Dovetails are, for higher or worse, the calling card of wonderful craftsmanship. Whether lower by hand or machine, they maintain the undisputed title of “king of joints” (they don’t, I simply made that up–but it surely sounds good, doesn’t it?). They are the gold customary to which each younger woodworker aspires. And there are myriad suggestions on the web that can assist you lay them out simply. But there’s a downside–when you’ve seen one set of dovetails, you’ve seen all of them. Tail, pin, tail, pin, tail. There isn’t any variation. Things develop into stagnant shortly. So, how do I keep away from that downside and maintain dovetails contemporary and interesting? Variable spacing.

Experiment with design

Let’s start with a easy field. A humble container. The picture above was a commissioned field for a household heirloom, the through-dovetails at every nook its major visible focus. But a repetition of 1-in. tail and ¼-in. pin didn’t fairly sit proper with me. It felt lower than stellar–one thing I wasn’t notably excited to current to the shopper. So as an alternative I selected to make the dovetails develop, with the widest tail on the backside and every subsequent tail rising smaller as the attention is drawn upward. This was meant to echo the expansion of a tree, with its extensive, sturdy base giving method to smaller branches because it grows up and at last tapering out to delicate new offshoots on the prime. This offers the field a measure of visible weight on the backside, making it really feel grounded and durable, whereas avoiding the sensation of an enormous fats dice and giving the attention someplace to go. It is, for my part, the design component that makes the field work.

Follow the rhythm

You needn’t at all times observe the identical sample of “growing” dovetails, nevertheless. I definitely don’t. In the picture above you’ll be able to see that I selected a rhythmic sample as an alternative. In this occasion I used to be restricted by the truth that the items had been bookmatched. Had I chosen an asymmetrical dovetail sample for a bookmatched (and subsequently symmetrical) element, it could have felt dissonant and unsettling. Utilizing an A-B-C-B-A sample offers me the identical visible curiosity as the expansion sample whereas nonetheless permitting my format to really feel centered on the bookmatch line. If you’re curious about listening to me talk about this format sample at size, you’ll be able to try this video beneath.

Shake it up

Now don’t get me incorrect, there’s nothing incorrect with a easy dovetail format. I’m not right here to yuck anybody’s yum, in any case. I’m solely right here to supply my expertise. And in my expertise, I turned bored with conventional dovetail layouts after some years–however I nonetheless liked dovetails. I wasn’t able to half with them totally. So I discovered a method to maintain them participating and interesting that labored for me. It could also be that in time you discover dovetails to be rather less than adrenaline-inducing as effectively. Then once more, perhaps not. But should you do, strive taking part in round with spacing. Explore totally different patterns. Don’t be afraid to be musical with it. It’s vital to go away room for experimentation. It’s typically in these moments the place the best quantity of development happens.

Erik Curtis

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