Monday, June 1, 2015

A little joinery tutorial

Since from now on, all further operations are to be done by hand, I thought,  I'll slow down and show how I approach it.

The sides panels are joined with the bottom panel by dovetails. I always cut my dovetails by hand, that's what I learned first, that's what I always do. Do not like the complicated router's dovetail jigs. Too expensive and complicated for nothing.
 All you need to be able to do, is :
- Cut to a straight line, straight down or to an angle. with an appropriate dovetail saw.
- And pare down to a line, with a chisel and/or a knife.
That is it!!

A good dovetail saw can come in various makes and forms, but, preferably, it is set for a rip cut (the way we cut the joint is a rip cut, except for the two end cuts who are crosscut)
A kind of back saw is also preferable, since we need the rigidity to cut straight.
A Japanese Dozuki would be preferable to a Ryoba per example, same as a back saw of any size or shape would be good as long as sized to the job at hand. From a small razor saw to a big Sash saw, but not a handsaw, too floppy. And yes, it can be done, but why not use the right tool??

Tails as cut from LN small dovetail saw and Knew Concept fret saw.
As I warm up, I cut closer to the baseline. 
Why this extra step? Because removing most of the waste with the fret saw means 
less wear on your chisel or knife 's edges.

Then I cut roughly half-way down on one side, progressively back toward my baseline. 
The last cut is no more than a hand paring cut.

At this point, flip board over and finish on that side, cutting through.

And that's what you get. And you can see my chisel's edge is starting to crumble.
Normally, I'll push thru until it was getting hard to cut by hand pressure. But now, I don't have to, I can just turn around and use my new sharpening station! :-)

Being set up and accessible, I have no excuse for not stopping and 
touching up my edges. I only have two tools, a chisel and a knife, to worry about 

At this point, in the joinery, I'll just do a final clean up with my favorite shop knife,
German Carving knife No 8.

With a small chisel I can cut both part of the dovetail and the knife gives me 
a large broad surface. 

My final hand cut dovetails. In end grain soft pine, with sharpish tools :-)
Not that it really mattered, you do not see that part on the finish joinery, 
but you sure get a better glue bond...

I got my dovetails done and now I need to figure where my two back rails will go.
But before, I must address a small previous joinery boo boo. The first dado for the two drawer dividers I cut, is too deep by a 1/4 in. I was too focused on hitting the right width on my adjustable stacked dado set that I forgot to check the depth before I did the first cut, oups!

No problem, coincidentally, I just happened to have  ripped some long pieces at 1/4 in thick of the right width :-)
I will glue a piece in the bottom of the dado. Yes, technically it is a cross grain connection, but I don't expect it to give me trouble, and I can always put screws to re-enforce the connection, if warranted. But until proven otherwise, I'll go "sans screws" :-)

Confirming I have the right thickness.  
Yes, 1/2 inch centered, is the results.
Using a small hardwood caul to ensure even pressure across.

While that is cooking, time to draw the side profile in order to determined the back rail mortises.
Their locations is critical to be able to hold my saw kerf's boards (2) which would help secured the saw's plates. I also want to give the overall look part a design consideration.

So before proceeding with cutting my mortises, I must trace the profile with my template.

Profile against the partially assembled saw till.
It will only becomes a template once cut out. Must get around...

Next part, we would be starting the mortises

Bob, off to make template...


  1. Sorry to be off topic, but I spy a bronze hammer with wooden faces. I have a brass one with square section faces that seems quite similar, and yours is the only other I have seen. Do you have any details on this type of hammer? John

  2. No problems, John.
    It is the Veritas cabinet maker mallet. It's a remake of an older pattern from the Lee Valley collection. A source of much inspirations. If you need more info, just ask

    1. Thanks! Now I know what I've got. This one was originally leather faced on wood. I replaced the rotten wood with inserts made of live oak, which is darn near indestructible, also used for a large wooden mallet with great success. And interestingly this brass mallet has pyramid shaped recesses for the wood inserts, so pounding concentrates the inserts toward the deep centralized point. Fascinating.

    2. Your'e welcome.
      What you described is very much how the wooden inserts are mounted on the brass body. The faces are also tapered at an angle, much like on a wooden carpenter mallet, helping strucking flat with the natural arm's arc of swing. Here's the LV copy,41504

      Bob, the tool man

  3. Bob,

    Everyone should have a sharpening station, congrats on finishing yours.

    I'm not far behind you, once this last house project is finished I'll start on the shop. A nice saw till will be one of the builds. I'll watch your post with interest.


  4. Thanks Ken
    Yes, having a dedicated sharpening place to turn to, is quite handy, long overdue project. Once you start on down "the rabbit hole" of shop re-organisation, it will keep you busy for a while :-) But proper tools storage should never be overlook, we owe it to our "tails and tailless assistants".

    Bob, hoping to get his joinery finished shortly on the saw till

  5. Instead of putting in a 1/4" spacer why not make that shelf a 1/4" longer?

  6. Good point, but too late. I already cut that part. Not making another one. Adapt and overcome HUAA ! :-)

    Bob, well versed in recovering from his mistakes

  7. Hi Bob,
    I have seen in one of your pictures that you have a hand grinder.
    How is it ti work with. I mean does it work well.
    I'm searching for a while for one (which is worth the money). But I'm asking myself how much to spend for a try.
    Would appreciate your feedback.


  8. Hi Stephan
    Yes, it works good. There is a bit of a learning curve, unless you happens to have a shop assistant to crank it while you grind :-) But it is not too difficult nor long to get used to it. It is pretty safe on the tools, and you. Mine is in dire need of a dressing right now. I'll get "Tuit" soon
    I don't know where you live, but here in North America, you should be able to pick one up for about CDN $20-40 max (Yard sale, flea markets etc)
    The only thing to watch for, beside the obvious how does it turn kinda thing, is the condition of the wheel. Beware that they are a small size and replacement don't come easy. I plan to use my 6 in grinder wheels when I wear them down. But that may be in a long while...I also thought I could mount a bigger wheel, but helas no!

    Hope this help

    Bob, done with bathroom renos for the day