An amazing “Dad” moment.
And I am still a little stunned.
Riley and I just came in from the shop - lesson one of hand cutting dovetails. We had finished dinner early and I looked over at the clock - 6:45. Hmmm... I wonder if there is enough time? Jill gave us her blessing so we headed out.
As we did the long walk to the shop, I realized I did not really know where to begin teaching Riley how to do this. Where do I start? Stock preparation? No... that is a lesson all on its own. How to hold a saw? No... experience is the best teacher for this. Show examples of how they look? Geeze... I was getting bogged down in the details. K.I.S.S. with emphasis on the simple.
I grabbed a scrap piece of 1x6 pine, cut it to 7" long, ripped it on the bandsaw to two equal width pieces - stock prep done. I did have a sample box that I built while at Rosewood studios several years back. We used that as reference for what through dovetails look like.
I could tell Riley was in the right headspace for doing this - he gently unpacked and admired his Wenzloff saws. I gathered the tools: the Tite-mark gauge, the 4" adjustable square, the sliding bevel and a pencil.
The first task was to define the baselines with the Tite-mark. I showed Riley how it worked, and he layed them all out. I was a little surprised that he had the sense to hold the fence firmly against the stock - I was anticipating having to gently remind him a few times.
We did not bother measuring to locate the tail lines - he just marked them wherever - and they were surprisingly well placed. Then he transferred the tail lines on the top and back down the other side. Again - he held the square correctly against the stock. This was going surprisingly well!
Next was sawing. I explained the difference between a crosscut and rip saw and marked each saws with a quick piece of masking tape (sorry Mike:) I then explained that it was easier to use a saw when you were making vertical cut as opposed to a sideways one. So Riley positioned the wood in the vice so the tail line was vertical (according to his eye) and then he started to cut. Note the index finger!
He held the saw incredibly well. We marked the waste with a Sharpie marker. He switched saws and cut off the waste. The shoulders were surprisingly strait and square.
Onto the pins. We used the tail to mark the pins and drew a big “X” on the waste. Riley grabbed the square to draw in the vertical lines... did I even need to be here???
He reached for the rip saw again, and used his own finger to help start the cut. The two shoulder kerfs were really good - now for the waste. For a second, I debated between coping or chopping the waste. We opted for chopping. Riley was a little nervous about using the chisels... but he soon got over it knowing he was going to get to use the green mallet. We chopped half way through from one side - I held the chisel. The second side went very quick and suddenly - we were done. I was preparing to break into a long speech about how they never fit the first time and would need some fine-tuning... when Riley grabbed the two pieces and pushed them together.
My jaw hit the floor - he was beaming.
The joint was a little loose - but it fit, it had square shoulders and kerfs and it was magnificent. I am not sure who was more proud at that moment.
As we walked back to the house Riley said he wanted to do a four sided one next time. I looked at the clock - 7:30.