German Carpenter's Apprenticeship Final Project.

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    Andy Evans

    In February last year I made, with a lot of help and ideas from here, a Simple box, which I clled “A storytellers Travelling box”. The design had to include dovetails, a hinged element, ana a sliding element.

    Having made it I them forgot, as far as I know, to show the project here.

    I got into a fair bit of trouble for making the project like this, as ‘proper’ carpentry in Germany is considered to be about chipboard, machines, and the 32mm system. Most students avoided dovetails except in the drawers where they would be hidden, and used metal joiners and machines for just about everything. My employer thought I was mad, naive and stupid and let me know this, repeatedly.


    The completed box, just before going to college…

    I used Pauls method for the dovetails with a slightvariation: I find that not clamping the wood down makes it very difficult to hold it still, so I made a base out of multiplex with a stopper at one end and braced the wood against this. You can see it in the picture of the dovetails being tested: I got into trouble for that, too.

    What really got me into trouble though, was takong “too long” gluing the dovetails. The glue used at the company takes eight minutes to set, so it was a bit of a shock to the manager that I was still getting the box into position after about five. After ‘helping’ me to put it together he told me that if I still couldn’t work out how fast glue dried, then in his opinion, I hadn’t learned a thing and would never be a carpenter.


    If he’d asked, I could have told him I was using hide glue with a 30 minute open time, but he didn’t ask.

    I cut the lid off as Paul shows in the ‘Toolbox’ video series. Unfortunately I had designed it assuming I’d make the cut by hand but I was forced to use the table saw: I should have allowed several more millimetres than I did for this. I also haven’t managed to make the base of the dovetails perfectly so ended up using a bit of putty in the cracks.


    The Pictish design in the lid is hand carved. This brought about a resigned sigh from my former employer…

    I took a picture a day while making the project and you can follow it from here:

    Finals 01

    • This topic was modified 6 years, 8 months ago by Andy Evans.
    • This topic was modified 6 years, 8 months ago by Andy Evans.
    Mark Armstrong

    It’s the way of the world Andy.
    Machines are the main stay of woodworking nowadays.
    With cnc machines even more hand skills will be lost.
    Be proud of yourself Andy what you have made.
    Hand tool work should be at the start of every woodworkers career, in my opinion.
    You have a better understanding of the tools setting out and how different types of wood work.
    After handtool initial training, then machines should be taught.
    What you want in the end is to be able to combine both types of working.
    Keep up the good work.?

    Dagenham, Essex, England


    Very nice! It’s true that a lot of the time machine work makes things faster. But not all the time. When I worked in Joinery shops making windows I hand planed my stock to make it smooth and did all my joinery by hand.

    The ironic thing was that everyone had their window completed in two days. I also had mine completed in two days. They may have seemed to be going faster but spent so long setting up machines for tasks and sanding out planer marks on assembled joinery that we finished at the same time. Sometimes, on notoriously bad woods for tear out like Sapele I would finish days ahead of others.

    Besides, they may have made fun of me at first… But after a few months it was no longer a point of argument whose work was superior in both looks and functionality. That said, did I thicknesser planer all my of my wood? Yes! Did I use the table saw to dimension my stock? Yes! I still do to this day but the machines will never be as good as me at joinery, they won’t be better than you either… But they will be better than the people you work with because they can’t do it without the machines!

    I get a lot of work these days re-making things that other joinery have made with pure machinery that haven’t lasted the test of time!

    Swindon, England

    Matt McGrane

    Nicely done, Andy. Stand your ground. Do it your way!

    Matt, Northern California - Started a blog in 2016:

    Andy Evans

    Thanks for the kind responses.

    : I’ve worked with CNC machines as well, but I’m not convinced they will be around for that long: they use a lot of energy and space to do the job of one carpenter, so I can’t help feeling that as energy becomes expensive running and repairing the things will be more difficult. Aside from this the bigger companies are a bit like drug dealers: they make sure that once you have their machine you need their programme to run it, so you are stuck with them unleyy you are prepared to pay a lot of money for another company to supply our next generation machine.

    My impression during the apprenticeship is that ‘modern’ chipboard based furniture is part of a system which involves machines. The machines are designed to make a certain kind of furniture and the furniture evolved to suit the machines, but making solid wood furniture is very hard because machines aren’t made for that, so hand tools work faster and better.

    : I had the same experience in this project: I asked how to make the chamfer on the inset of the box, and my employer spent half an hour explaining how to use the table router, and how to set it, try a setting, alter it, etc. I realised that this would take the best part of the morning before I even managed to set it correctly, and got our my #4 plane and made the chamfer in half an hour. That annoyed my boss as well, which I can understand because it looked like I’d wasted his time, but I was using the information he gve me to make my decision…

    : Thanks for the encourageent. I intend to. Funny thing is that most of the people I met in the machine based industry are stressed, don’t like their job, and would do something else if they could, whereas I’m now working in a creative workshop on a city farm making things with children and having a great time of it. I win…

    Oh, and I’m making the toolbox I wanted to make in the first place… details follow…


    Hi Andy.

    Great perseverance and a great box as well!
    Woodworking and bicycles what a great combination 🙂
    I just read your blog. And subscribed too 🙂

    I have a question.
    What hide glue did you use and where did you buy it?
    Titebond, Old Brown Glue or your own production?

    Here in Portugal animal protein glues are available but the names vary a lot from translations so I’m looking for a standard and then have something to compare to my own production.


    Enjoy the learning path...!!

    Andy Evans


    Thanks for the encouragement. I replied on the blog -thanks for the comments BTW- but in case you missed it, I used Titebond. In Germany it is available from Dictum GmbH who have an english langiuage website under


    Thanks Andy

    I saw it in the blog! 🙂
    And I wrote an answer but it didn’t show up!

    I’m a very slow woodworker, at the present time the only power tool is the power drill.

    My last project of 2015 is here:

    And I’m now working in a side table -my first 🙂

    Enjoy the learning path...!!

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