Day 2: “…Because it’s wood. And it hates you…”

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Today has been gruelling. Anyone who thinks that hand tool working is a gentle and quiet activity (a preconception I keep hearing) has clearly never chopped dovetails. Today we have been cutting the pins on each end of the side boards for the carcass. Eight pins per side gave us a total of 32 pins that had to be pounded out of uncooperative yellow pine. That is a lot of hammering and paring. I cannot understate how tough the yellow pine stock is. In the long run this will ensure that (along with robust joinery) the tool chest is pretty much bomb proof. But in the short term? This is not nice stock to work with.

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The pattern of the day was to transfer the position of the pins on one edge of the pins board, securing the tailboard in place with a heavy weight (as pictured last night). Then cutting the pins, chopping out the waste front and back, and paring the space between the pins. Then repeat on the remaining 3 sets of pins. With plenty of breaks for sharpening, because damn but yellow pine blunts chisels. So lots of chopping, lots of paring, lots of sharpening.

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If I’m going to be honest, working to a good standard while also trying to get an ambitious amount of work done within the time frame felt like a challenge at some points. And there were one of two silly mistakes which I would have probably avoided if I’d taken a moment to stop and think. But that is part of the thrill and challenge of attending a course like this. And even after only 2 days I definitely feel like my saw and chisel skills are greatly improved.

Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Always, always, always.

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Before the workshop shut for the day I was able to test fit the first corner. And so far, so good. The fit is a little loose (press fit, rather than needing any “persuading” with a mallet) but far from disastrous. And all things being equal, the other three corners will be at least as good, if not better.

Tomorrow morning we will be test fitting the remaining three corners and gluing up. After which the top and bottom skirts will need to be dovetailed, and the chest bottom nailed on. It’s going to be a busy day, but I’m already looking forward to getting started.

2 thoughts on “Day 2: “…Because it’s wood. And it hates you…”

  1. When I heard the material was to be yellow pine, I gave a slight groan. It seems you all are doing fine and the chest will be tough with that material. Cheers!

  2. Yellow pine is definitely the hardest stock I’ve had to work, Chris (much worse than even cocobola or rosewood). It’s the combination of extreme hardness combined with the tendency to crumble in the middle of joints, regardless of how sharp your chisels are, which really does it. But as you say, the chest will be super tough thanks to the same properties. The class is currently on schedule, so we should all get a complete chest by the end of tomorrow.

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