I'm continuing a series discussing dovetail layout and attempting to relating it somewhat to design process decisions. I'm also hoping to prove that layouts do not have to be mysterious, difficult, or complicated, like I was lead to believe when I was beginning to teach them to myself. If you're just getting started reading this series and want to catch up you can find all the posts collected in one place HERE.
I chose a good foundation to start this exploration from using the dovetail layout technique Frank Klausz's wrote about in the October 2005 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. With that behind us It's time to branch out and stretch our wings a bit.
To me, the key is simplicity and repeatability, Frank's method has that in spades but what if we were to expand on the idea? Be inspired by it instead of just try to repeat it? What can I do to make it even simpler? Can we get good results with less steps and less tools? What if we were to remove dividers from the equation? What tool do we have that we could also use to achieve repeatable measurements?
For years now I have used my chisels when I need to set a measurement at a specific depth or length. I choose a width and use it to set my marking gauge, to set the rip fence on my bandsaw for resawing, to judge the fences on my rebate plane, to judge router bit depth. I don't know when I started, or where I picked it up from but I've been doing it for nearly as long as I've been woodworking. I know I could order some set up blocks from Lee Valley for forty bucks and have them machined to a tolerance of 0.002". Before I do that though I have to ask myself, when have I ever made a cut, checked it, and thought, "Dammit, this cut is off by 0.005" I think I"ll have to throw this piece out. If only I had some insanely accurate set up blocks to remove all human error and make my life perfect." (insert longing gaze and daydream here)
I have never had that thought cross my mind and if you ever have, then you need to get some help and medication because your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has taken over your life, stop woodworking and go back to washing your hands for the hundredth time today.
Accuracy is important in woodworking but it is nothing next to consistency. My chisels my not be insanely accurate in their measurement, but if I use the same one, it will be consistent. Why make a thing harder than it has to be.
So lets follow through on this step towards simplicity in making our next set of pins and tails.