Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Look Maw, No Hands...

So I took everyone’s advice and dumped the guide block while cutting dovetails. I now know how Linus would feel if someone took away his blanket.

Here are some of the suggestions I received...

Trust your scribe line Mike Siemsen
It is amazing how that chisel’s edge grabs that thin, little scribe line. It was just like Mike Siemsen said, “It will lock in there like a screwdriver in a slot“. Mike is the principal behind Mike Siemsen’s School of Woodworking, so I guess, if I am going to listen to advice, I might was well listen to the best. One of these days life is going to get out of my way so I can get down to Minneapolis/St. Paul and take a course or two from him.

Mark with a knife and have patience Mark Salomon (Anonymous??)
Mark reminded me that learning to produce dovetails efficiently takes time. He is right; Rome wasn’t built in a day. I would like to point out to him, though, that it didn’t burn very quickly, either. The real deal though, was suggesting that I stop using a pencil for the pins and use a knife instead. I have been doing it with the scribe line, cutting it, and then following up with a pencil so I can see it better. Why haven’t I been doing the same with the pin lines?

Practice David Cockey
Like the others, but more to the point, David just suggested I practice more, as the more I do, the more confidence I will have.

Stick on a piece of sandpaper Anonymous
Mr. Anonymous had a great suggestion for using a guide board, quoting James Krenov’s tip of gluing a strip of sandpaper onto the bottom of the guide board to help keep it in place

I would also like to thank the few guys who emailed me their favorite articles and links to their favorite online videos on the subject. They gave me some unique insights into mastering this procedure, even though they have kept me up half the nights since going through them all.

I tried it
So as the image above attests, I did cut four sets of dovetails without using a guide board, as well as taking the other advice given to heart. The results were reasonably better than the last session’s, but not as good as they will be at the end of the next one, I’m sure.

I had a small issue
Here’s the thing, though. I am afraid that the next session of cutting dovetails will have to be accomplished using the guide block again. Its not that I do not see the benefit of dumping it as that point in your suggestions made real sense to me. The problem is, the eyesight thing got in the way. When you have zero vision in one eye and a limited depth of focus with some serious loss of peripheral vision in the other, your depth perception gets really wonky. So wonky, in fact, that you can’t tell if a chisel is standing square to the board, or actually bent to the southwest. Lord knows I tried, but it ain’t in me, so if I am going to beat this thing and turn out some respectable dovetails, I’m going to have to cheat a bit.

With some adjustments
Thinking things through, I think I might have it by combining some of the other advice you guys gave me with what needs to be done to beat this limitation. I think the way to work this is to score a stronger scribe line, maybe by following it up with a second cut with a little thicker knife blade and straight-edge. With careful placement of the guide block, making sure it is on the board-side of the scribe, the block won’t end up blocking the chisel’s access to it, so it can be used to “lock in there like a screwdriver in a slot”. That way, the guide block can just be used as a quick and accurate register for square and the scribe line does the work it is supposed to do – position the chisel for the cut.

We will see how revamping your suggestions to fit the bill will work the next time, but I do have to state that I truly appreciate your help with this issue. You guys blew me away with your quick and helpful responses. I hope that when the next issue rears its ugly head, you will take the time again to be as helpful to me with it as you were with this one.

Oh, ya, I still don’t like using a mallet. Too noisy.