Dovetails first – Our Tool Chest is Coming Together

DSC_0008I suppose I didn’t hear of tails being cut from pins until about 30 years ago. As I said in an earlier blog, we needed to cut tails for pins when we worked on restoration and repair work. I know both ways work and that once skill is developed evaluation as to which method suits you best is  up to each individual. In my experience, most woodworkers choose to cut the tails first and I would say the percentages in the UK and the US will be somewhere around 95-98%. I can’t recall meeting anyone except my friend Frank make tails from pins and he does a neat job. I see people clamping the pin wood to the tail wood and then struggle until the clamp equally balances pressure sufficient to mark around with knife or pencil. My instruction for the main part follow my preferred method because I cannot discount multi-millions of tails cut first by hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of credible woodworkers for centuries. Even so, we all have a choice and it’s good to learn or at least try both methods, evaluate our feelings, look at the results and choose a method or use both accordingly.

DSC_0022Working on the two tool chests this week, and filming them for the upcoming tool chest series on woodworkingmasterclasses.com, I suddenly stopped midcut as in the peace I recalled cutting my first common dovetail. That was back in 1963. At school we always used a soft hardwood called jelutong that was easy to work. I wasn’t too successful, perhaps it’s because I cut the tails first. I am currently using mahogany for both tool chests – one of the chests will be for tools, the other for a silverware and flatware chest for our dining room. One of my tool chests is an old North Western Railway tool chest that measures 32” long by 28” front to back and 24” deep. The outside was stripped from black oil-based paint down to the old pine but when you lift the lid there inside was a beautiful lining of mahogany and chestnut. This replicated the woods used by rail carriage makers and the French-polished  finish on the moulded oval reliefs felt so soft to my touch. I bought the chest for £20 I think. Not much by today’s cost for wood. Whether I paint the outside of the tool chest black I will decide later. I think that I will, but I have not decided fully yet. On the other hand I am also considering cockbeading to the drawers and the rime of the box lid. Some inlay too. We shall see.

DSC_0822PICT0032-300x225.jpgTomorrow we start the frames for the lid and bottom. Having completed the bigger box making training, this will be our door and panel making section on the course. We start running the grooves using the Veritas small plough plane and then cut the mortise and tenons using a unique technique I developed for teaching some years ago. Some of this work ties in to our earlier online broadcast in the wall clock series from last year. See, it’s all about skill building, knowledge building, reinforcement and so on.

4 Comments

  1. Brandon Avakian on 6 June 2013 at 11:09 pm

    I remember a post a while back with a picture of one of your first projects(might have been your first, I don’t recall). I believe it was a shelf? It would be kind of neat to see your first dovetail.



    • Paul Sellers on 6 June 2013 at 11:32 pm

      That’s why I always encourage my students to keep them no matter how bad they may feel that they are. I don’t have mine. I recall and Australian kid who cut his first dovetail perfectly. Showed everyone else up!



      • Brandon Avakian on 8 June 2013 at 1:54 am

        Before I had your DVD’s I attempted a dovetail on my own without any direction and it was horrible. haha. Then I made the shaker candle box from your DVD and it came out pretty decent. I gave it to my wife. She seems to enjoy it. I remember buying the cheapest hinges for it. Although the hinges are firmly attached to the box, the hinges themselves are very loose.

        Recently, I have gone back to watch your DVD’s again. I see things in a much different light. In addition, I pick up on some of your instruction that maybe I didn’t retain the first time I watched them.



  2. Robin Hale-Cooper on 7 June 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I want to order the wood for this. Do you have a rough cut list you could post on the WWMC web site?