I started learning the finer aspects of it in the late 1960's
and about 15 years later became proficient in it.
The bottom line is no matter how highly rated your tools are,
you have a major learning curve ahead of you to be able to cut
perfect joints every time in a wide variety of woods.
Learning joinery is like any other skill that requires lots and
lots of practice. And, it is tied to how patient and tenacious
you are. You have a major advantage over us older woodworkers in
that there are hundreds of skilled joiners available in Facebook
Groups to answer every question you have and assist you in every
In the 1950's and 60's hand woodworking was essentially a nearly
extinct craft but since the 70's has experienced a rebirth and
even a renaissance. In the 1960's I found only one man who was a
master joiner. His name was Bruce Debo and he lived a four-hour
drive from me but we got together when we could and I owe my
knowledge, skills and abilities in the art of joinery to him.
I was already a hand tool woodworker because I lived in The
Ozarks and we did not get electrical service to our home until
1949 and my dad and neighbors continued doing woodworking the
old way because they could not afford power tools until the
In this post we will look at some of the dovetailed joints I
learned to make in 1969-1972. I am glad I kept my practice
pieces because I use them in teaching. They were joined without
glue so they can still be taken apart and examined.
If you don't have the tools yet and a budget to buy new ones,
haunt yard sales and flea markets to obtain your planes for
material preparation. For the actual cutting of dovetails all
you need is a set of chisels and a small fine-cutting backsaw.
You can make a mallet.
You must have some sort of bench with vises and a hold down
because joinery work is done on a rock solid wooden surface. If
you don't have a bench, make one. There are plenty of folks in
Facebook groups to advise you on how to get a bench. So, get a
bench and a few tools and begin!!!
This is a photo of some of my first practice pieces as I learned
joinery. Most of them are made of willow oak because I got some
good boards from a local sawmill at that time.
This is the dovetailed joint that Bruce Debo first taught me how
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