Sunday, August 30, 2009

Handcut Dovetails Class

Five enthusiastic people attended the handcut dovetails class I taught yesterday and by the end of the day everyone had joined at least one corner.

Some speed demons cranked out more than one, but all did very well, and hopefully left with an interest in woodworking with handtools.

Here's how the class proceeded:
1. They watched the handcut dovetail video I made as an overview.
2. We checked chisels for sharpness and I showed them how to sharpen them on waterstones if they wanted to sharpen their own.
3. We practiced sawing straight lines.
4. They learned how to mark their boards with cabinetmaker's marks and I explained grain orientation.
5. We talked about the difference between 1:6 vs. 1:8 ratio, how to set them on a bevel gauge and why you would use one over the other.
6. I demonstrated how to mark the depth of cut with a marking gauge, and then saw and chop the tails. Then they did this with practice boards.
7. Next, I demonstrated how to transfer marks to the pin board and saw and chop the waste. I also showed how to use a chisel to make a shoulder in which to set the saw blade. This works well when you saw away the outside pieces of your board, be it pins or tails. Then they worked on their own pieces.
8. They learned how to bevel a board by marking the depth with a marking gauge, lay out the field with a combination square and pencil, and remove the waste using a block plane and bench hook.
9. I showed them how to use a shooting board and how to make a finger pull with a knife and gouge.
10. I also explained the use of a drawer jig to clean up the corners.

The photo of the assembled corner is not my work; it's one made by a student who had never made dovetails before. And this was his first attempt!

A couple guys who work at Woodcraft, where the class was held, stopped in several times to see the progress. There is something about watching people work with handtools that is captivating.

We talked about pins first vs. tails first and I explained how to transfer the marks if you cut pins first. I told them that the most difficult part is trying to balance the pin board while you're marking the tail board, but that I had seen a jig in a magazine where two boards that are joined to make a 90ยบ angle could be positioned in front of your pin and tail board so you can clamp the pin board in an upright position. I said that this would not work with protruding pins and tails.

Well, here' s what they came up with to remedy the problem. The last two photos show their idea of moving the jig to the inside of your workpieces instead.

This not only allows for protruding tails, it makes it easier to transfer your lines, since there is more space between pins (and therefore, more room in which to insert your pencil or marking knife) on the outside of your board.

Nice one, guys!


Al Navas said...


KUDOS on a well-done class!!! Now I can say I know someone as famous as Frank, Rob, and Roy - and someone who is also sharing with the community.

This is a very cool thing to do for fellow woodworkers (am I allowed to say "cool"?).


Woodbloke said...

Kari - looks like a very enjoyable and productive day had by everyone...the smiles say it all! - Rob

Dave said...

Very cool! When does your next class kick off?

Timberwerks Studio - Dale J. Osowski - Furniture Maker said...

Very nice, I'm happy to see a Japanese saw was used as well.

Megan Fitzpatrick said...

Looks and sounds like it went swimmingly!

Joseph Pritchard said...

Great class! I just learned to cut dovetails by hand a few weeks ago. It's addictive.

Charles said...

Wow, you covered a lot more than dovetailing... from working on the fundamentals: sharpening, sawing, etc; to throwing extra, neat stuff in like the beveling. Shows how much you thought this through. I'm impressed!

Mario said...

I´m so jealous....... ;)
You rock Kari!

Larry Marshall said...

Sounds like it was a great class, Kari. Wish I could have taken it myself, in spite of those japanese saws (grin).

Cheers --- Larry

Kari Hultman said...

It was lots of fun and I learned a lot in the process. I hope I get to teach it again.

One guy used a Japanese saw and another used an extremely thin (thinner than Japanese) saw from Lee Valley that worked with the use of a magnetic guide. The saw latched onto the guide so your saw has to stay on track. He did not use the guide, however, and his are the pins/tails in the photo.

They were a fun and friendly bunch, and very excited about learning to use handtools. My kind of people! :o)

Kari Hultman said...

More about the saws--several people tried out my L-N dovetail saw and one guy wound up buying his own from the store because he liked it so much. I also brought a little gent's saw—Zona, 30 tpi—and the woman loved it. She wound up buying one from the store, too. It was interesting to see which saws people felt most comfortable using. The man with the Japanese saw tried my L-N, but much preferred his saw. We got a little bit into saw discussions--crosscut and rip and the structure of the teeth--but I know very little about the subject. I only know I like using them!

Anonymous said...

Kari, Love video you posted on You Tube! I really like your method of using the block for paring. I really enjoy your blog.

Thanks, Russ

Kari Hultman said...

Thank you, Russ. :o)