There's a line of wisdom that says "Don't miss the forest for the trees" meaning don't get so caught up in the details of a thing that you miss the big picture. I think that this is an easy thing to do as an eager and budding dovetailer. You are focused on the angles, focused on the symmetry, thinking about splitting the line with your saw blade, thinking about paring those cuts to the perfect fit, and anything else you want to pile on with.
Grain matching may seem like it has little place in the discussion of dovetail layouts. Some may think it's a subject for talking about alongside fine design and refined woodworking techniques. But I have to say I wish someone had clued me in on such things sooner in my own woodworking. Grain matching is never a showstopper of a technique, not like book matching can be, but it's effects can be powerful in the way a piece flows together.
If you were to build two boxes, using the same exact proportions, size, wood, everything, with the only difference being you utilized grain matching techniques on one box and paid zero attention to such things on the other. If you were to then show those two boxes to a multitude of strangers and ask them which box they liked better, I know the grain matched box would win. But the more interesting thing is I'll bet those people who picked it wouldn't be able to explain exactly why. The technique is simple and just leads to a more pleasing flow through a piece. It helps tie one board to another visually, and is something that is always important o consider in all of your design and layout endeavors, dovetails included.
But how do you keep track of such things? With a simple triangle pencil mark my friends.
As a quick finish up before we start to get into covering the actual process I use to do different layouts I want to take a quick look at the handful of tools I put to use doing this.
|Marking directly off a 3/8" chisel.|