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Laying out dovetail pins. Here David Salisbury is sketching out pins by eye. He wasn't worried about exact layout.
I’m in Colonial Williamsburg right now, attending the 15th annual Working Wood in the 18th Century conference. This year’s program is about “small things.” Last night there were slide shows about dressing boxes, mirrors, traveling boxes and several types of little works made by cabinetmakers. Today, we got down to the business of making stuff. In the morning Mac Headly began work on a dressing case in Cuban Mahogany, showing a great technique for making a stopped groove with a chisel (sorry, no pics). Brian Weldy demonstrated drafting techniques for perspective drawings and Kaare Loftheim demonstrated how cut mortise-and-tenon joinery in some 5/16 in. thick stock as he was making a face frame for a small clock. But the highlight of the day, at least for me, was in the afternoon. That’s when two joiners (Ted Boscana and David Salisbury) took the stage to show how they make hanging wall cabinets for various buildings around Colonial Williamsburg. They’re demonstration essentially became a case of dueling woodworkers as they both worked at the same time. Ted cut a dado while David was cutting dovetails. Then Ted cut a tenon and David made the through mortise for it. Ted showed how he makes a mortise-and-tenon joint with scooped decorative bead (for a door frame) and David demonstrated how to fit a door panel using several different techniques. And both guys were working at the same time, rolling from one joint to the next without stopping. It was great to watch.
See all of the coverage from the Working Wood in the 18th Century conference at Colonial Williamsburg.
Cutting the pins. Notice that Salisbury is using a saw much bigger than your typical dovetail saw. Why? Because the stock is so thick.
Cutting out the waste. Salisbury and Toscana mentioned that they have no proof that craftsman did this in the 18th century, but also that they have no proof that they didn't.
Transfering the pins. At this point, Salisbury is balancing the pin board with one hand and scribing their location with the other. Boscana pointed out, and I agree, this is why doing tails first is better. Transferring tails to the pin board is much less of a hassle.
Marking the dado's sides. This is step one in Boscana's dado technique: defining the width with a cut line made by a knife. To find the width, Boscana put the actual shelf material on the first cut line and marked its thickness directly to the board.
Cutting the sides. Here's step two: cut down your layout lines with a backsaw. Boscana also scribed the depth with a marking gauge and transferred the lines for the sides down the board's edge.
Chop out the waste. Boscana made very fast work of wood between the saw kerfs. He was down to final depth in just a minute or two.
Completed joint. This is a good fit, especially given how fast Boscana cut the dado (about 5 minutes).
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I was there at Colonial Williamsburg at the conference. It was great. Just like the last four years that I have attended.
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