Fair Woodworking

March 19, 2012

A simple box with only hand tools. Part 5

Click HERE to read the whole story.

Well I’m back on the horse, and ready to get going again. Today’s topic… Miters, Shallow Tails, and the screw-ups in between.

It’s been a rather humbling experience so far as I document mistake, after mistake, after freak’in mistake, but I have to remind myself that this is only the third time I’ve dovetailed a box before, and it’s only in my mistakes that I seem to learn. Today’s errors are not earth shattering, but will leave their small reminders in the finished project. Below I am caught in the act of transferring from the tails to the pins.

It’s a tight spot for the knife to get into, and I was not able to fully reach in all the way, as the angle of the blade point is steeper than the miter. As a result, I had to carefully extend it later, but that is not the important issue to show here. The real issue is the thin black line showing between the two boards just to the right of the blade. Do you see it? It’s a gap that is a result of me not lining up the base line to the pin board. I didn’t see it until I down loaded this picture, long after I’d cut the pins and discovered that the pins did not fit tight against the base line. I know what some of you are thinking, “I should have used the 140 trick”. Well it’s not that simple. The first issue is that when doing a mitered shoulder you need the two boards to be the same thickness or the miter would not line up on the outside corner. As the 140 trick makes the tail board slightly thinner, it could be a problem. I’m sure I could have figured out a way to do it, but at the time it was way too much like math. The second issue has to do with the fact that the opposite end of the box will have an open groove for the lid to slide out. If I do the 140 trick, the ultra shallow rabbit will be visible along that exposed part. In hind sight the solution for the second issue is to plane down to the new rabbited height after transferring the lines. (did that make any sense?) Anyways…. Error number one.

Error number two. In Roy’s video (May I call him Roy?) that I linked to before, he moves a little too quickly to cover everything. I’m not ragging on him, it’s only a half hour show, but he just made it look too darned easy. Have a look at the picture below.

I drew an arrow to the issue. After I very carefully scribed the shallower base line, I then with apparently no thought to it, cut right down to the regular base line. Here is where the danger lies. The shallow scribe line is on the waste side of the cut. As I carefully cut, I’m watching the pin side, and can’t see the scribe line. Blam!!! I went right past it.

I’ve never been big on marking the waste and all, but for the next set of pins I went a little into over kill. Note how I extended the shallow tail scribe line with pencil so I wouldn’t miss it? Anyone want to bet that it did help? Ha, ha, ha.

Not everything was failure in this round, and if I may, I want to show a little more on how the reflection of the blade helps me saw better. When cutting the pins there are two critical parts (in my opinion) of the saw cut.

Starting the cut. – This part is where you determine the cut location. This is the moment where you either split the knife line, or you miss it. There is plenty out there that covers this part, I won’t get into it. I want to share about the second part.

Finishing the cut. – Below is a finished cut.

Here I can see for myself that I pretty much nailed it. I’m not worried about the fact that there is a hair between the saw and the pencil mark. What I look at is the line on the opposite side of the pin and its reflection. The spacing is even. If I know I split the knife line when I started the cut, and these two lines are neither in a pyramid, or V shape, I know I’ve pretty much cut perfectly straight down. There is no reason to believe that the pencil line perfectly splits the knife line so I don’t bother trying to cut to it. Splitting the knife line on the top is enough if I just cut straight down.

Just for fun I tried something.

Rather than mark the line I wanted to cut, I marked a line a little way from the line. It was a little scary, but have a look. Even at this point you can see in the reflection that the lines are parallel. Give it a try. It’s kind’a cool. And yes, it did work.

On cutting the miter. There was temptation for me to cut the miter before the pins. Don’t do it. Leave it alone until the end. When you cut the miter, you cut away your very important knife line for the pins. Learn from my misery…

And one last thing, before I go.

Sticker your wood when you are not working it…

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