I 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.
Working 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.
Tomorrow 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.