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Woodworker's Guide to Dovetails


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About the Author

Ernie Conover is a highly published author in the woodworking field with seven books, four videos and hundreds of articles to his credit. His work has received numerous awards and been the subject of several one-man shows. He lectures widely for clubs, trade show groups and woodworking stores.


"Dovetails--the hallmark of fine furniture--are finally demystified! Superb!" --Scott Phillips, host, "The American Woodshop" on PBS television
WOODWORKER'S GUIDE TO DOVETAILS, by Ernie Conover, takes the mystery out of how to make the savvy woodworker's corner joint of choice - the dovetail. The hallmark of fine furniture everywhere, the dovetail can be made in several different ways, and this new illustrated instructional guide covers them all, using easy-to-understand instructions and step-by-step projects. Conover, a professional furniture maker and woodworking teacher, walks readers through the methods for cutting full, half-blind and through dovetails using hand tools. After woodworkers learn the basics, they will move on to mastering the many popular router-driven jigs available on the market today, including the Leigh, Kellar, Omni, WoodRat, Incra, Akita, Sears and Powermatic.
Dovetails - the hallmark of fine furniture, are finally demystified! Conover's Woodworker's Guide to Dovetails is a masterpiece! It's about time that someone explained every dovetail in "THE Book"! Superb!
Ernie Conover maintains that the professional maker has much to gain from utilising handcut and machined dovetails: the client who can afford the work will appreciate 8: 1 empires while many other customers will be grateful for the economy that mechanisation brings to the invoice. As he points out, four joints can be routed in the time it takes t0 handcut one. This book then does not attempt to say one way is better than the other but it does show you how to understand the joint via its history, anatomy, cutting techniques and tools necessary for the perfect tight joint. Ernie shows you how to handcut through, half-blind and full-blind dovelails before demonstrating what routers and jigs can do as well. Drawings are simple black and white but they do their job with clarity and make the maths of angle determination look easy. Much use is made of step-by- step photography which performs the job of a masterclass, and anyone who has been a bit sniffy about jigs might just allow one in the workshop after the machine use sequences have been seen. For anyone who is shy about cutting their first dovetails, whether by hand or machine, this could push them over the threshold into the realms of fine woodworking.
Everything is presented in clear step-by-step photos to help you master the techniques you choose.
Fox Chapel Publishing has released two new books: "Woodworker's Guide to Bending Wood" by Jonathan Benson (ISBN: 978-1-56523-360-7), and "Woodworker's Guide to Dovetails" by Ernie Conover (ISBN: 978-1-56523-387-4). The Woodworker's Guide to Bending Wood is a comprehensive instructional guide that teaches woodworkers how to easily enhance their woodworking with curved surfaces, like those found on beautiful pedestal tables, guitars, shaker boxes, curved handrails and more. It provides methods for bending with heat, steam, water, and how to bend green wood, veneers and laminations. Woodworker's Guide to Dovetails is a comprehensive instructional guide that teaches woodworkers how to create both hand-cut and machined dovetails. Scott Phillips, the Host of American Woodshop, has called this book a "masterpiece!"
Fox Chapel Publishing has a selection of excellent woodworking books in their catalogue. The Woodworker's Guide to Dovetails is a perfect introduction to the art of cutting a dovetail. The book can be divided into two sections with the first detailing the history of the joint and the tools used to craft it. The bulk of section one is then dedicated to the art of cutting dovetail joints by hand, starting first with a simple through dovetail and then finishing with a step-by-step guide to cutting full-blind mitred dovetails. The second section of the book reviews dovetailing machines and gives you detailed step-by-step instructions on their correct set-up and use. The only disappointing omission in this US publication is the wonderful Australian Gifkin Dovetailing system. This soft cover book is jam-packed with eye candy for woodworkers. If you are considering buying a dovetail machine then this book is a must.
This is another in the Fox Chapel series of 'Woodworker's Guide To' books. Scott Phillips said "It's about time ..Dovetails are finally demystified! Superb!" This is another woodworker that fully concurs. The dovetail, one of the finest and strongest wood joint has been elusive to many woodworkers due in most part to its complexity and precision. Author and woodworker Ernie Conover (seven books, four videos and a teacher at Conover Workshops) takes us through the history of the dovetail although he says that it predates history. The dovetail has been discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs as well as early Chinese Dynasties. Conover continues to describe the anatomy of the dovetail and he tells us about the essential tools used to make them. As a novice or a pro of joinery you will really appreciate the author's simplification of the hand cut dovetail. If the hand cut dovetail intimidates you, fear not, the author takes us through all of the various commercially available dovetail jigs and simplifies their use. This is an excellent book that should be on every workbench.
A comprehensive explanation of the creation of dovetail joints, using machinery as well as hand tools. Common as it may be, the dovetail is still the hallmark of fine handmade furniture, and mastery is essential. This book is the latest in a series, following on from Bending Wood, Sharpening and Veneer and Inlay, all excellent titles. Ernie Conover is a well known author/woodworker whose tour of tools, techniques and jigs leaves no woodchip unturned.
Love 'em or hate 'em, the dovetail is essential to the woodworker for producing fine, desirable joints, so it is a good idea to learn how to do them the right way and by the method which works best for you, whether this be by hand or by machine. The debate has long raged between makers as to which is the ideal way, so someone fairly new to woodworking would be forgiven for getting somewhat confused as to which direction to turn. It's a relief, therefore, that Ernie Conover has decided to show you how it's done using both methods. The Woodworker's Guide to Dovetails lets you make the choice. Learn how to cut full, half-blind and through dovetails by hand, and discover how to master router jigs. Everything is presented in clear step-by-step photos to help you master the techniques you choose.
I'm sure more tools have been thrown and more tears shed over cutting dovetails than any other aspect of woodworking. Sure, there are quite a few steps involved, and any mistakes are in full view, but the scariest thing is that all your non-woodworking friends instantly judge a piece by the quality of the dovetails - hence the pressure to get them right. The traditional way is to layout and cut the dovetails by hand whether they are through dovetails, half-blind dovetails, or full-blind dovetails. Conover guides you through the process of cutting and fitting all three types with the aid of his own drawings and photos. However, even if you're an expert with a saw and a chisel, the process is fairly slow, and most woodworker's hand-tool skills are a little shaky. To make the process faster and easier, manufacturers have come up with a bewildering array of jigs to help you cut dovetails with the aid of a router. After giving an overview of machine-cut dovetails, Conover demonstrates the most popular jigs on the market including those from Keller, Leigh, Porter Cable, Woodrat and Akeda. If you are in the market for dovetail jig, this book will give you a greater in depth comparison of the different makes than you will find in any tool review. Alternatively, if you've decided that this is the time to finally master the hand-cut dovetail then you'll also get plenty of help. The only gap in this book is hybrid methods of cutting dovetails where both power and hand tools are employed. For example you can use a specially ground blade on the tablesaw to cut the pins, while a router can remove the bulk of the waste leaving a chisel to pare to the line.
In the debate amongst woodworkers over hand-cut and machined dovetails -- a joint used in fine furniture -- Ernie Conover's new book is the referee. The recently released "Woodworker's Guide to Dovetails," published by Pennsylvania-based Fox Chapel Publishing, teaches woodworkers how to create both types of dovetails. Author Ernie Conover, a Parkman Township resident since 1971, does not play favorites. The difference between the two is largely the time it takes, he explains moving around his workshop, which sits about 600 feet in front of his home. "Time is money," he says. "You can either spend money saving time or spend time saving money, but you can't do both." In many ways, Conover is what you would expect from a modern-day Master Woodworker. Sipping coffee in his showroom, he explains he started teaching woodturning classes in 1975 and grew up in a craft-oriented family. A large black-and-white picture of his father, Ernest R. Conover Jr., dressed in apron and hat sits above his work area. Conover also has an impressive collection of old wood planes, used to thinly shave wood to produce a smooth finish. He's been collecting them since he was a boy, and has always had a strong attachment to history. "History is very important to me. It's the way we connect with life -- by looking back," he said. But hidden within the lathe and work benches in this upstairs shop, there are tripods, cameras and a large overhead light source. Don't be fooled by the dusty feel. Conover is as savvy with technology as he is with a chisel. "Dovetails" is his eighth book, with a ninth about to be finished. He started writing for "Fine Woodworking Magazine" and developed relationships that led to his first work, "The Lathe Book," now in its second edition. A virtual one-man operation when undertaking a print project, he points to all of the dovetail jigs he used in the machine-cut portion of his latest book. He does all of his own photographs -- cropping, toning -- and supplies publishers with the drawings and text. His home office provides him with a 3-D computer drawing program, and Conover answered many questions via live internet chat for this story. For his book on dovetails, Conover, who has loved photography since he was 12, traveled to Yale University and took photographs of the college's historical pieces. "It's arguable that other joints don't have the enduring strength," he says of the dovetail. On the issue of whether a hand-cut or machined dovetail is preferable, Conover said it depends on the job. He estimates he can save some clients thousands of dollars by machining dovetails in their furniture as opposed to cutting them by hand. "When I hand cut," he describes, rotating from bench to bench, "it requires some real time." He showed a drawer where the dovetail was so fine it could not be cut by machine. Another drawer had an intricate dovetail dating from the American Revolution -- when they were all hand cut. "It's like artwork," he said. "The original is hand painted, yet a computer could be involved and get the job done faster and produce more of them. Money is the big thing." Carole Pollard of Mantua Township was familiar with Conover's work from exhibits at art shows. Something he created from a very large maple tree had impressed her. "I can only do something like this once. I can't furnish my entire house with his stuff" she said when she decided to commission a compact disc case for her home's "music alcove," in December of 2008. "I wanted an actual piece of furniture that would actually hold all of my CD's. Something I could open without using a flashlight and magnifying glass." So after consultation with Conover, in which she learned some of her original ideas were not feasible, a cherry case was constructed 2 feet high and 6 feet long that had 12 drawers. "I wanted an unusual wood, but not something that looked like a reddish plastic. It completely changes the look of the room." Conover's home is filled with fine furniture, as he estimated he could build a $2,000 hardwood table with $200 in supplies. He made his wife, Susan, who teaches fiber art like spinning and weaving, a cherry bed for their anniversary. Their bedroom has 99 raised wooden panels on the walls. Still, economic fears among customers and students have put some strain on Conover Workshops. While he normally takes eight students at a time into his classes, more classes are having open spots. "Two guys from Norway signed up but had to cancel," he said. But Conover has seen tough times before. "It's always surprising to me," he said of his ability to make a living doing something he's so passionate about. "Things come together for a reason." For more information on Ernie Conover's books or Conover Workshop classes, visit or call directly at (440) 548-3491.

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