Monday, January 21, 2008

Nightstand drawers

So this weekend I made my first attempt and handcut dovetails. I milled out the front of the drawer from red oak and the sides and back out of ash. I started by laying out the through dovetails that attached the back of the drawer to the sides. I handcut the tails first using my LV folding dozuki saw (which I love) and all went pretty well. Then I traced the tails onto the pin board using an exacto knife and cut my first half pin on the drawer back. It was at this point that I realized that I had forgotten to cut the drawer back shorter to allow the solid wood bottom to slide in from the back. So after much deliberation on whether or not I should just forget about the solid wood bottom and use plywood, I decided to stay on course and challenge myself. So I cut 3/4" off of the drawer back. This left a half pin missing on the drawer side but so be it. Live and learn. Here's what my very first handcut dovetail joint looks like:
It's no too bad and frankly I'm amazed at how strong this joint is. Even without any glue it's very difficult to pull apart.
Now for the opposite side I need to decide how to layout the tails while taking into consideration the shorter drawer back. I decided to essentially mimic the other side with the only difference being that I'm not going to cut out the bottom half pin.
After doing a bit of research online, I think the next time I'll layout the pins first on the drawer back and then cut the tails to match. I'll end up with a half pin partway up the drawer side but I think that'll look okay.
So here's the opposite side. Already a bit of improvement in the accuracy of the joint. I tightened up the joint by:
1. hogging out most of the material between the pins on the bandsaw.
2. Instead of putting my chisel right in the marking gauge line and starting there I started 1/16" away from the line, cleaned up the sides etc. and the pared to the line.
For my next drawer I'm going to make the following changes:
1. I've used 3/4" material for all of my drawer parts. I think that for the next drawers, I'll buy some 5/4 ash and resaw it down to 1/2" thick material. I figure that if there's less depth, there's less magnification of error within the joint.
2. The marking gauge I'm using is a cheap footprint one I bought at Home Depot and it makes a pretty wide line. I've read that a wheel cutting gauge is much more accurate. So I've added a graduated wheel marking gauge to my Lee Valley wish list and hopefully I'll get down to Halifax soon to pick one up. I figured I was getting one for Christmas from my wife but instead she got me a transfer punch set and a japanese chamfer plane. Let this be a lesson to you guys: when sending your wife an email wish list, narrow the list down to the stuff you really need!
On Sunday afternoon I started the half blind dovetails for the drawer front. This time I started by laying out the pins first and scribing the tails to see if this is any easier. I only got as far as chopping out one end of the pin board and then my wife called. Darn, I'll have to continue later.

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