As you may recall, last year I learned a huge amount with regard to creating wooden joints whilst building a replica of an 1820 Welsh Dresser as a Christmas present for my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) (see Just Call Me a Woodworking Fool, Squirming in Excitement Awaiting the Great Unveiling, and Squirm No More: All Is Revealed!).
Of course, I couldn’t have created something as awesome as this bodacious beauty on my own. Fortunately, my chum Carpenter Bob allowed me to use his workshop at the weekends whilst guiding me in using his tools and showing me the tricks of the trade.
One thing of which I’m particularly proud is the half-blind dovetail joints used to hold the side panels to the fronts of the drawers. Even now, almost a year later, when I’m strolling past the dresser, I sometimes open the drawers just to feast my orbs on these joints.
Unfortunately, Bob decided that it would make a better man of me if I shunned modern technologies and implemented everything by hand using tools and techniques from yesteryear. As we see in this video, part of this involved me creating my dovetail joints using a mallet and chisel.
In fact, this video shows the easy part when I was making one of the sides out of poplar. Although poplar is considered to be a hardwood by species, it’s almost as easy to work with as pine and other soft woods. By comparison, we used the mighty oak for the fronts of the drawers, and it’s safe to say that creating the half-blind portion of my dovetail joints out of this wood was
a bit of a bugger nothing if not interesting.
Ever since I built the dresser, I’ve had a much greater appreciation for wooden furniture in general and joints in particular. As part of this, I keep on running across thought-provoking implementations, such as a mind-bogglingly complicated dovetail joint I recently saw on Pinterest.
Yesterday as I pen these words, I was round at Bob’s workshop refurbishing a 120-year-old chest of drawers for Gina. I showed him the picture of this delectable dovetail and joked that I wished he’d taught me how to make my dresser joints like this. He replied that we will do it this way the next time I decide to make a Welsh Dresser.
A little later, I showed Bob a picture of three plant pot stands Gina found on Pinterest. This is the next project she wants me to fabricate for her. As we see, the stands are of varying heights with turned columns. Attached to the base of each column are three feet.
I asked Bob how he suggested I attach the feet. He responded that there are many possibilities, but that he thinks it will be interesting (I think I caught a hint of a sniff of a smirk when he said this) for me to use tapered sliding dovetail joints.
As these words were issuing from Bob’s mouth, he raised one eyebrow in a quizzical way. I think he was expecting me to inquire of him, “What are tapered sliding dovetail joints when they’re at home?” If so, he was destined to be disappointed. In fact, I think I impressed him by actually having a clue what he was talking about.
The way this came about was that Steve Branam — Senior Principal Embedded Software Engineer at iRobot by day and woodworking guru by night — saw one of my columns regarding my dresser project, reached out to me via LinkedIn, and very kindly sent me a copy of his awesome book Hand Tool Basics: Woodworking Tools and How to Use Them.
This tantalizing tome walks you through the process of selecting a set of hand tools, maintaining and sharpening these tools, and using them to make joints, bore holes, and create curved work. Each topic is accompanied by step-by-step instructions augmented by sumptuous photographs that make everything as clear as crystal. Suffice it to say that I devoured this book in a single sitting.
I showed this book to Bob yesterday and he was much impressed. Bob also saw an unfamiliar tool on the book’s front cover, and he requested that I ask Steve what it is and what it is used for. The fact that there is a tool with which Bob is unfamiliar and that he doesn’t have in his own collection is going to drive him crazy (I’ll be contacting Steve as soon as I’ve posted this blog).
So, there you have it, if you want to learn the secret to creating smoking-hot joints, you need go no further than reading Hand Tool Basics: Woodworking Tools and How to Use Them.
What? You thought this column was going to be on a different topic? Ah, I think you may have fallen into the trap of failing to read the small print. I’m reminded of Giorgina Reid’s classic How to Hold Up a Bank from 1969. As I understand it, Giorgina was delighted — if not somewhat surprised — when her book started to fly off the shelves. It turned out that many of her readers had neglected to note the subtitle, which was A New Way to Control Shore Erosion.
How about you? Are you tempted to pick up some tools and start handcrafting your own awesome artifacts?