Below are pictures of my first finished dovetail box. Our family jokingly calls this my “hamster coffin” since our family dog ( a Lab/Weimaraner mix) has to be closely supervised around my daughter’s new pet hamster. :-0
Since the project was small, I gladly remade several components when I was not quite pleased with the fit or made a gross error. Overall I probably had about 100% waste, which amounts to a lot of good practice. There are a few mistakes in the finished piece, but nothing too major. Overall I am giving myself a B- grade.
I learned a few things along the way:
1) Haste makes waste. Several times I found myself trying to “streamline” the process, which is another way of saying I was going too fast and not thinking carefully. This “bravado” almost always led to a slap on the forehead, like when I did not mark my waste and then cut on the wrong side of the line, or when I forgot to put glue into the extra pin socket surfaces just below the groove opening. I doubt the box will be falling apart due to that last gaff. I also discovered that my SECOND lid’s raised panel took shape much more evenly when I slowed my plane passes way down. I was trying to imitate Paul’s lightning speed but the results were not pretty.
2) Although all the in/out of the vise made the process a bit slow and tedious, I must admit that Paul’s dovetailing method turned out about 3x more accurate for me than anything I did previously. Each joint fit right off the saw with only a minor amount of cleanup. Hooray.
3) The gouge work was more fun than I expected. I bought a vintage 1.25″ gouge for $4 USD from the local tool swap, did some rehab work on it, and made a few practice runs. I could not figure out how to get a smooth surface on the vertical knife line edge. I sharpened my knife, and the strokes were very light and careful, but I could not obtain a smooth surface in the pine. Any tips would be appreciated.
4) I still have to figure out how to handle project pieces without getting grime on them. I was trying to be neat, but I kept noticing smudges on the job. This is probably a result of having dirty hands after sharpening tools. I’ll have to wear gloves next time…
5) I really suck at brushing Shellac. I thought I did well at first, but in the morning I found all sorts of drips and ponds. Paul makes brushing look easy. Next time I will try a different brush, or try padding instead. I also have no fondness for the steel wool. The wool was shedding with each stroke, and that wool dust is very hard to get out of the inside corners. Perhaps there are better quality steel wools? I ended up ditching that and using a synthetic wool instead.
6) I went with a quarter sawn piece of pine for the lid because I was worrying over the lid warping. I hind sight I would probably go for something different since the straight grain looks quite boring.
Here are some pics before the finish:
I am looking forward to my next box. Perhaps one done in cherry…
-Scott Los Angeles, California, USA
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