I’ve heard a number of fine woodworkers say they usually learn something while teaching woodworking to others. Last night I saw a small example of how that works. It was Sunday evening and we had a little time in the shop before bedtime. And the Boy thought it sounded fun to try cutting a dovetail.
Let me make it clear that I have no business teaching anyone how to cut dovetails by hand. I think I’ve cut a grand total of six my whole life, and they’ve all been of the “practice” variety. But my student didn’t care. He just thought it was fun learning to cut to a line.
He cut the tail lines (tails-first dogma taught here) with the saw. We didn’t have much time so he just chopped out one of the tail-spaces. He worked nicely on the first side, starting with very small chips so as to not bruise the line that will show. Then he progressed to more aggressive pounding and larger chips until he was about half-way through. We flipped the board over and he started the same process on the other side. He took a couple small chips, then started to take a couple aggressive whacks with the mallet. I thought, “That’s too soon. He’s going to ruin the line. (That’s not the way I’ve done it on the six joints I cut.)” Another strong whack, and snap, the waste popped out. And the line was still nice and clean. We both said something like, “wow that went fast.”
After eveyone else was in bed (even the shop beast didn’t visit) I cut practice dovetail number seven, and it went quite a bit quicker than number six.