by hand with the above method I achieve two things:
1. I significantly speed up the process. I was spending 20-30 minutes only to mark very carefully the position of all the pins before. All this time is saved now
2. By placing the pins by hand, the final result looks unmistakably hand-cut. While most people cannot tell the difference necessarily, the box looks very natural without machine-induced symmetries that might suggest mass-production. The combination between the hand-planed bevel on the top and the hand-cut dovetails make the box look unique, warm and inviting.
If you plan to cut some dovetails by hand, summon the courage to abandon the dovetail marker and just mark with the saw. Do not worry about not getting the strongest joint for two reasons: (a) this joint if executed perfectly can take 2000lbs to break, (b) the size of the pins does not matter that much (Fine Woodworking has an article about this few months back). If you bother to cut dovetails by hand, also make sure you make the pins small (strength is actually slightly better than large pins; same FW article).
While a lot of people will tell you that you need an expensive dovetail saw to cut good dovetails, I found that the saw I like the most is a relatively cheap dozuki Japanese saw that Lee Valley is selling for 23$:
The kerf of this saw is tiny and it cuts very aggressively. It gets some used to but then it is a pleasure to use.
I hope this will inspire you to cut some dovetails by hand soon,
-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida