Friday, February 27, 2009

Apricot wood and dovetails

This is kind of a complainy post, so keep out if you want. You have been warned.

I'm teaching myself to make dovetail joints on wood. The first time I tried it, I used green sapwood (apricot) which I milled from a small (thigh-sized) log. It worked fairly well, except that the joints weren't light-tight, and the wood subsequently warped out of true, resulting in a funny-shaped box two weeks later.

Let me just say right now that I spent five hours turning a chunk of log into some small boards to make a box, and apricot wood has got to be some of the most brittle, opinionated wood I've ever met. If you look at it wrong, it splits. If you sneeze at the wrong angle, it shatters. And just try to find a place without a preexisting split. It's beautiful wood, though.

Nor does it help that the table saw I've got is prone to angling itself in the middle of a cut, grabbing the log and refusing to let go, and hopping around while you're trying to saw. Some of this may be fixed with a new blade, some of it is a result of having a lightweight table saw.

Today I spent at least 2 hours sanding down four of the straightest, most uniform boards, and then another hour carving the first set of hidden dovetails into what will eventually become a box. It's a nervewracking feeling to be continually striving for perfection in the materials, only to go onto still higher probability in the next step of ruining it all.

As it stands, I have one eighth of the joinery for this box finished. If it works out, I'll be proud. There are people (Kevin and Ari, for example) who will ask me why, if I'm learning a difficult skill, would I not do it on something easy, like pine or birch. The answer is that I don't have a lot of pine or birch out in my backyard, and I'm just that cheap and lazy.


Boydo said...

Well, I suppose that learning on something really impossible to work with will make using an easier wood in the future very straightforward.

Jen said...

Hey, using more difficult materials gives you even more reason to be proud when you finish it, even if it doesn't come out as perfect as you would like it to be.