Rob Cosman showed me how to lay out dovetails using dividers about 12 or 13 years ago, and I have never looked back.
I’ve caught a lot of crap for using the divider method from fellow hand-tool woodworkers who say that laying them out by eye is much faster. I don’t disagree.
However, there are some advantages to taking the extra time and use dividers.
1. My work looks more consistent from corner to corner. This doesn’t matter much with drawer work, but it does show on chests and carcases where you can see two or three corners simultaneously.
2. When I make an occasional mistake, the consistent layout allows me to get away with it.
What do I mean by that? Take this morning for example. I’m teaching a class in building a tool chest and am making the dovetailed skirting that goes around the carcase. I got my parts turned around and ended up using the wrong tail board to mark out the pins on the skirt.
When I discovered the error, I muttered a curse at myself for being such a dolt.
But then I put the pieces in the correct orientation and they fit perfectly anyway because my layout was precise and identical at all four corners. Problem solved (see the photo above).
— Christopher Schwarz
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