Compound Dovetail tote/tray

  • Advertise with us
Project by DouginVa posted 06-07-2013 06:42 PM 4747 views 7 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My second class at Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s School”, the handcut compound dovetail class taught by Tom Calisto. I had tried compound dovetails on my own with little success. Getting the dovetail angle oriented the proper way is more difficult than you may think. Tom made it relatively simple to understand.

A simple jig aides in the construction of the sides and cutting/chopping/pairing of the dovetails. It’s a simple block that has one face that represents an outside face and corner of the finished tote. If you can access the Rough Cut Woodworking “Serving Tray” episode you’ll see how easy it is to create the block. Now this doesn’t mean the dovetails will come out perfect… still have to accurately cut and pair them….BY HAND. But at least you’ll get the orientation of the pieces, angles, bevels, and dovetails correct.

The center divider is all one piece of poplar with the handle rounded over and shaped to look like a steam bend dowel….which is exactly what I though it was when I looked at pics of the project before I saw the tote in person.

This tray is made from poplar in an unfinished state. I kinda like it this way and haven’t decided if I will finish it or leave it as is and use it for some functional purpose in the workshop or as a centerpiece on the dining room table.

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

8 comments so far

View mariva57's profile


666 posts in 3254 days

#1 posted 06-07-2013 07:24 PM

Excellent work, compliments.

-- The common man thinks. The wise man is silent. The stupid man discusses.

View bonobo's profile


335 posts in 3306 days

#2 posted 06-07-2013 07:42 PM

That’s really beautiful.

The antique ones I’ve seen online have the bottom attached with small cut nails. Did you use the same method?

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht

View DouginVa's profile


503 posts in 3523 days

#3 posted 06-07-2013 09:48 PM

@ bonobo; I didn’t have any handcut nails the right size on hand so I just used some finish nails. The ones holding the center divider and hand cut with a hammered head….looks pretty rustic. Had some left over from another project. Got them at Rockler.

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View a1Jim's profile


118267 posts in 4827 days

#4 posted 06-07-2013 09:52 PM

View wooded's profile


371 posts in 3522 days

#5 posted 06-08-2013 02:20 AM

Good work Doug….;-j

-- Joe in Pueblo West, Colo.

View studie's profile


618 posts in 4397 days

#6 posted 06-08-2013 05:03 AM

So cool! To make a crazy idea happen, takes a crazy man to do it. I think Barny said that? I just made some planter boxes with that confounded I mean compound miters. Mine were 43 & 13. Again very cool from the design to the execution. What kind of finish?

-- $tudie

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4584 days

#7 posted 06-08-2013 09:19 AM

You did a great job on this beautiful design and the compound dovetails look great. I love the way you did the handle on top too.

There was an article in FWW mag. quite a few years ago showing how to make these with a setup block as you mentioned to set the miter gauge and the saw blade tilt. I tried it out by making just made one corner. It came out great, but that as far as I got.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View DouginVa's profile


503 posts in 3523 days

#8 posted 06-08-2013 10:20 AM

@ Studie, I’m thinking I’m going to leave it unfinished, use it in the shop for some purpose and watch it get some character nicks, dings, etc. I’ll build another out cherry or walnut for the home.

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

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