Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dovetails by Hand

This blog is supposed to be about “woodworking on a less than infinite budget,” but so far I've been neglecting what I think is the real heart of frugal woodworking: using hand tools. In fact, I would guess that the most lavish thousand-dollar shop possible would be an all hand tool shop equipped with used (and some vintage) gear. 

I was thinking about this last Saturday as I taught my hand-cut dovetails class at Highland Woodworking. You don't need much gear to cut dovetails, and the difference between mediocre and Krenov-quality dovetails has far more to do with technique and practice than equipment. What do you need to cut dovetails? Some marking tools, a saw, a hammer and a couple of chisels. Throw in a way to hold the work still and a place with decent light to work in, and you're all set. Even if you think you'll do most of your woodworking with power tools, you need all those anyway, with the possible exception of the dovetail saw.

Sharp saw, sharp chisels, sharp eye, and practice: these are what it takes. How do you practice? Mark a knife line, split it with the saw, and remove the waste. That's all of woodworking in a nutshell, isn't it? Mark a knife line, split the knife line, remove the waste.

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