Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pennsylvania spice chest 3, dovetailing

In order for me to establish exactly where my dividers will go, I needed to get the carcase put together.
If I knew that all my boards were flat and consistent in thickness I could have done it without assembling the case first. But since I had planed them all myself there was no point in denying it.

The idea was to use through dovetails for the bottom and half lap dovetails for the top. That way the top would look nice after attaching some crown moulding.

My preferred method is tails first, but out here I usually go pins first. However, due to the cupping of the panels, pins first would require a lot of shifting around and that would surely lead to crappy results.

So I did the tails first and made a set up that allowed me to transfer the cuts to the pin board.

In order to make it a bit easier on myself, I used the method of crossing the baseline for the half lap dovetails. And that really speeds up the process.

The dovetails went together on the first try, and they are nice and tight.

What is not so nice is the outside of the carcase.
I had made my baselines based on the thinnest part of the board, so I would have a box that was as square on the inside as I could get it, and then I would have the boards themselves to be a bit proud. At least that was the idea.
The boards weren't a little proud. They were peacock proud! approximately 1/8" in the worst spots.

I guess it is fair to say that I should have done a better job in the stock preparation.

Very proud panels (shitty stock preparation).

Proud a the half lap end too.

Dovetail chopping setup.


  1. When I look at the tools, workspace and materials you have to work with, I think it is a miracle that you generally do so well. I will be interested to read how you recover, but it seems like a planing workout is in order.

    1. Hi Andy.

      Thanks for the very kind comment.
      This method I am employing is one that I have used before, normally it just isn't so clear that I suck at manual stock preparation. I generally try to make the inside square and flat, and then I assemble whatever it is I am building, and plane the outside till it looks nice and flat.
      But this time the panels were so proud that I couldn't hide it, so I figured that I'd better write about it and hopefully make my readers feel pretty good about their own stock preparations :-)
      I think that part of the problem is that I tend to be in a hurry when it comes to the stock preparation, because it is the part I find the least amusing part of a project.
      I think I will be able to make it look alright in the end, but we'll have to see about that.


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  3. Looks like it is coming together just fine. Nothing wrong with a little planing practice to bring all of the surfaces flush. We have all done it. :)

    1. Hi Greg.

      The dovetails are actually pretty fine, nice and tight and went together straight from the saw.
      But the cupping of the panels caused me to disregard the normal approach involving to actually measure if I had achieved the same thickness all over the panels.
      But actually I think that is part of the charm in hand tool builds. You have a way of fixing even large inaccuracies like this one.
      And I like to tell myself that I still haven't had any guests whip out a measuring tape or a ruler square and checking if the diagonal measurements of my homemade stuff are equal or if all angles are square.
      So I hope that I can get away with this one as well.
      The thing that woodworkers do though is to check out dovetails and undersides of tables and chairs etc. But that is OK with me. I have to confess that I do it myself too..