Extremely Average #11: Dovetail Delusions

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Ecocandle posted 01-13-2010 04:27 AM 1565 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 10: Horrible Dovetail Blunder Part 11 of Extremely Average series Part 12: It aint my Faulkner »

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

-Albert Einstein

Because of yesterdays joyous trip to the post office, I had high expectations that today I would find a plethora of woodworking DVDs and a smattering of books, waiting for me. My anticipation remains. Driving across the endless miles, actually yards, which make up Martelle, I thought of Albert Einstein and his bike quote. I haven’t been on a bike in some time, but I was sure that all I needed to keep my balance was a bit of time practicing dovetails.

After the cutting, sometimes on the correct side of the lines, one needs to remove the waste. I am sure there are a bunch of useful tips on how one does this, but alas I haven’t read any of them yet. For some unexplainable reason I seem determined to learn to cut dovetails by hand through experimentation. Even as I write this, it is clear that, this is at best, a dumb idea. Perhaps I will do some research before my next practice session.

A reasonable man would cut a set of pins after a set of tails. I am not a reasonable man. I am a logical man who has delusions of grandeur. Though there are clearly some issues with my first set of tails, I was generally pleased with how they look. I can do better. So I will cut some more practice tails, possibly quite a few of them, before I move onto the pins. There are two good reasons to approach my education this way. One, I am able to focus on one aspect and learn through repetition. Two, the errors one makes don’t really become painfully apparent until the pins and tails are joined. I choose to maintain my warm fuzzy feeling for a few days more.

The source of my warm fuzzy feeling isn’t the results. It started when I began to clean up the area around the tails with my chisel. As I pared away bits of wood I felt comfortable. I felt like my hands were beginning to get use to manipulating the chisel in a controlled fashion. Though I am delusional about the actual quality of my tails, I am not the least bit delusional about the amount of practice and work it takes to master the use of the chisel. I know that it will be some time until I am there, but seeing progress is all that I need to keep the motivation to continue.

Ok that isn’t exactly true. A sign of progress is actually just a one ingredient in the inspiration salad. The recipe for inspiration salad, as it was told to me by Louise, a Cajun chef, motivational speaker, and part time bantamweight boxer, is as follows. One part motivation, two parts natural essence of obsessive compulsive, three tablespoons of competitive juices, mixed in a small wooden bowl (carved by a sharpening monk) and served on a bed of noodles covered in a white wine sauce. This combined with a healthy portion of pot stickers can feed the soul and body.

With each day I feel myself progressing nicely towards my dream of being to woodworking, what Albert Einstein was to the… ‘Tour De France’.

Editors Note: It has been pointed out to me that the population of Martelle, according to the most recent census is 280. I stand corrected. I have fired the entire fact checking department, three secretaries, and two people in legal, just for good measure.

-- Brian Meeks,

6 comments so far

View Chuck 's profile


88 posts in 3527 days

#1 posted 01-13-2010 05:10 AM

I’ve also been pining to learn dovetail cutting. I think for now I’ll sit on the fence until I can acquire the high quality (and very expensive) hand tools that will make it as easy as all the videos appear it to be. I’ll be watching your progress.

-- Chuck, Washington D.C.

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3723 days

#2 posted 01-13-2010 04:21 PM

I wish you as much success with making dovetail joints as you already have with the written word!


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3436 days

#3 posted 01-13-2010 08:18 PM

I second Don’s comment. Once you get a year or two of woodworking in, you should go back through these posts and parse down a timeline of projects and put them in a book form. I think a journal of woodworking, written in your style, would be something many woodworkers would be happy to put on their shelf. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance would not hold a candle to it :)

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3393 days

#4 posted 01-13-2010 09:43 PM

Thanks you both for your encouragement. I think that talk of a book deal is a bit premature, but I appreciate the support. I have not read ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, but I am aware that it is a widely appreciated tome. I think you may have set the bar a little high for me. How about better than, ‘Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quantity Surveying”?

-- Brian Meeks,

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3723 days

#5 posted 01-13-2010 09:58 PM

Now that’s the first thing you’ve said that fails to reach my core of sanity.
Yes, yes, I know it’s so small its hard to find.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View stefang's profile


16662 posts in 3661 days

#6 posted 01-14-2010 06:55 PM

We hope to be able to contribute to your woodworking skills Brian while you pay us back with your word skills. After all, the thing we are really after is entertainment in one form or another. Life is pretty boring for many of us, so we will have take it where we can get it. Your tails look pretty good. Can’t wait to see the pins! Keep up the good work.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics