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The Last Dovetail

I finally completed the last drawer carcase – the last dovetail in the build of this pair of military chests. Two through (lapped) dovetailed carcases and 12 half dovetailed (half lapped) drawers fronts and through dovetailed backs. That’s a lot of dovetails.

By the time I reached the point of building the drawers I knew I had to find an efficient way of clearing the waste from the Jarrah sockets of the drawer fronts. This wood is seriously hard – chopping out the carcases was really a lot of hard work, and I did not look forward to chopping out the sockets for the drawer fronts.

Over the first few drawers I experimented with a few systems. At the start each drawer carcase - that is, the drawer sides plus slips, but minus the drawer bottoms – took me around 4 ½ hours to complete. The last half of the drawers required about 2 ½ hours each.

One of the first innovations I adopted was to use blue masking tape to aid in marking out the pins. This is described here.

The second innovation was to use the Kerf Chisel to deepen the kerf and define the socket to aid waste removal …

I chose to blend power with hand tools and use a tailed router to remove as much waste as possible. Initially I was rather tentative in routing close to the boundaries. However I accepted that I needed to be braver otherwise the potential of this method was not going to be realised.

The router bit used was 1/8” wide carbide. The small size enabled the groove to get closer to the adjoining boundaries and leave less waste in the corners.

With the kerfs and the baseline both defined, the waste could be removed in a couple of chisel strokes …

In the picture below you can make out the waste remaining at the point where the router bit stopped. Behind it is a deepened kerf from the kerf chisel.

You can saw a little deeper (lower) at the baseline than you need. This will never be seen. It helps define the corners.

When chopping out the waste, stop about 1mm from the baseline…..

And then place the chisel in the scribed line and push down hard …

Returning to the corner waste…

this is easily removed with a fishtail chisel …

Once the sockets are completed, chamfer the inside corners of the tail board. I chamfer the end of the board as well. The chamfers aid in pushing the boards together without risk of damaging the parts.

This is the last dovetail end! Not the best, but not too shabby. I estimated that about 95% of the ends went together off the saw, that is, without any tweeking. This was only made possible with good marking out.

A close up of some of the drawer fronts …

So, here we have it … 12 drawers completed …

All of a sudden it feels that I have a piece of furniture. At what point does this realisation occur to you?

Regards from Perth


November 2011