Dovetail Machine

Looking ahead, several rainy days were forecast for this weekend, so I planned to spend the time at my workbench building some toolboxes.  From pallets salvaged behind the furniture store down the street, I have a small lot of poplar planks, some pseudo-mahogany, and a soft white wood that might be maple.  Enough for four boxes.

I need storage for Matt’s collection of Japanese hand tools, so that’s the basic idea, Japanese style boxes, except that I wanted to cut dovetails, not drive nails.

This setup is sort of like a Moxon vise, in that there’s two screws and a couple of pieces of wood, and it hold a board so that I can chop dovetails.  Works fine, cost nothing.  The tail vise holds stock for marking and sawing.  So far I have three boxes fitted up, will get on the mahogany pieces tomorrow.


The cabinetmaker’s triangle is pretty much standard stuff, but not quite enough to keep reference when cutting dovetails.  The marks near the ends do that   //  X  ^  O  so I can easily locate position.

Because this wood is salvaged, I have spent quite a bit of time jointing and gluing up, using a couple of Matt’s Japanese planes.  For surfacing, I’ve been using a couple of Stanley 5 ¼’s.

Do two 5 ¼’s equal a 10 ½?  NO.  I am in the middle of dealing with a major windfall of tools right now and it’s given me a lot to think about.  For starters, I’m pretty competent with the tools that I have and still learning from them.  Now, I am in a position to pursue working with a choice lot of Japanese tools.  What sort of changes will that bring?


About michaellangford2012

Timber framer, boatbuilder, dreamer, writer, musician; collector of books, tools, aphorisms. "There is nothing, absolutely nothing…half so much worth doing…as simply messing about in boats."
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3 Responses to Dovetail Machine

  1. I wish you luck on your journey with the Japanese handtools. I am looking forward to what you have to say about them.

  2. “…What sort of changes will that bring?…”


    Change…??…probably very little in most regards…However, for the concept of “refinement” and “approach”…HUGE shift in thinking…!!

    I fancy you will love many of them and I look forward to seeing what you think/notice about them…I couldn’t do my work without them or the many “Asian” approaches to traditional woodworking…The “tools” and “approaches” are “that different” from many Western/European modalities of woodworking.



  3. Greg Merritt says:

    A project after my own heart. Salvaged wood and a Japanese flavor. Like me, you will loose your “Western Woodworker” union card. Wrong wood, wrong tools and wrong style…or maybe all of those things are right?…hmmm. 🙂
    Really look forward to following your progress on these toolboxes.

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