The Practice Of Dovetails

As everyone with half a brain knows, dovetail joints are the hardest joint to make in woodworking. People with whole brains however, dispute this fact and are generally more articulate at expressing their views.

I like power tools. They're fast, reliable and make for cuts that are highly repeatable. When it comes to working with hand tools, none of those things can be said about me. I'm slow, sloppy and highly erratic. Still, I'm also stubborn and pig headed, so that makes me want to continue trying something until I get it right.

Enter in the dovetails. This is a joint that proves that you have the skills required to be a craftsman. A good clean dovetail makes people want to get up a cheer. So that's the goal. cheering crowds of people when they see my joinery. I like to set reasonable expectations on all aspects of my life.

The trouble is it's actually hard. It's really hard. I don't know what I expected it to be, but hard wasn't on the list. Tricky, challenging, fun. Right fun was on the list.

Shrug. Where do we get these ideas from anyway? You see people doing this all the time.

  • (Some random day in May) "I want to run a marathon"
    (Two minutes into marathon) "What the hell was I thinking!?"

  • (While watching DIY) "I want to repaint the kitchen. You know, liven things up"
    (On third coat with paint in your eye) "What the hell was I thinking!?"

  • (Sitting comfortably at the office) "I should learn hand dovetails"
    (45 minutes into chiseling out waste on a set of pins) "Don't I have a machine I could do this with?"

    And in fact I do...

    Tim said...

    I does take a long time to learn this skill. It requires patience. VERY sharp chisels and lots of scrap wood. Not to mention ear plugs for the kids when you screw up.
    I too have a machine to do this. Mine cost about $180,00.00 and all I do is hit a button. Keep at it!

    kludge said...


    Like everything else in this hobby this new thing is going to cost me! :)

    I need a Marking Gauge, bench vise, proper hand saw, leather honing wheel for my worksharp.... :0