Friday, August 30, 2013

A Dovetail Journey

Jim Budlong is at it again.  On Saturday he introduced cutting dovetails by hand.  The demo took most of the morning leaving us (me) the afternoon to fumble my way through them.  Of course, even though it's already Tuesday, I've yet to cut a decent set.  Joshua Smith, a two year student, cut over 200 dovetails on the chest of drawers he made last year as a first year student.  He's my new hero.

Joshua Smith


Some might ask "why do it by hand when using a router and template is so much faster?"  Well.....

When I drive back and forth to the shop on Hwy 1, I often see touring cyclists fully loaded with their gear traveling hundreds of miles, some of whom start at the Canadian border to travel as far south as Mexico.  Why do they choose to expose themselves to all the elements when they could just hop in a car and be shielded from the sweat, rain, bumps in the roads, etc?  The scenery is the same and so much faster.

In both examples, there's so much to be said regarding the effort one puts into something that really enhances the senses.  In cutting dovetails by hand, there isn't one step in the whole process where I'm not touching, seeing, or listening to what I'm doing.  With a router, none of that is involved.

So here it is, Friday, and I'm still marking, sawing, and chiseling away to make dovetails.  None so far have been worthy of a picture but for me right now, that's not the point of this exercise.  In the process of learning how to make dovetails, I've improved so many of the primary skills required to be successful; i.e. sharpening chisels, sawing and marking accuracy, but most all, patience.  Eventually, I will get to the point where Jessica Osserman got the first day she cut dovetails. 

Jess's Through Dovetails
Jess's Half-Blind Dovetails

Jessica Osserman

And when it comes down to it, the most important reason to cut dovetails by hand?  As Laura Mays says, they just look better.


  1. You'll get there! Keep on keepin on...

  2. Thanks Jill! It's quite the journey!!

  3. Hey Kari,
    What a very sweet tribute, I am totally flattered. I love your comparison of hand cut dovetails to bicycle touring, i will remember that every time i am tempted to do this any other way. And look how far you've come!