The Handsome & Co Educational Taster: Dovetail Marker
Being a new tutor at Handsome & Co only this year the educational taster was something I had never heard of before, but what a fantastic concept it is. Starting the year off with a scratch stock from my fellow tutor Liam Thomas, I really loved the idea of the students making a hand tool, something they could take and use on future projects and hopefully won’t just collect dust on the mantel.
Having this idea in mind I also wanted to impart a small part of myself and the work I love to do with my students so I chose to create a Dovetail saddle that would also be dovetailed together. We use dovetail saddles for laying the ‘pitch’ or the angle of our dovetail join. In early furniture, the maker often wouldn’t worry about the pitch of the dovetail or bother to mark out much more than a shoulder line with a marking gauge. The maker would just start cutting, with just ‘muscle memory’ to rely on.
Another basis for creating this project was that I often hear from my students past and present that dovetails are too hard, too time consuming or for much more advanced students. So I wanted to show the students that with a few tip and tricks and a little patience anyone could do this kind of work.
For this project I chose to use New Guinea rosewood (Pterocarpos indicus). For joinery work NG rosewood is fantastic, it will cut beautifully and also pair with a chisel across its end grain perfectly. With the timber selected the only other hurdle was a good dovetail saw. For this I chose to use Japanese pull saws, something that many students had never used before.
We started with laying out and cutting our tails first. The aim here was to cut as perfectly next to our line as possible without losing the line, there was mostly success all round thanks to the Japanese saws. Next we traced around our tails to cut our pins, a sharp pencil here was key! With our waste removed most students were able to put there dovetail together with ease, some required a little more finessing. Now the students could choose what pitch they would like their saddle to be 1:4 1:5 1:6 and 1:8. I personally use a 1:4 for all of my work as it is more pronounced.
Once the pitch was cut and hand planed we glued up and voila’ a dovetail marker!
I really enjoyed my first education taster; it’s a great chance to get the students out of their comfort zone and learning new skills. I’m very much looking forward to our next one.
Written by Douglas Maloney