Iím writing these for have been at it over a year now rehabilitating
and using basic hand tools, and itís time to develop mastery of the
basic machines to increase efficiency. I canít think of a
better place to begin than some basic through dovetails.
dovetail is a utility joint for joining wood at right angles, one
that will remain functional long after its glue has gone to dust,
and remains the best joint out there for resisting tension stress
like pulling on a heavy drawer. It is often a better joint for
carcass corners than the mortise and tenon, especially in thin,
Victorian frame and panel construction found in many old yachtsÖ
also one of the easier and faster joints to cut accurately once you
master visualizing the joinery principles involved. Shucks, I
even use them to join heavy gate frames like the two 7-foot gate
leaves below... just like I do with hatch covers:
Drawers are their most common use, and Iíll begin a run
of shallow utility drawers that will also double as tool
trays for the shop on this fine rainy day.
I prefer solid, mold-proof, crossgrain cedar bottoms on
drawers, especially in damp boat interiors...and also
prefer thicker rough sawn stock as my starting point, as
it makes for faster panel construction than planed
heartwood bottoms are sound, beautiful, classic joinery,
can be done almost as fast as using plywood, and more
importantly, are a great way to use up all that rip
waste that normally goes into the stove.
I lay them up above after jointing them so they
lay edge grain up for minimum seasonal movement.
So long as the bottom face remains flat against the bar
clamps, the thickness planer will deal with any and all
thickness variations easily.
This cross grain
bottom is 16 inches wide and 22 inches long. If
you only own a 12Ē planer, simply omit glue in that
center joint, plane them after curing, then lay the two
halves up again, using a little more care in alignment.
No dowels or biscuits are required, merely squarely
jointed edgesÖthe planer takes care of most of the
alignment and the glue alone is more than sufficient
strength. Trying to lay up the whole shebang at
once and plane it across rather than with the grain
remains a bad idea.
I prepare the stock for the drawer front, back and sides
sized to fit the carcass opening, and mark which faces I
want to display based on any defects present in the
wood. This stock is spalted holly from a small log that
was unsuitable for cabin soles in boats, and there is a
bit of grain runout and checking. Iíll wait until I glue
the drawer up before gluing any checks and splits to
save time, and also mark where Iíll have to move a
dovetail a bit so any defects donít fall on a tail or
Next Iíll groove all 4 pieces for the drawer bottom,
cutting quarter-inch grooves, three-sixteenthís deep
using multiple passes on the table saw. Notice my blade
insert is clearly marked on both sides at exact center
of the sawís arbor, and Iím careful to position a tooth
on that mark before attempting to set the blade height
to dado the grooves. As this drawer will also function
as a tray, Iíve chosen to make all 4 pieces the same,