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Working with Hands - James E. Price

  Learning Joinery 1 of 3  

This post is a word of encouragement for beginning unplugged woodworkers who are interested in learning joinery.



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 way possible.

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 1960's.

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 to make.

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