Glenn, one of the readers of my blog, saw the following photo of the first great drawer I made for the stand-up desk. The joinery on the back of the drawer is shown, with no glue, and the surfaces not yet planed even – in other words, pretty much as the the dovetails came off the saw:
Glenn wrote me a short note, asking how I am able to get the shoulder on the half-pin sockets as nice and square as I showed in the photo above. As I worked on the drawers yesterday and today, I documented how I do it. My old way of doing was fashioned after the technique of Frank Klausz – simply line up the saw with the baseline marked on the edge of the shoulder, and cut it off. Most of the time it works just fine, but sometimes I miss and cut a little beyond the line – and that creates a gap I dislike very much. My fault, of course. If you are not familiar with the pins-first technique to hand-cut dovetails, I suggest you view the three videos of Frank Klausz I shot during the Woodworking in America conference in Berea, KY, in November 2008.
I much prefer the new way I do the cutoffs these days; I wish I could tell you where I learned to do it this way, but I cannot remember. I start by carefully and lightly chiseling the baseline on the edge of the board; then I cut off a very small and shallow sliver – this leaves a nice channel for the dovetail saw, and a nice reference edge on which I can rest the saw to start the cut:
I then carefully place the saw in the channel, and saw off the half-pin to create the half-pin socket for the pins board (practice, practice, practice, to learn to saw really close to the scribed base line):
The photo above shows my preference to cut pins first; once the pins boards are done, I mark the dovetails from the pins. Note: This applies only to the through dovetails on the back of the drawers.
I chisel out the waste on the remaining pin sockets by carefully removing very thin slivers at the baseline, as in the following photo:
Today’s work: the through dovetail joinery on the drawer backs, for three additional drawers – two drawer backs fit very well right off the saw, and one required a little paring work:
Now I can start on the joinery to the drawer fronts. These will require half-blind dovetails, similar to the first drawer I made:
Once all the drawer joinery is done, I can start machining the drawer slips for the hardwood bottom panels. I will cover in detail the making and fitting of the drawer slips in another article.