Tails I win, pins you lose (or, the walnut whiskey cabinet part 2)

Before any sawdust and shavings were made on this project I made the decision to use half blind dovetails on the carcase. I wanted something visually interesting on the sides, and for the top and bottom to be nice and clean. The dovetails also serve the additional purpose of providing strength, and when there’s good whiskey on the line you can’t take any chances.

After bringing everything to size and making sure it was all flat and square, the next step was to run a groove for the back panels. The half-blind tails hide the groove so this was really just a matter of setting my plow plane and grooving away. In other projects I have cut the tails first and then made a groove, but you have to be dead on with everything for the grooves to match perfectly, and so I wanted to try something a little different. I hesitate to call it a “trick” or a “hack” (in the more contemporary parlance), but by cutting the grooves first I found that I could use a scrap 1/4″ piece to mimic the back board and align the two boards perfectly for layout. Whatever you call it, this is by far my cleanest work in this sort of operation and I highly suggest trying it out.

The most time consuming part was excavating the half-blind dovetails, and although this is the part that always makes me question life, the universe and everything, they came out nicely and I was pleased with the result. I used just about every chisel in my set looking for a sharp edge and a router plane to make sure everything was nice and tidy inside the pins. That worked pretty well, but you have to be careful not to bruise the end gran of the pins (as I did once or twice).

I cut, ship lapped and beaded the back boards and went back over the interior surfaces to make sure they were all clean and ready to go.

When everything suited me I made some gluing cauls and pulled the whole thing tight with hide glue and clamps. With hide glue and I’ve learned to let things sit just a little longer because of the unpredictable humidity in my shop, but the next day I spaced the back boards to allow for expansion and contraction and then tacked each one top and bottom with 2d cut headless brads.

I’ve learned to pay attention for the natural places for me to stop and breath before moving on. This keeps me from rushing through something or getting called away in the middle of something else. With the next step being to make a door and prep the outer surfaces for finish this seemed like one of those times.

More to come…


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