Dovetail Layout Part 5: Working the Skinny
Fine Woodworking Magazine has a reader's gallery section and years ago I remember seeing in those pages a blanket chest with an over-abundance of narrow pins lining the corners (at least I think it was a blanket chest, further back than yesterday gets a bit fuzzy sometimes).
The wood was beautiful, the proportions were correct, but the dovetails were obvious, overstated, and distracting to the success of the piece. They drew attention seemed to communicate "Hey look at me I can cut lots of dovetails, I'm a good woodworker right?" It's possible someone else would see a different perspective, but I do remember my wife paging through the magazine and saying "Wow, that looks like a lot of work." Instead of seeing the piece as a whole, she had focused on the dovetails as well.
Now maybe that is exactly what the artist was after, but I doubt it. I can't fathom taking the time to build a whole piece of furniture just to show off my dovetailing abilities. Instead I guess I decided to write a series of blog posts about dovetailing instead (insert sheepish grin here). In design, narrow pins have a power to them that when used judiciously and wisely can bring a real "Wow!" factor. But when they are overused, they can overpower a design, and the "Wow!" gets lost in the noise.
Now for the truth. Before I started this exploration I have never cut these thin pins before. I found the techniques to be the same as any other dovetail joint but the layout is important. I decided to take this chance to recreate the thin-pin-madness I remembered from the magazine all those years before. Maybe there's something to be said when I can't remember the exact piece, the color of the wood or any real details, but I can picture the joint and how it looked. That does say something doesn't it?
If you've been following along on this odyssey lately you've read where we've come from already. If you're new to the journey or want to refresh your memory all the previous posts have been collected together HERE.