My Blog

The Education of a Woodworker - part 2

Jim Riosa - Tuesday, June 16, 2015
In spite of all the nerves, dovetailing went well. This piece is unusual since you do not create a fully joined case. The top will be attached by sliding dovetail, which comes later. This basically allows the sides and bottom to be joined. Since this is casework that will be covered by moulding, the tails are relatively large, and much of the waste can be quickly removed by router and a spiral upcut bit. One neat trick that was passed on was to put a vertical cut down through the sections where the pins will go. This allows you to chop out from both sides, and then they just split in two. Saves a lot of work over the old continuous paring technique I first learned.

A quick side note about sharpening. Never assume your tools are well sharpened from the factory. Take some time to initially refine the edges. This starts with lapping the back smooth. This will make a huge difference when paring having a smooth and level tool back. Then use a marker and re-sharpen the cutting face. All the black needs to be removed, ensuring a square level surface edge to edge. Then set your microbevel. Do this when you first purchase your tools - after that, unless you drop or nick the edge, you should only ever need touch up. It makes a big difference not only in the accuracy of the tool, but in the speed you can work. Basically less resistance means faster cutting.

The sides are marked out for the dadoes for the front and side drawer supports, but before we can get there, we had to instal one of the unique features of this piece.

The bulk of the bottom is a secondary wood (poplar in this case, though good quality dense pine was also used). However there is an extra piece that needs to be attached to the bottom in primary wood. This will be moulded to match the pattern of the dividers and the block fronts for the drawers. Unique to Boston, this uses are huge (12x1.5 inch) centrally located dovetail. Not particualrly hard to cut - do the edges, hog out the bulk of the bandsaw, and finish with rasps, files and saws.

Getting the profile on this fornt, now that is another story. There are tricks to transfer the pattern a uniform distance from the profile of the drawer dividers done yesterday. Once that is done, you now need to cut the front profile. You could do this by hand with the coping saw, if you had the patience. Or if you have the courage, you can do it on the bandsaw. The issue with the bandsaw is you now have a roughly 26x37" panel, which vastly exceeds the table on the band saw. You can use a mobile stand to give you some extra support, but it is still awkward. I have a 6"6" wingspan, and there were some seriously uncormfortable manouvers even with that reach, but achieve it I did. After that, it was back to the rasps, files to fair the curves in preparation for routing the decorative front.

And that made up the day. It doesn't sound ike much, but it was a ton of fine hand work. I doubt we will complete all construction aspects by the end of the week. Hopefully the cabinet will be glued up tomorrow and the dividers put in, but then starts the work on the block fronts, which is again a ton of tricky hand shaping. I would be extatic if I managed to complete all the drawer construction in that time.

Oh, and pins were cut first - so there. Actually with the wide tails it is much easier to transfer the pin marks to be chiseled out than the other way around. We will see what happens when we do finer work on the half blind dovetails for the drawers, which are supposed to be showcased.

Hope you are enjoying this rolling documentary. Hopefully tomorrow I will have some insights on properly fitting a sliding dovetail. I have struggled with this in the past - mine tend to be overly tight, so I will llike to see how they calibrate this.

Keep wathcing this space for updates

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