The Great Australian Tool Chest Experiment
I’ve been teaching classes on building “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” for two years now, and with every class I find some way of goosing the students a bit further along. Last year at The Woodwright’s School we actually got two of the 12 students completely over the finish line.
This week, I hope to shatter that record in Australia.
Today we finished the second day of the class, and eight of the 12 students have already glued up their carcases with the other four on standby because of other factors.
What’s the difference between this class and the others?
I decided to be a bit of a dictator and insist that the students work more like I do in my shop at home. Here’s what I did – and it might just make you a faster dovetailer.
- Gang-cut the tails. In earlier classes I discussed gang-cutting the tails for the tool chest, which is what I always do at home. But I never insisted that they do it. This time, I didn’t give the students a choice. Gang-cutting speeds the process and makes beginners more accurate. It is my experience that it is easier to cut square across two boards than one.
- Use one standard dovetail layout for all the chests that has fewer tails. In all my classes I show how to use dividers to lay out dovetails, which is my favorite way to work. In the past I always allowed them to choose how many tails they wanted on each corner. This would range from 10 to 18. This time, I insisted on six. I showed them the layout process, but I insisted on six tails and fairly sizable pins (no London dovetails).
- Change the order of operations. In earlier classes I let them cut and fit each corner: Cut the tails, transfer the layout, cut the pins, fit the corner, move on to the next corner and repeat. This class I pushed them to focus on one operation for all four corners before moving onto the next operation. So they cut the tails on all for corners, coped out the waste for all four corners, transferred the joints for all four corners and etc. This – I hoped – would let them develop each of these skills faster because they would spend about two intense hours doing each process.
So far, it seems to be working. We had the first chest glued up after lunch. By 5:30 p.m. we had glued up the eighth. We could have finished at least two more, but someone had a conference call, someone had a split thanks to a case-hardened board and so forth.
— Christopher Schwarz
This chest is from my book “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” which discusses how to build a traditional tool chest and pick the tools to go in it.
Oh, and the Australian idiom of the day: It’s too ribald for the blog (again). It is used to describe a very small distance and uses a fraction of the reproductive anatomy of a bee.