Dovetailing Drawers — A Sensible Approach: Pin Boards

Before I get into the process used for the pin boards, let me show you how things turned out at the end of this phase.  lt’s always nice to see your work taking shape(click on picture for an enlarged view):

My previous post went through the tail procedure so now it’s time for the pin boards.  These are the drawer fronts and just like the side pieces they are cut to the required height but left longer than required just in case of a major problem.  In the slide show you’ll see the fixture that I use to correctly position the two boards together.  It’s a simple L-shape with a fence on on one side.  The rabbet cut on the drawer sides (Stanley 140 trick) registers against the drawer front and the fence holds them in alignment.  In Tage Frid’s book on joinery he recommends using a piece of a scraper blade to sever the fibers that the saw can’t reach on half blind dovetails.  This method is works quite well!

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The method for cutting these pieces begins with transferring tails to the pin board with a marking knife.  After sawing with a rip cut, dovetail saw I use a thin piece of metal as in picture #2.   Next, I’ll refine the shoulder cuts be removing a small chip on the scribe line.  When chopping the mortise I stay 1/32″ or so away from the scribed line.  Removing the bulk of the mortise for this Mahogany took about three passes to get close to the web line.  In picture #3, the shoulder is chopped squarely on the scribed line.  When I set the dimension for the web I use a piece of 1/4″ MDF as my guide.  In pictures #4 you can see how that supports the chisel and allows you to pare a flat surface.  If your scribed line is slightly off like mine was you can add shims under the MDF to fine tune it.  I needed to add a couple of pieces of paper to it but this certainly makes getting a uniform depth on the web easier.  The inaccuracy was probably caused by my marking gauge being somewhat worn out.  A number of years ago I made my own marking gauge that was featured in Highland Woodworking’s newsletter.  If you’re interested in seeing my blog on it, here is a LINK to it.  I’ve considered buying one of Hamiltons marking gauges but I really like the feel of the one I made and must admit it makes a good conversation starter and fits my hand just right.

Having the difficulties with the marking gauge resulted in using my caliper to set and check the markings.  In a recent magazine article about them I learned something I never knew before so thought I’d pass it on.  They even referred to it as a “secret measuring technique”!  You can see in these pictures that there is a step on the backside which can be placed against a rabbet and then the jaw is used to make your measurements.  I’ve been using calipers for many years and never knew this:

Cutting the dovetails took somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-9 hours and I’m pleased with most of them.  I think this is probably the most drawers I’ve created for one project.  Nine drawers all told.  I still need to put in the backs, these will have sliding dovetails cut with machines rather than the traditional method of through dovetails.  I also need to resaw, surface, and laminate the 5/4 Alder for the drawer bottoms so even though the pictures I put at the top of the blog have this project starting to look like something — there’s a way to go.  Oh yeah, forgot the tops, door, and shelves.

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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6 Responses to Dovetailing Drawers — A Sensible Approach: Pin Boards

  1. Richard says:

    Wow! Looking really nice John

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ctregan says:

    You always think of jigs and fixtures when using electric routers for dovetails, not so much hand cut dovetails. Good ideas and good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jay Amundson says:

    I’m using a Glen-Drake marking gauge and I really like it. The fine adjustment is prefect. Never a misplaced line. It did take a while to get used to the feel but well worth the effort. The cutter is almost identical to the nickers used on Lie-Nielsen planes.

    Great project! Looks good!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post and impressive work! I definitely learned a thing or two from this one – Thank You!


  5. Pingback: Another Dovetail Tutorial: Social Distanced! | Woodworks by John

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