Thursday, December 6, 2012

We must end EEG now!

Prompted by a recent discussion on a woodworking forum, I must comment here on my dovetail philosophy. It is as follows:

Exposed dovetails are evil and must be eradicated.

The best furniture ever made, in my humble opinion, during any time period, was made in 18th century Philadelphia and Newport.  The makers of these pieces, Affleck, Townsend, Goddard, all of them, took great pains to hide ugly dovetails behind moldings, veneer or with special mitered dovetails.  There simply is no reason to expose dovetails on casework.

Some will argue that dovetails show craftsmanship. Baloney.  Craftsmanship is shown in the overall execution of the piece, the molding work, the proportions, surface quality and, yes, joinery.  But the dovetail is a simple mechanical joint.  Honestly, it takes no great skill to execute adequately (sawing and chiseling to a line is fundamental, not extraordinary), and far, far, far too much attention is given to this one area of woodworking. And it isn't particularly beautiful. It is utilitarian.

The best way to improve your dovetails is to cover them with molding.  This is as true of the finest, Klausz-like dovetails as it is for the average "hacked out with a screwdriver" looking dovetails.

We can eradicate the scourge of exposed end grain (EEG) in our lifetimes...

EDIT: Before I the lynch mob kicks down my door and cuts my Internet, please read this.  This is tongue in cheek, a parody of many of the domineering opinions of so-called "experts" so prevalent in the woodworking media.  I am not trying to change anyone's method of work; I am trying to expand the discussion beyond how to cut dovetails. Dovetails shmovetails, they don't make fine furniture any better.

10 comments:

  1. Zach,

    What are these "Dove Tails" you speak of?
    A poor substitute to proper wrought iron nails, I daresay.

    Peter

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    1. Yes, in fact, they are a poor substitute for proper wrought nails. Nail 'em together, slap a molding on it, collect your 5 shillings a week, and move on to the next project. 5 shillings, of course, assuming you work in Philly. Boston, I don't know, but I'm sure it was less.

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  2. I once saw an article wherein the author argued that if exposed dovetails were a good thing, then so were parts of exposed biscuits. ㋡

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    Replies
    1. That writer shares my viewpoint, not that I would ever use a biscuit.

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    2. Thanks for saying it. Miters, mortise and tenon, even lap joints are more satisfying as they have little pretense.

      Bruce Mack

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    3. Thanks Bruce. I get fed up with the pretense of craftsmanship. Does the dovetail hold, is it strong enough to do the job? That's all that matters in my work.

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    4. I've been telling people for years dovetails are overated and ugly. When I make a box I use a blind dado rabbet joint that allows me to show all the unique aspects of a board. The sides of the box are framed by the cross-section face of the top, front and back board. The cross-section face when sanded smooth and finished is one of the most beautiful things to behold in all the different kinds of woods. This joint also gives me a nice clean look to the front board with no interruptions of disruptive dovetails. I've tried to take apart this joint (I made a mistake) after 5 minutes of gluing and I had to break the wood. So don't tell me dovetails are needed for strength. People tell me if I want a really nice box I have to learn to do dovetails. It is a waste of my time and effort, they are not needed for strength, and they are UGLY!!

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  3. Biscuits should always be covered, preferably with sausage gravy!!! Dovetails not so much. There are some application where I like to see dovetails. On a Goddard tall boy, probably not!

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  4. What are the reasons for hating endgrain? Is it because of the aesthetics? Difficulty in working or finishing? To my eye, much of it is more interesting than long grain plain sawn or split wood. Jeff Peachey

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