Since this is the beginning of the official first week of the New Year, I felt it would be a good opportunity to become a better woodworker by practicing making dovetail joinery again.
I had some scrap pine left over from God knows what project that was somewhat junky, too good to throw away but not good enough to use anywhere, so that is what I decided to use. Because dovetailing is a sawing exercise, I began by sawing a perpendicular line, crosscutting two equal length boards to use for the dovetails. I’ve had a lot of practice at that lately so that was no problem. Next step is laying out the pins (I am a ‘pins first’ woodworker)
Some woodworkers don’t use a marking gauge when dovetailing, but I do. In this case I shouldn’t have, and should have used a marking knife instead, because my gauge is dull as sin, and I didn’t bother to sharpen it beforehand. For the layout I use a Veritas 1:6 dovetail marker. Once again, some woodworkers prefer a bevel gauge, or no marker at all, but I think the dedicated marker is the best tool. Firstly, it is consistent, which leads to consistent sawing, which leads to muscle memory. Secondly, the backside of the marker is perpendicular to the angled face, making it a handy tool to mark a sawing line.
I did not lay out a symmetrical pattern, though I really should have. But in this instance it really doesn’t matter greatly, though it is good practice to keep your joints symmetrical. But I was sure to use a very sharp pencil.
When sawing dovetails, the vertical line is even more important than the angle of the pin. When sawing pins first, that angle means little as long as it is somewhere in the ballpark, but if your saw kerf is not perpendicular to the marking gauge line your dovetail joint will not be square, meaning your drawer, or case, will not be square either. So I was very careful to saw straight, which should be the goal of every woodworker.
For the second time in as many weeks I once again retrieved some of my chisels from “storage” for use in chopping out the waste. I’m not a fan of the coping saw for this operation. Some woodworkers prefer it, but in my experience you have to use a chisel anyway to fit the joint, so why bother with the extra step?
To mark the tails I use the pin board as a template. Once again you need a sharp pencil. Your dedicated dovetail marking gauge comes in hand once again, as you can use it to judge the angle of your transferred pins.
Once the sawing is finished a little chisel work on any loose bits and that’s that. This being the first set of dovetails I’ve sawn in quite a long time, I’m fairly happy with the results. The fit was nice and snug without being overly tight, and the gaps were minimal. In fact, I would go as far to say if I had used a sharp marking gauge there would be no gaps at all.
The tails may be asymmetrical, the board may be ugly, and the line may be ragged, but I’m pleased nonetheless. And though I may not have the time to do this every day, I should be able to spare 15 minutes at least 3 or 4 nights. Now I have to get my saws and that marking gauge sharpened up, and I can guarantee you the results will be much better.