Finishing the drawers

Where was I?
Right, assembling the dovetailed drawers. But why dovetail them in the first place? I've repaired 18th century furniture where the drawer sides were simply nailed (not very carefully) into rebates in the fronts, and they seem to have lasted quite well.
One argument in favour of dovetails is that they're a mechanical joint, but we live in an age  - and have done for a while - where there is no lack of reliable glues. Drawer sides could equally well be pinned, nailed, screwed, bolted, stapled or just plain epoxied to the fronts and backs.
Before the ubiquitous Leigh dovetail jig with its variable pin spacing there was some cachet to a dovetailed drawer, since it had to be made by hand (let's not get into a discussion of hand vs. machine), but this is no longer true. However, the dovetails pictured here can still only be made "by hand", because the spaces between the individual tails is too small for a router bit to pass between. (Look at old hand-made drawers: there is often only the width of a saw cut between the tails). Such is the snobbery of woodworkers.
Dovetails do look nice though - especially when not machine cut.

Before the meditative digression on mess earlier this week, we left the dovetails dry-assembled. Now it's time to glue up:

DSCN4213Here I'm brushing yellow carpenter's glue between the pins. Not a lot of glue is needed, since the strength of the interlocking joint is not dependent on the glue. 


Next the side is pushed part way home. There's a school of thought which says that dovetails should only be fully assembled once - no trial fittings. This is a hard counsel, but it suits my reluctance to waste time by doing things twice. Every joint is an adventure.


Tapping the joint home with a hammer. Notice that I'm not holding the side square with the front. This is an error. (Though not a critical one).


A little nip with a bar-clamp........and......

We have a drawer (sort of):


Not forgetting to check for square:


In the perfect world of Fine Woodworking, that would be it. Not at 1520 Fulford Ganges Road, though. One dovetail didn't seem to fit quite as planned:


Quite a nasty little gap, in fact. What to do?  As in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the first rule is....don't panic. Mistakes are normal. Perfection isn't, and this a normal mistake, with a normal remedy:

Just cut a nice little wedge of oak, dip into glue, and tap it in. Cut off the surplus right away, thus making sure that the teeth of your expensive Japanese flush cut saw are well and truly gummed up with glue, and then lightly sand with the belt sander.


And bob's-your-uncle:


After fine sanding and oiling, guaranteed completely invisible.


All drawers assembled and awaiting final fitting.