Personal Observations: Hand Tool Awakenings

Well, well. Making a reproduction Thomas Jefferson portable writing desk ( ) for my wife and part of the design is hand-cut dovetails. Tiny, tiny hand- cut dovetails that no router bit is small enough to cut. I had posted earlier on the topic of hand-cut dovetails and specifically on the half-blinds for the drawer front (a source of significant anxiety for me ;) ).
Anyhoo, I was pleased to find that with a moderate amount of prep and practice and a decent helping of patience I was able to cut good throughs and passable to good half-blinds. Cut some paper thin shims on the bandsaw with the same grain direction as the pins and passable is now good.
I had watched a number of videos on-line and purchased a very nice Japanese pull dovetail saw, as well as a Stanley Sweetheart 1/8" chisel as my set only went down to 1/4". I did mention these were tiny dovetails, right? The plan for the desk actually has you grind a 1/8" down to 3/32" but I wasn't going to get involved in that. I just made my dovetails slightly larger, and as my wife had me increase the drawer depth from 1 3/4" to 3" I had no "authenticity guilt" over doing so.
I find working with decent chisels to be far superior to the router in many ways, not the least feeling much more in control of the cut. The whine of the router always made my back tense up, even when doing the simplest of operations. I had (due to my own impatience) shattered not one, but two all carbide 1/4" router bits recently and that kinda put me off the router. As well as destroying some nice wood with the same failing and poor technique in other incidents.
Chiseling out the bi-level mortise for the lock in the drawer front was a joy. Quiet, soothing work. Doing the escutcheon and the keyhole was fun with a drill and a set of small and aggressive rifflers.
Think that router's gonna see a lot less action from now on :).
When it is done, I will post a link to the project on

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
Add image file

Site Timeline is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.