Sapele + Half-Blind Dovetails = Sharpening Time

Sapele D/T

Sapele Half-Blind Dovetail

In one of my past posts on the construction of the TV stand I’m currently working on I discussed how the Sapele is a difficult wood to work with.  Saying that though, I’ve made other pieces from it so maybe it’s just these particular pieces.  In any case, challenging projects will either improve your skills or frustrate you to take up knitting or something!!


sharpeningNotice that the wood doesn’t split cleanly or evenly.  It seems to be more successful to use a smaller chisel (3/8″ or so) and cut down on the end grain stopping just shy of the scribed line.  This is the end of the piece of wood I have chosen to use for the drawer fronts.  In any case, I’ll need to bring my A-game to the bench when I start to work on them.  As you know, when making drawer fronts it’s best to have the grain continue all the way across the front of the cabinet so that leaves no room for error.  Once the three drawer fronts are cut from the board you just can’t start over.  Other than being extremely careful when working the tools should be as sharp so it’s time to hone my chisels.

I use the Veritas Mk. II honing guide and water stones for sharpening my tools.  After trying other systems I really like this and the only problems I encounter is that sometimes a narrow chisel will move in the guide.  If you have that problem it’s usually caused by not having the bar that locks the chisel tightened up evenly.  In the background you can see the dovetail lay-out I chose.  The drawer is 6″ high so I think that’s too wide for only two tails.  Three tails looked too uniform and machine-cut but after all of the difficulties I may change the lay-out.  I do like how this looks though — any opinions?

In the meantime I’ve been working on a small series of boxes.  During the last month, a consignment gallery that’s located in Container Park has accepted my work for their store.  They specialize in glass jewelry so I approached them on making some boxes for them.  It was great to bring in four and have two of them sell within 2 weeks!  The replacement ones I brought in were a little large so the owner suggested making some smaller boxes instead.  I’m looking at this as an opportunity to utilize left-over materials from other work, with a 60/40 split on the sale there isn’t a lot of profit but it’s still fun to make some money on these:

BoxesThe ones in the back are quarter sawn White Oak, the ones in front are left over pieces of Sapele from the TV stand.  This has given me a chance to experiment with colored shellac (tinted with Mixol) and it’s given them an aged look very similar to milk paint.  They’re almost ready to take to them so hopefully they will accept them into the shop.


About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
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3 Responses to Sapele + Half-Blind Dovetails = Sharpening Time

  1. joemcglynn says:

    I haven’t worked with Sapele before, although I plan to for some projects in the near future.

    On the dovetail layout, I’ve been pushing myself toward narrower tails, I like the look better. It definitely “kills” the machine made look.


    • In an earlier I did the dovetails for the carcass so had edge grain issues. What’s your opinion of the layout on these? Narrower pins are a thought but……, you know on drawer fronts you can’t get a “do-over”!


      • joemcglynn says:

        I know that you mean about “no do-overs”. I’m sure you can pull it off though, you do good work.

        I think the layout looks OK. A test piece always helps my confidence – both in my design and my execution 🙂


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