Saturday, April 29, 2017

Joiner and Cabinetmaker Chest of Drawers by hand – Part 3

With the case pieces milled to their final sizes, it's now time to join them together with hand cut dovetails.  In order to keep track of the parts, I mark a cabinetmaker's triangle on the reference edges of the boards.  In my opinion, it is the most efficient, easiest way to keep track of case parts for dovetailing.  

Cabinetmaker's triangles keep track of case sides

Before I lay out and cut the dovetails, I use the "140 trick," a shallow rabbet on the end of the tailboard to make it easier for the tailboard to register on the corner of the pin board when I am transferring the tails onto the pinboard.  I use either a shoulder plane, or No. 140 skew rabbet plane to cut the rabbet.

Using a shoulder plane to cut the shallow rabbet on the tailboard
I cut my dovetails tails first, and sandwich the two tailboards together to "gang cut them."  The most consistent way to mark out the spacing for dovetails is with a pair of dividers.  Since the chest was going to be veneered, I cut 6 very wide tails, and one half tail, which will cover up the rabbet holding the case's frame and panel back in place. I then used a combination square and dovetail marker to draw the angle of the dovetail, I used a 1:6 slope, and a square line across the end of the boards.

Laying out the spacing of the dovetails with dividers. 
Gang cutting the dovetails.
I use a coping saw and chisels to remove the waste between the tails.  In The Joiner and Cabinetmaker, Thomas uses a chisel to remove the waste between the pins and tail because the coping saw was not invented yet, but I used the coping saw as it provided a modern convenience. The important thing is that it is still a hand tool.
Coping out the waste between the tails.

This is as close as i try to get with the coping saw.

Cutting the shoulder.  It is important to use the full length of the saw.

Chopping to the baseline.
I propped up the end of the tailboard with a block of wood to make it easier to position it on the end of the pin board when I transferred the tails onto the pinboard.  I use a spear point marking knife to transfer the marks, not a pencil.  A knife has no kerf and you know exactly where to saw; whereas, a pencil can mark next to the nail not right on it, which could result in a gap.  Then I mark a line square to the end of the board to define the pins.

Transferring the tails to the pinboard with a marking knife.
I then saw to the baseline, cope out the waste, and chisel to the baseline.
Sawing the pins.
Coping out the socket.
Most of the time when you thickness lumber by hand, the faces of the boards aren't perfectly parallel. Usually what results from that is the pins on one portion of the joint are flush, and on another portion they are proud or below the surface of the tailboard.
Pins are proud of the surface of the
tailboard on the right side of the joint
Pins are flush with the tailboard on the left side of the joint.
The rails that hold the top of the case together have drawer kickers mortised into their edges.  I chopped out the 1/4 inch mortises with a mortise chisel, and cut the tenons on the kickers with my tenon saw. These joints are easier than mortise and tenons that join aprons to legs on a table because the joints aren't really seen, so the fit of the tenon's shoulders don't have to be perfect.
Chopping the mortise in the rail
Sawing the tenon
I cut the tenon's shoulder with a flush cut saw and a guide block.  Here is another modern convenience I am using that Thomas didn't have.  I knew that using the flush cut saw and a guide block would be an accurate way to saw the tenon's shoulder by hand, and leave only a little but of wood left to pare down to the baseline, plus I just bought the flush cut saw and I was excited to use it for the first time on a real project.

Sawing the tenon's shoulder with a flush cut saw and guide block
This Chest of Drawers is starting to take shape.  I was able to glue the top rails and the kickers together, but the rest of the case can;t be glued together until I cut the rabbets on the back edge of the case sides, and the dadoes for the drawer dividers, which I will cover in the next blog post.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.