Dutch Tool Chest Part 2: Dovetail success; let the carcass begin

With the dimensions figured and the materials purchased, the first step was to cut the dovetails that attach the sides of the Dutch Tool Chest to the bottom board. One of the reasons this build appealed to me as a beginning woodworker is that it incorporates one set, and only one set, of dovetails. The rest of the case is connected by fasteners, but as with a drawer front, the bottom of the chest will handle the most stress. The flared tails will firmly secure the bottom of the chest when it is lifted.

My weeks of daily practice cutting dovetails paid off, as I cut the joint successfully on the first try. They’re not perfect, but they work and I don’t think they look too bad for a beginner.

Hand cut dovetails on a dutch tool chest

They’re not the prettiest dovetails, but for a beginner, I’m pretty happy with them.

I’ve discovered that hand saw skills are based on three things: Stance, muscle memory and confidence. As in golf, tennis and most sports, success stems not from the hands or arms, but through tuning the entire body to make and repeat the correct action starting with the placement of the feet and proper “ready” position of the core. Once the these aspects are properly dialed in, the cut becomes repeatable.

The right equipment matters too. Prior to starting the chest, I had been cutting dovetails with this Crown Gent’s Saw. It’s a good saw… love it for cutting small rabbets and dadoes… but the straight handle makes control difficult for angled cuts. During my practice I had promised myself that once I cut a successful dovetail I would reward myself with a good dovetail saw. After lots of research I chose the Veritas, which I bought at the Libertyville Woodcraft. I also picked up a Veritas dovetail saddle marker while I was there. I’ll post a review of the saw later, but suffice it to say I’m happy with it. It’s well balanced and comfortable and a huge improvement over the Gent’s saw. I went with the fine-cut, 20-ppi version only because it was the one they had in stock at Woodcraft.

How to build a dutch tool chest

The sides and bottom attached and square.

With the sides and bottom attached and square, it was time to move on to the carcass. At this point, I honestly thought the hard part was behind me and the rest of the build would be done in a few hours.

I was wrong.


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