Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Craftsman Tool Cabinet. Part 2

Keeping with the theme of the hand tool cabinet I hand cut the dovetails for the case this weekend. Doing the joinery by hand will definitely slow you down and force you to take you time to get it just right. If you read Chris Schwarz's chapter on this project from Popular Woodworking's Arts and Crafts Furniture Projects book you'll find some very nice techniques for cutting these through dovetails. I used his method and clamped the two sides together and cut all the tails at the same time, this was no more difficult than cutting one board. Chris says, and I agree that cutting both together helps you get squarer cuts across the board.
The top of the case is spanned by tow horizontal stretchers each dovetailed into the sides. I cut a single dovetail for each of these 3 inch wide boards. I then transferred the lines to the boards using a marking knife and cut the pin. By cutting on the waste side of the lines and paring to the lines with a sharp chisel you get a very tight fitting joint. A dovetail joint should go together with just a little bit of force banging your hand. If it takes a large dead blow hammer , it is too tight, pare away the contact areas and try again. My problems with hand cut dovetails when I first started was that I tried to cut too close to the line and ended up with loose sloppy joints. I recommend the article and accompanying video in the latest issue of Fine Woodworking on a visit to the Dovetail Doctor.
I laid out the bottom dovetails in a staggered fashion to reflect the hand cut nature of the joint. I didn't go with very small pins as this cabinet will hold a great deal of weight. The most difficult part of hand cutting these joints is chiseling out the waste, using a set of very sharp chisels and a mallet makes it easier. I chiseled them out from the inside then switched sides half way through to avoid blowing out the wood on the other side. Much like before I cut on the waste side of the line then pared up to the line.
What I ended up with was a sturdy cabinet with tight dovetails. After a trial fit I disassembled the case and added the interior partitions. With the final dry fit done the next step will be some sanding and smoothing and then glue up of the cabinet. Doors and drawers will follow.
On an unrelated note, one of my local woodworking stores, Mann Tools, has started carrying 10BF project packs of 4/4 wood bundled in 3-4 foot lenghts. The interesting thing is the price, I got two of these in very nice ribbon Mahagony for half the price that its going for. They are also starting to carry some very wide, (24-36 inch) stock in some exotic species like waterfall Bubinga. Its pricey but would make some very cool tabletops.
"Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us." - Jerry Garcia

1 comment:

Shannon said...

I loved this cabinet the first time I saw it in the background of Chris's shop. It is on my list of builds after I redo the bench. I can't wait to read the rest of your build. Hand cut Dovetails in White Oak huh? You are a better man than me! I'm thining of going a little more Asian in the design so it may end up looking more like Greene & Greene when I am done. Who knows, gotta get other stuff done first. Keep up the good work.