This is my 5th day of practice dovetails. After a weekend of playing golf and enjoying gardens with my parents, it was fun to get back to the shop. The basement is cool and inviting. I cut some pieces of similar size to the first set of 4 I cut. Each cut I make is with considerably more confidence than before. Each time I bring the mallet down to meet the chisel, I feel like I have been here before.
My muscles are starting to get a bit of memory. They are starting to develop a sense for how hard each mallet blow should be. The holding of the chisel, the placement, all of it is coming together. I have a method for clamping down the pieces which seems to work well. It wasn’t the same method I used when I first attempted a dovetail, and there have been a few different approaches. It seems I was worrying too much about getting everything clamped down tight, to avoid the piece moving. One Jet clamp does just fine.
The two pieces of oak with pins on each end, took me the same amount of time to cut, as one piece took a week ago. Actually it took 3 minutes longer to do twice as much work, and being the son of a mathematician, accuracy is important. The other important thing to note is that I have gotten cleaner results than I have previously attained. The pins pictured have not been cleaned up. Usually I spend a fair amount of time fussing about them, before I take the photography. I want them to look good. These still need a little bit of clean up, but much less than any set I have previously cut.
The benefit, as I see it, of doing repetitive dovetail practice is that I am able to find a method which works well for me. I have looked at a lot of videos, read quite a bit and seen a number of different ideas for how get an accurate fit. Ultimately, for me, it is more a sense of being on the right path, knowing that continuing with this practice will get me to my goal.
And what of that goal?
Tonight, on the way back from my parents, I stopped in Iowa City, to attend my friend Rodney’s daughter’s high school graduation. It was lovely, I got to see a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in quite a few years. Andy Gnida, a brilliant builder here in Iowa, and I talked about woodworking, tools, and generally caught up. Andy has forgotten more about woodworking and building than I have learned. It was fun to tell him about my adventures. Of course, I told him about my plan for cutting a bunch of small dovetail boxes by hand. I said, “When I am done, I will have a new skill, which I can use for the rest of my life.” And he responded, “And you will have a bunch of little boxes.”
It looses a bit in the translation, but it made me chuckle. That is my goal, to have a new skill. Another bit from the evening which made me chuckle was Gwyn. She is two, and many of you may remember my post a while back, where she would take the little plastic screwdrivers out of her tool box and yell, “Screwdrivers”. Gwyn was walking with her father, whom I have known for over 20 years, and she pointed at me, “Hey, you remember Meeks.”, in a very grown up voice, sounding as if she had introduced the two of us at a cocktail party. It was even more fun that talking about woodworking. When Gwyn, Steve and Mary, were leaving the party, Gwyn gave me a hug, with a pat on the back. Apparently that is the best hug one can get. The first time we met I only rated a fist bump, this upgrade was nice. I am honored.
So I had a good day, both in woodworking and in general.