It’s been a while since I did dovetails, so I had to spend some time thinking about how this is done. I decided to do 4 tails on the 20mm / 4” piece, and I want good sized pins to have good strength. After messing around a bit, I got the pins sorted out.
Pins first? Shouldn’t the tails be done first? Well – it really does not matter. I like to do the pins first, because I find it a LOT easier to trace the outline of the pins onto the tail board. More on that later.
After I had the pins laid out, I grabbed my Veritas dovetail saw and cut the pins. I used a coping saw and a chisel to chop out the waste between the pins. My Veritas marking gauge gave me crisp shoulders on the tail/pin sockets.
After the pins were cut, I stood the pin board onto the tail board, aligned the edges carefully (remember, your fingers are INCREDIBLY sensitive – they can feel the height difference of your fingerprints!) and traced the pins. I used the marking gauge to set the socket lines, and chopped the waste with a chisel. The outermost half pins I just cut with the saw.
And you just rubbed your fingers together to check my statement about the sensitivity of your fingertips….
The first set of dovetails came out okay. A few gaps, but nothing that I cannot fix with a strategically placed shaving.
The next set of dovetails came out perfect. I know the image makes it look like there are gaps, but it is just the lead from the pencil lines plus the fact that I make my pins and tails a smidgen too long. It is SO much easier to plane away a too long pin than to try to plane a short one longer…
It turned out that there was a hairline gap on the inside corner because my dovetails did not seat quite perfect, so I decided to make the tails a bit thinner. I scored the shoulder line with the marking gauge and used the router plane to remove the waste.
Hindsight is 20-20, and this task should’ve really been done before I cut the tails, because I got a bit of tearout at a few corners. I’ll have to fix that by jamming some splinters in when I glue this together. Live and learn!
After checking the fit, I sanded the inside faces using my Mirka Abranet sanding block with integrated dust collection. This is such a good tool! I get absolutely no dust flying in my face what so ever.
Some Titebond III gravy, and it is glueup time! I wanted a bit of open time, plus this shelf MIGHT see a bit of water – better to be safe than sorry.
And as soon as I had assembled the box, I remembered about dovetail clamping spacers! Too late – better bring out the arsenal of clamps! I could’ve used just 4 clamps if I made a simple clamping helper from some gash, but it was too late for that.
It worked out well, and after the glued had cured I could use my smoothing plane to finish the outside of the shelf.
This is a result I am VERY pleased with! If I am not mistaken, this is the fifth or sixth time I make dovetails, and I managed to get this fit straight off of the saw. That, I am VERY pleased with.
I am not so pleased with the tearouts, though… They really shows. But I put in some splinters in the worst places, and it took care of it for the most part. This corner is on the top side anyway, so it’ll never be seen. Next time, I’ll do better.
With that out of the way, it is time for the rack itself. To the next page!