I recently posted about the advert where a jig maker, Leigh Industries, used a phrase that said, “The Classic Look of Hand-cut Dovetails”, which I thought seemed somewhat deceptive but there again, this is the age of fake news so why expect more of the advertising media? It seems all the more that everyone assents to the acceptance that the practice of machine cuts mattered very little as long as it looked hand cut and indeed had the same look as a hand cut dovetail too. No matter how you slice it, if a machine cut it, it ain’t hand cut. Just sayin’. This is one of those rattle snake barbecue moments. You know, where someone fries up some barbecued rattle snake and everyone walks away saying ‘Wow! Tastes just like chicken!” So why not just eat chicken?
In some people’s minds of course it will always be that the end justifies the means, but then there are those of us who just simply enjoy woodworking with the mechanics of hand work rather than relying on machines and the baggage that comes with that. You know, the stuff that’s left out of the expressed image here—face shields and eye protection, hearing defence and dust masks, dust extraction etc. To say nothing of lengthy setups and noise from machines, safety risks and the risk of damaging materials if things do go wrong.
I wasn’t sure how this looked any more like a classic hand-cut look than their machine-cut. Perhaps someone else can see it and explain.
Where some tried to counter what I was saying about disingenuous advertising, pointing out the fallacy and missing out on doing the whole process yourself, I think the majority got it and get it. Rather than being distanced from the process of developing real skill, or indeed postponing this development of your ability, accepting the lie in my experience often means never developing hand skills that really work and work pretty much throughout a lifetime. At the end of the day, when someone asks if the dovetails are hand cut and you say ‘Yes!‘ I personally think that you will feel, well, just a teensy weeny bit dishonest. Whereas I do accept in some woodworking businesses, making drawers all day long to the same spec, machines like routers combined with jigs, though it gets very old fast, will give you the competitive edge. The problem comes when everyone has the same equipment and the price is brought so low no one makes any money. Most so-called ‘professionals’ never really discuss this issue.
Remember, this box took me 48 minutes from beginning to end including the finish and no machines were used beyond dimensioning the wood. It’s a bit beaten up now after years on display and being dropped twice on concrete.
The reality for me is showing that for a single project people trying something like dovetailing by hand often discover the very thing they started woodworking to achieve. They begin to better understand the real meaning and fulfilment in doing as much of the work by hand themselves. They often discover that it’s certainly quicker for single units when you have developed the skill. But the point was never comparing machines to hand methods but the deceitfulness of ad-spin. No one considers the moral dilemma of the disingenuous ad. Just that it was, well, cute!
Whereas I do accept that 1 in 20 of my students do struggle to cut the perfect dovetail first time, by the time they have cut just a few practice ones they’ve usually got it. Above are totally Hannah’s dovetails. It’s her third dovetailed project and the first two were every bit as good.
Oh! Don’t click on the red, ‘See Video’ button in the image, that’s not real either!