Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gappy dovetails

When you set out with the idea that the work you are going to do doesn't need to be top notch, then the chance that it will turn out great is pretty limited! The dovetails of the carcass of this cabinet won't be very visible after everything is completed. The top ones are hidden behind the moulding, the bottom ones are half blind and will only be visible when you crawl down under the cabinet. So I tried to just bang them out. But I find that just taking care to make it presentable doesn't take much more time, and it is always good for practice.

Anyway, these are the worst, most gappy dovetails, I've ever had in a project. So please, don't zoom in too much into the pictures!

I want the cabinet assembled so that it won't fall apart when the glue loosens its strength. The top and bottom have the pins, thus the bottom won't fall on the floor when the glue fails. And this is the top of the cabinet, the sides are "hanging"on the pins (gappy!) from the top.

Another thing I learned (again) is the importance of good lighting. It is easy to put the scribe line into the shadow of the saw when the light comes mostly from one side. So I dug out an old tablelamp so I have a spotlight in  excatly the right place. That simple thing alone greatly increases the quality of the work.

The bottom is sticking out a bit on the front side. Combine that with the half blind dovetails and it means that the edge isn't straight all the way across. I had to cut out part of it. I choose to use a handsaw and cut as close and straight as I could to the line, pairing the result a bit with a chisel to make the side as straight as possible. I learn now (again) that accurate dovetails are easier to make when all parts are straight and square. You can compensate for errors here, but it is just easier to start with straight stuff. That means that I have to revise my view on shooting boards in regards to dovetail cutting. The shooting board makes life easier in this regard. Anyway, here is a picture of the cut, to  make it easier to understand my ramblings.

Another "learning oportunity" was my choice of pin width. I made them so narrow, combined with the rather strong slope of the dovetail sides, that the opening of the pin sockets was too narrow for my smallest chisel, which is 3mm wide. Luckily I had a 1mm #1 carving chisel which saved the day. That tiny little thing with the very flexible blade was brilliant. It holds up admiringly well under the tough work of clearing out dovetail waste!

So, after much struggling, mostly due to my own making, I managed to assemble the carcas. Next job is the shelfs.


  1. Like you say; practice make masters.

    Gappy or not, it does look very good to me. The only remedy is to make dovetails more often...

  2. I've made plenty of dovetails before! I guess I am out of practice at the moment.

  3. ten dovetails a day keep the gappy's away :-)