My new project is going well. I had my boards glued up and ready for joint making so with six single dovetails and a series of seven for each of the back corners of the main box done, my last job of the day was gluing up.
I did something of a test for myself to see how intuitive my intuitive side is developed. On a board 11 3/4″ (30cm) I eyeballed 1 ¼” (3cm) dovetails across the width 7 times with spaces of 3/8” (10mm) between and the greatest marginal discrepancy overall was 2mm on one of the tails. All of the others, including the pins, were less than 1mm discrepancy.
On the other corner I laid out the dovetails properly and of course they have great order and perfected symmetry, but sometimes both the organic and the orderly have their place. I like the slight differences I get with the organic. When I see an old blanket chest or a toolbox, the dovetails draw me into the world of the makers. Sometimes they are obviously freehanded, other times careless and other times they are perfected. Saw cuts don’t stop at the lines and I wonder why the lines were there, but the depth holds the inside wall of the adjacent wall so I forgive, or more forget, the careless saw cuts and regard the exactness of the shoulder line where tails find recess and come to rest. I don’t have that freedom yet. Or do I.
Thinking these things through is important. Two man many decades ago, a century or two maybe, knew nothing of TV or radio and had no knowledge cryogenic steel or even tungsten alloys, they took their saws hand made by another man, and ran cuts down the grain. They cut five linear feet of dovetails in an hour and matched them to sets of pins in another. They held well and the boxes were floored and lidded another hour or two later with hinges wrought on an anvil with a cross peen hammer. A hundred and fifty years since, I look in respect of the one man’s freedom, his economy of movement and the energy of unwasted work still recording the man. I respect the second man too.
I think I’m as quick as both men, but were my cuts to over run I suppose I would be disregarded. Strange difference twixt then and now. I like the honesty of the overruns more, really.
Another point before I retire this. The walls of these boxes are a mere 5/8″ in pine. The boxes are mere pine. Imagine the strength to weight ratio and you have a good wood not a mere or trash wood as pine is commonly known today.