14 June 2011

Dovetail Joinery

Here again the Oldwolf blog triggered a post, this time about dovetails.  My starting idea was to make 50 dovetail test joints first before talking about them.  But as this is already by now a I am just looking blog - choose a blog name and it will come back to byte you - there is no reason to wait any further.  The other excuse is that my cheap dovetail test boards where cut green and are by now dry and all cupped and twisted.
The Oldwolf does a thorough presentation of the Frank Klausz dovetailing layout referring to an article in Popular Woodworking of October 2005.  It gave me a better understanding of what I was seeing on video.  The Frank Klausz approach is interesting as it allows cutting without much marking or layout.  And as I discovered, if by chance your stock is cupped or twisted, it's probably the best method of joining, even forget about a marking gauge, all you have is a pencil.

Besides being in Popular Woodworking, Frank Klausz had a dovetail interview-article in Fine Woodworking of September 1979 and made a video about it in 1985 that's still available today as a DVD.   And there are also on youtube a number of demonstrations mainly famous (to my regret) for their speed.

Looking at how he works,  he starts pins first and from the inside - setting by this the square lines inside and the mistakes outside. After marking the depth with a marking gauge,  he cuts two half pins by eye.  The next step is to set a tail,  I see it as tricky as the base of the tail needs to be one fifth of the remaining width if I want a regular lay out.

Next he halves the remaining width and then halves the two halves. According to his description, he could have first split in thirds and then in halves or go for eights, depending on the width of the piece.

Following the Oldwolf blog post I see an alternative where the width of the tails is set by using the width of a chisel (chosen as wide as the board).  I think it's a good idea, handmade mortise widths are also set with a chisel and it removes part of the freehand layout stress.  The sequence becomes: Two symmetrical pins,  one chisel wide tail,  the remaining halved and two chisel wide tails.  

The bad news is when Frank Klausz says that after 15 years of practice you will be a good beginner.  It's the same time scale as the 10000 hours needed to make a world champion,  that's something like 7 years.  Luckily someone said 10000 is for champions,  but 1000 hours is OK.  I agree, my Aikido expertise was over the 1000 hours mark, it's a good basis .  The same can be said about 100 hours,  you follow a weekly training for a year, or a full weeks here and there, for example Build a Dovetailed Tool Chest with Christopher Schwarz next week in Germany (luckily I can not go,  because the end result would have been for the stove,  just imagine long show off dovetail joints,  there to be stared at).  10 hours can also make a difference,  you decide to make 50 dovetail test joints and go as far as 20.  Even 1 hour is worthwhile,  you grab your saw for 60 straight cuts.

Schluss,  still time to make some cuts.  Next time I probably look at the layout of those cupped and twisted dovetail joints.