So it is that dovetailing these drawers has lead to a few problems. Let me first state that making microscopic drawers also requires microscopic dovetails along with macroscopic eyeballs, which I lack btw. The picture is deceiving, let me clarify.
At this scale, pencils, saws, markers and just about everything else becomes too big.
But I’m here to hopefully help a few people, so I better stop lamenting….
I started my dovetailing day by honing chisels. In the pic above is an old Budda hand grinder I got from Ebay. It is pretty much as is except for the swiss pear handle I turned. I hooked up a grinder attachment stand from Lee Valley. This system is great for plane irons and chisels since the possibility of overheating steel is negligible. This method of sharpening produces a hollow grind which allows me to free hand hone on my Norton Stones.
8000 stone on the left and a 1000×4000 combo stone on the right. Only thing missing in the pic is the leather strop I use for final polish. I have a chunk of super hard leather with 15000 jewelers rouge on it. Makes for scary sharp tools.
As I mentioned, small dovetails present a few problems. The majority of dovetails saws are simply too awkward and too large for smallish work. In the picture below is the dovetail saw I made, layed next to my Lie Nielsen saw.
The long handle and small blade allow me to get “close” to the work. The blade came from a cheap hobby saw which I replace for a few bucks every year. The blade is a few thou smaller than my Lie Nielsen which makes for a super fine kerf.
I begin by marking half pins and waste areas. I always do pins first- for several reasons. Typically the most important piece of wood is the drawer front, first off it is highly visible, and generally with the stuff I’ve been building lately, the drawer material is a good chunk of change. I spend a great deal of time perfecting the shape of the pins. At times I’ll even try and add some sweep to the pins, for added appeal. Once done the pins are never adjusted. If I mangle the tails I don’t care; the wood is cheap and I make the drawer sides super long which allows me to cut off tails and re-start. Plus it is just easier tracing pins to tails. Try it, you might never go back.
A helpful hint though- practice your sawing. Dovetailing is all in the sawing and how good you are with keeping your saw square to pencil or knife lines. If you can cut a pencil line in half you are well on your way to gap free joints.
Not a great picture but I wanted to show the technique I use to begin sawing, body position is so important when dovetailing. I clamp a piece of hardwood into my bench vise and bring the height of the piece to a comfortable level. If you are right handed you will find the right side of the pin or tails easier to cut than the left, again it’s body position, cutting on the left side of the pins or tails requires you to look over the plate of your saw to see your pencil/knife line, but you still have to keep your arm, elbow and shoulder in a straight cutting position. Practice, practice, practice…
Block of maple clamped tight to the scribe line. Using my plane Iron to bring the scribe line up tight to the block. Good insurance running a 90 degree block up tight to your scribe line. It helps to keep you square down the walls of the sockets.
Adding a super thin card scraper keeps you just off the baseline. When done you remove it and shear the back wall smooth rather than chopping it. A great way to keep the baseline crisp and even.
Running a wood shim that is an exact match for the web scribe line. This allows a uniform web rather than relying on your God given talent in keeping a chisel parallel to a scribe line.
Tails ready for a trial fit.
Not too bad one little nick where I went a little too deep while sawing. Some dustology or a small wedge should take care of that.