A little dovetailing

  A few years ago I had an advanced dovetailing class in the shop. One of the students brought along some wood he thought would seriously challenge my abilities by requesting I do a little dovetailing.

A Little Dovetailing

During a class like the Advanced Dovetailing, there are lulls where the students are wrapped up in the task at hand. Once I had gotten the class started on cutting Bermuda dovetails, I decided to take up the challenge set before me. In between assisting students with laying out their Bermuda dovetails and watching their sawing technique, I took about ten or fifteen minutes to do a little dovetailing of my own in the challenge wood.

I have to admit, it took longer than I thought, but proved to be easier than expected. Now, you’re probably looking at the photo and wondering what was so challenging about cutting those dovetails. I mean, the wood looks like it isn’t particularly figured nor does it appear particularly hard. So, what’s the big deal?

Actually, it’s no BIG deal at all.


The challenge was to cut some dovetails in lumber milled to about 3/32″ thick. I used my regular Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw and my regular benchchisels. I didn’t change my dovetail method one bit except to make everything a whole lot smaller. I’ve tried to tell people for years now, it’s not the tool it’s the technique. Once you learn and develop good sawing habits, nearly anything is possible.

Get Small

With a pencil in place, it's easy to see how challenging a little dovetailing can be.

If you’re looking to step up your game a little, try going small…really small…and let me know how you make out.

Now if I can only figure out how to cut Bermuda Dovetails on material this size…

And, if you hadn’t heard already, I’ve started teaching classes again in the Acanthus Workshop. If you’re interested in seeing what classes I’m offering, click here.

– Chuck Bender

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