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There’s a lot going on in the photo above that’s important when making casework.

I have two case sides for a chest clamped together before dovetailing them. Here is a quick summary of what I’m doing:

  • I’m going to dovetail both pieces at once, called “gang-cutting.” This saves time and makes it easier to keep your saw at 90° across the thickness of the boards.
  • But before I can dovetail them, I have to confirm they are dead square and the same size. If the pieces are out even a little bit, then drawers or tills won’t slide, lids won’t fit, bottoms will be wonky, moulding will be gappy. Take the extra 10 minutes to plane your carcase parts to dead, dead, rotten square. It’s worth the extra effort.
  • I have them propped on a little $4 paint bucket. I use this bucket for a lot of things, but its most important job is to help align the bottoms case pieces when I square them up. I really dislike plastic, but in this case, its extruded perfectness makes a perfectly flat plane for the carcase pieces to rest against. For smaller carcase pieces, I have a bigger bucket.

One last thing: Don’t skimp on measuring equipment. Whether your squares are wood or metal, make sure they are dead accurate and treat them like baby birds.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 8 comments
  • 8iowa

    Gang cutting dovetails……interesting……I hope we learn more about this technique.

    I have a plastic bucket in the shop, but before I can use it I have to find someplace to put all the scrap pieces that it’s normally full of.

  • timmyt

    Chris, what is the ginormous combination square?

  • GuiceWoodworks

    On the other hand how do you deal with boards that are too tall for you to saw? Do you stand on the bucket?(kidding/not kidding)

  • Christopher Schwarz

    I try to learn every skill I can with both hands – hammering, sawing, carving, planing, even drinking my coffee. It gets me out of many awkward situations (especially carving).

  • Pleasanton

    Do you plane right and left handed? I’m trying to learn for situations like your picture: big boards are clamped well & I want to touch up to get to square – sometimes grain direction or blowing out the end grain makes me wanna go south paw.

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