Several people have called me insane/crazy/foolish and other mild epithets after I posted a picture on Twitter of the first kitchen drawer I completed. Why? Because it’s hand-dovetailed.
Sure, I could simply rabbet and nail the kitchen drawers together, but hey – the math is harder. But one good reason for eschewing that method is that I can’t easily do it at home. No, that’s not true – I could easily do it at home using hand tools. But I don’t imagine I can more quickly plane rabbets than I can cut through-dovetails of just three tails per corner (poplar is awfully forgiving).
So why not use a router dovetail jig? Well, I don’t own a router dovetail jig. Sure, we have one at work…but I spend enough time at work already. Also, the router and I have a love-hate relationship; I recognize the tool’s efficacy in many situations, but I don’t like using it unless it truly is the best tool for the job (say, pattern routing). It’s loud and messy, and I can never find the bit I need. Oh – and there’s the wee issue that I don’t know how to set up a router dovetail jig. For a mere nine drawers, it doesn’t seem worth the trouble to learn (or really, worth the trouble of digging the jig out of our storeroom and finding all the parts).
But here’s the real reason: I need the practice. I’m a competent dovetailer…usually. But a piece of white oak kicked my ass last week and it’s haunting me. Cutting a few good sets of joints in poplar has made me feel (a little) better.
And while my joints are perfectly serviceable, they’re nowhere near perfect. So with these drawers, I’m working on small things including shaving a few minutes off my time, trying to get through the waste with fewer mallet whacks, and doing my best to cut closer to my baseline with the coping saw. A certain someone I know gets so close that he can, after coping out most of the waste, drop his chisel right into the scribeline and finish the cut. Me? I usually have to halve my way back to the baseline in at least two steps. So I can do better.
Also, the bourbon is right downstairs when I’m done – and so is the kitchen, into which I can install each drawer as soon as the glue is dry (which is about how long it takes me to drink a glass of bourbon). Instant gratification on two fronts.