…that nobody is perfect. As I teach myself to hand cut dovetails (with the help of Mr. Becksvoort’s excellent articles on the subject) and prepare to use them in some projects I encounter the same frustrations every woodworker encounters: splits, miscuts, and the sinking feeling that you have ruined a beautiful and not so cheap piece of hardwood (and set back your project timetable).
The feeling of inadequacy in one’s own work is often exacerbated by reading blogs and articles by modern masters or about past masters. I recently watched a video by Chris Becksvoort on how to hand cut a dovetail. Pedagogically it was a really good video–I walked away with a lot of tips that made my dovetails better. However, I also found myself seesawing between saying “hey I can do that” and “man, my dovetails will never look that good.” Seeing the precision produced by woodworking machines and router jigs deepens the sense of a lack of skill for those of use that work mostly with hand tools. Machine cut dovetails are incredibly tight and precise.
I read with delight and some sense of self pardon an article on Eclectic Mechanicals about uncovering mistakes in pieces of Shaker furniture, a style of furniture that has long inspired woodworkers and stood as an apogee of American furniture design and construction. I, for one, really appreciated the reassurance. I am working on a gift for a friend’s birthday that involves dovetail joinery. My dovetails are getting pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good. I am certain my friend will appreciate the gift even with some errors here and there.