My 10 year old daughter is really interested in woodworking and has been making all sorts of doodads with my offcuts for around 6 years. 3 years ago we made a nailed box with sliding lid (similar to the pencil box in the very first project on this site) as a Christmas gift for her sister. That got her into using a plow plane. I’m now about to have her cut dovetails for the first box in the series. I’ve milled the wood for the box and am looking for suggestions to make it easier for her (and hopefully the other kids in my household) to cut the dovetails.
What I’ve done so far:
1. Purchased a Glen-Drake joinery saw. Based on what I saw online (including Paul’s positive comments on it) this saw looked a lot easier to start than a traditional saw. I still have trouble starting my LN dovetail saw, especially in pine. I emailed Glen-Drake first and he suggested turning the handle to a lesser diameter to help fit the smaller hands. I received the .2 inch fine saw a few days later and after 30 minutes my daughter had taken to it. I got to try it out after her and have to say that after an adjustment period I prefer it over my LN. The lack of teeth at the beginning and end of the saw plate really helps. Plus, if my daughter or other kids (down to 6 years of age) destroy the blade, replacements are only $49.
2. I plan to make a dovetail template for the box sides as Paul shows in several of his videos. My daughter already helped cut tails for a kitchen drawer I replaced, though that was using a Japanese saw that she kept bending in the kerf.
3. I’m considering making a shallow rabbet on the tail board to help better align the tailboard to the pin board when laying out the pins. However, this is another step and if the rabbet doesn’t match the pin board thickness it will throw the joint out. It also means making the knife or gauge line before cutting the tails. I experimented making a gauge lie with a titemark, then setting my skew rabbet plane to depth using the same titemark. That worked, but it means getting the titemark set right. I prefer Paul’s method of making a knife wall off the pin board.
4. I don’t know of a good solution for cutting the waste. I’m thinking of having her use my thin coping saw (ala Rob Cosman) to have her cut near the knife line, then making a paring guide, or using one half of my Bridge City DJ-1 drilling jig as the guide.
Any other suggestions or comments?
That’s a great suggestion. I just rewatched the Glen-Drake DVD last night and he also recommends starting with finger joints. In addition, his YouTube video has three nice exercises on sawing without lines before moving to a line. There seems to be very little out there on woodworking with children. I have the Beginning Woodworking with Children book that I bought at the Woodworking school that Paul used to teach at in Waco, Tx: The cover is a photo of him helping a young boy with a spokeshave. My daughter has done a few of those and I think I need to have her do some more.
Just an update on this. My daughter took right to the Glen-Drake joinery saw. She spent about 30 minutes cutting with it until she decided to make a track for a car. On the weekend I walked her through creating her first dovetail of the very first box in the small boxes video here. She insisted on doing all of it herself, including chopping the waste with a chisel and mallet. With her schedule and mine, we have not been able to finish the box yet, but she had a blast with the project so far.
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