Half-Blind Dovetails in Sapele: The Challenge Continues!

Not being one to complain too much but these dovetails in this paticular chunk of Sapele are proving to be quite the challenge!  The hall table I made last year was of Sapele as well and the dovetailing on those drawers went much easier.

Does not cut Cleanly

Does not cut Cleanly

After doing one drawer side the chisels had a very noticeable burr on the backs of them.  These are Lie-Nielsen bench chisels which I sharpen at a 30 degree angle — I mean there’s only 4 sockets to cut.  I have a fine waterstone and water ready to remove that burr after several cuts.  As you can see in the picture above, the grain doesn’t cut cleanly at all.  I tried the method of cutting down to the bottom of the web with a smaller chisel but the grain seems to be somewhat brittle and will split beyond the line.  This seems to be the best way to remove the socket material other than a router bit and borrowing  someone’s Leigh jig!  I’ll cut the back side with a wide chisel then remove the material with a smaller one that’s angled.  Keeping the cuts shallow without trying to hog out too much wood a t a time is helpful too.  When cleaning the socket out, the grain doesn’t cut cleanly so it’s very difficult getting a smooth surface.  Glad this is a personal project because I’m not satisfied with the quality so far but am committed to it.

A technique that helps is the one I use to locate the bottom of the web.  It begins by setting the marking gauge to the thickness of 1/4″ piece of polyethylene I use for glue ups.  This is then used to guide the chisel when paring to the line.  Even with this as an aid, the grain of the wood will allow the wood to split below the scribed line.

WoodworksbyJohn-lasVegas-furniture-halfblinddovetails-Tail layout-6Speaking of techniques, unfortunately the Maple I resawed for the drawer sides cupped on a few of the pieces.  I cut dovetails first and clamp them together.  By placing them on the tablesaw they are even.  I had an auxiliary fence which kept them square as well.  At this point the pieces were still identified with green tape but I have a set of machinists metal stamps that are used to permanently mark each piece.  Too easy to get them confused!



Ready to cut the tails

Ready to cut the tails

I will keep the clamp on the two drawer sides and put them into the vise on my carving bench to lay out and cut the tails. This has been slow going to say the least. At times I wish I had a shop that had racks of lumber just waiting to be used.  Sort of like the pictures of James Krenov’s shop.  That way if I have a difficult board I can just go and find another!  Well, my Dad used to say that you can wish in one hand and spit (or something else) in the other and see which one fills up first — better be satisfied with what I have and make it work the best I can.


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: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WoodworksbyJohn?ref=si_shop Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
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