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Love Your Saws with Matthew Cianci

  Dovetails a la Underhill…. 4 of 4  

Now its a simple matter of cutting the rest of the tails for the case, removing the waste and paring to the baseline. After that, I match up my tail board to my pin board to mark the cuts with a pencil, and then it’s dovetailing as normal.

Of course, I don’t mark the pin cuts on the face of either board… I just mark the slope of the tail on the end grain and saw straight down. But like I said, that’s all standard dovetailing… its really the lack of making any initial lay out marks that makes this method so freakin’ cool!

Now I know what you might be thinking….your probably telling yourself that this is cazy… how can you ensure that all of the tails are even and spaced properly??? How can you ensure that your tails are going to be uniform and perfect and esthetically pleasing????

Here’s the thing…dovetails don’t have to be perfect. In fact, they are more historically correct and look better when they are not perfectly sized and laid out. You want machine shop precision in your woodworking? Get a Shopbot and make your furniture like a cyborg…lifeless and dead inside.

Me… I like traditional and human. And once you see the finished product, I think you’ll agree…dovetails laid out and cut by eye are very pleasing. It’s all about letting go of your precise marking gadgets and letting your sense of natural proportion take over. Your brain is surprisingly precise without any guides.

Plum, level and true are pretty well programmed inside you. Let go and allow yourself to know them and you’ll spend a lot more time sawing and chopping and less time marking and measuring.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s the case glued up and trimmed flush ready for planing…

I’m pretty pleased with this method… thanks Roy!

And since this was so much fun, I ended up making a second book shelf…and this one was even quicker. The whole thing went together from 8 foot planks to a glued up case in about two hours.

After I finished the first one, I decided to dress them up a bit with some nice simple crown molding and base quarter round. Even though it covers up the dovetails, they were a little too plain for our living room…

‘Til next time!

September, 2011
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Dovetail Saws


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