Popular Woodworking 2005-12 № 152, страница 45

Popular Woodworking 2005-12 № 152, страница 45

A look inside the complicated joinery in the base of the large blanket chest.

cut them and the method used by 19th-century Shakers), the easiest type to cut are through dovetails. Half-blind dovetails are much more time-consuming to create by hand because every socket for every tail must be chopped out with chisels. This probably doubles the time and effort required to cut a set of dovetails, but there are many applications for which this extra effort is justified.

For example, while through dovetails are perfectly acceptable at the back of a drawer, half-blind dovetails are preferred - in most cases - for attaching the drawer front because half-blind dovetails don't allow the joinery to disturb the look of that drawer front. This is because the ends of the tails will be concealed by a covering of wood when the drawer is closed.

It's customary for modern makers who are assembling a case in which all sides are open to the eye to assemble that case with through dovetails. This is because the extra effort required to cut half-blind dovetails seems misplaced when the dovetails can be seen from one side, if not from

This large Pleasant Hill blanket chest features a proliferation of finely cut dovetails as well as an ingeniously executed bit of joinery uniting the post and rail in the chest's base.

both. Nevertheless, there are a number of Pleasant Hill blanket chests on which the maker (s) took the time to cut half-blind dovetails on the front corners of the chest but used through dovetails on the back corners.

Puzzling Over Why

If the craftsman's intention was to hide the joinery, full-blind dovetails would have been the correct choice because the half-blind joinery is still visible to an observer standing at the front of the chest. Plus, the backs of these chests feature through dovetails

which are visible from both the back and the sides.

And this approach was not used consistently in the creation of Pleasant Hill chests. The miniature blanket chest mentioned earlier in this story was assembled with through dovetails on all four corners, a method that would be used by most modern makers of such casework.

I'm attracted to this puzzle for two reasons. First, I enjoy the process of trying to determine why a maker, separated from me by a century or more, might have chosen to do a thing in a way that - at least to me - seems counterintuitive. That is, I'm drawn by my nosiness, my unvarnished need to pry. But the puzzle is important in another way as well. If I someday decide to reproduce one of these Pleasant Hill blanket chests, what kind of joinery will I use?

The one I found in the original or the one that makes the most sense to me?

The Exuberant Expression of Craftsmanship

Dovetail j oinery is the best option when joining one end of a board to another at an angle of 90°. This traditional joint provides mechanical resistance to separation in one direction while providing a significant amount of glue surface to resist separation in the other direction.

The number of dovetails a craftsman might distribute along a 90° corner is determined by the amount of abuse the piece might experience as well as the look the craftsman wants to achieve. If you'll examine the miniature blanket chest on page 40, you'll see a fairly typical distribution of pins and tails for a context like

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