My 1st Hand-Cut Through Dovetail.

It took me about two hours which included stopping periodically to watch Glen Huey’s DVD “Cheating at Hand Cut Dovetails.”  This  project is belated because of a number of reasons, not excluding a paralysing fear to actually make start.  I read a number of books & articles on the subject and found them all equally confusing.  Glen’s DVD is the only one that made sense to me.  I know that Pine is more difficult when you are starting out, but that’s all I had.  My approach was to study the DVD a number of times instead of diving right in.  This method of learning works for me because after the 1st attempt, I retained most of the information.  
My pins are recessed instead of standing proud, the tails have chipped out in places, the fit is too tight and the overall joint is not neat.  All these will improve with practice.  Will I try a tails-first approach to compare?  Not sure right now as there are many other more pressing projects waiting, one being to cut more dovetails.  Much, much more.  Thank you Glen.

A Woodworker’s Notebook.

The editors of Popular Woodworking Magazine have more than once recommended that every woodworker start his/her own blog site.  One of the reasons was to keep a log on our progress.  Another was that the web would preserve all this knowledge for future generations.  I agree with the concept, but would go one step further and also create a notebook with alphabetical index.  Woodworking is multifaceted, and we need to become proficient in nearly all the different disciplines (see my previous entry titled “Pace” (24 Feb. 2011).  And many books combine a lot of the sub-skills, as they should.  E.g. you naturally go from making a board four-square, to clamping up a panel, to joinery to finish etc.  It would be nice if all the common chapters could be combined in one book so that we can deal with one specific topic at a time.  But that would mean tearing books up.  This is where the notebook comes in.  Once you have grasped the basics of each skill, the fine tips and tricks as well as the knowledge gained from making mistakes should be recorded in the notebook under the relevant heading.  I guess with time these notes will become less, but I don’t think that the time will ever come when we don’t need to refer to notes at all. 


I was busy making 3/8″ ash dowels for the drawbored mortise and tenon joints for the Roubo bench, when something became clear to me.  Woodworking is a very time consuming activity. 

At my stage I am slow not only because of my inexperience, but there are naturally more interruptions in the beginning.  You need to stop in order to re-hone a tool, but your sharpening station is not properly set up, or you are missing a honing guide or a stone.  You need to make a jig for the 1st time (mortising jig, table saw sled, guides to hold your sash clamps etc.).   Or you just need to stop to read about a process which you have never attempted before.  All these improve with time and practice.

But despite the above, there are a lot of detailed processes that go into woodworking.  And each process and sub-process is a skill on its own to acquire.  Measuring, laying out, preparing stock, joinery, making dowels, choosing the right glue, honing, tool selection, fettling, safety procedures, dust extraction, wood movement…get my point?

My conclusions: I admire the woodworkers of old who produced so much in so little time with hand tools only.  And if you want to be a woodworker, you had better be someone who enjoys the journey at least as much as you enjoy reaching the destination, because it’s a long trip!

Starting Out

My 1st post. I will start by trying to remember the beginning of this journey. It started by a love of wood and working with it. I had no background experience, so I first needed to understand what tools were available, and what their purpose was. This took many years. I found, for example, large local (S. African) suppliers who either never had a catalogue, or never made it available. There is also no general listing of similarly grouped companies-somebody needs to do this. It was like they never wanted to do business! Then it was rare to find someone who could explain the function and purpose of tools. Someone who could compare similar tools. Which tools overlapped with others, which were indispensable and which gimmicks. This was difficult, and I still get caught. And the same applied to the myriad of books available on the subject. So many gave half the story, so many gave plans that only a very experienced woodworker could follow, and a few are gems. In time I will name these few good books and share why I think they came from an author with a generous soul. The most surprising part of all is that in many instances, amateur woodworkers taught me more than the pro’s -hey M C-L.

My point: Try and resist buying too many tools in the beginning until you get some idea . Do your research, check for two tools that have similar functions-duplications. Wait until you really need the tools before you buy it. The experts have all said this before, but we don’t always listen. The reason is not only to prevent clutter and save money. It’s about buying less and better-and that will make a difference to your woodworking.  A bad woodworker may blame his tools.