Candle Stand and the Sliding Dovetail
Riving/Turning/The Column | The Top/Legs | Without a Lathe | Sliding Dovetails | Finishing  | Related Videos
The Woodwright's Companion: Exploring Traditional Woodcraft By Roy Underhill

Sliding Dovetails

The legs attach to the column by means of dovetails that slide. These are no different from more familiar dovetails except that they are long and solitary. I cut the tails on the legs first and then custom cut their matching receptacles in the column.

If you have been careful in dimensioning the stock for the legs, you can lay out the tails very quickly by using cutting and marking gauges set to scribe the two dimensions of the dovetails. Use a cutting gauge for the long lines down the sides of the leg and you will have the first step of the most accurate means of sawing the shoulder of the dovetail already be gun. Enlarge this incision to a tilted V by drawing a chisel down the waste side of this line and you have a slot in which to begin the saw cut without tearing any of the grain. Make these saw cuts on both sides of the leg down to the other set of gauge marks scribed on the end grain of the tails. Hold your bench chisel down flat and roll out shavings until you touch both the back edge of the leg and the bottom of the saw cut to make perfect tails.

Get the top as true as possible before going to the lathe.Get the top as true as possible before going to the lathe.Attach the block to the top.Attach the block to the top.

Turn the top just as you did the block.Turn the top just as you did the block.

All that remains now is to mate the dovetails on the legs to matching slots cut in the column. Clamp the column at a convenient angle in the vise and sweep the floor beneath it. With a clean floor you stand a better chance of retrieving any chip that may inadvertently break off. If you can find it, you can always glue it back on.

The leg pattern full sized.The leg pattern full sized. Click on the image to see a larger version of the image.Hold the first leg on the side of the base of the column precisely where it will go and scribe down either side of the dovetail. At the upper limit of where the slot will stop in the column make a cross-grained saw cut that goes just deep enough to touch these two side lines. Slide a chisel up from the bottom to cut a flat on the column equal in length and width to the back of the dovetail on the leg. Set the top of the dovetail on the bottom end grain of the column, carefully aligned with the flat, and scribe around its outline. Remove the leg and with a straight edge continue the lines of the narrowest width of the dovetail up the length of the flat on the column.

Now, find the auger bit that most closely fits between the two lines and, at the upper limit of where the slot will go, bore down to the depth that the dovetail will reach. This hole will provide the stopping and clearance for the work to follow. Starting at the bottom, saw down the angle of the sides of the slot as best you can. A short backsaw will do best. Now, with a narrow chisel, slide along and split out as much of the waste wood as you can. A bevel-sided paring chisel will help you clean up the sides and the bottom. The undercut top end of the slot is an odd reach that calls for an odd chisel called a skewed former. A well-made skew is a useful tool to have, but if one is not immediately at hand, you can grind a substitute from a bit of saw blade or an old chisel or do the job with the point of your jackknife. Keep checking and trying the fit until the Cut out the legs with a turning saw.Cut out the legs with a turning saw. leg slides up and stops with a click. The first leg can be set in at any point on the circumference. Once it is in, you can eyeball thirds and continue the process until all the legs are in. Any error that will be noticed in the finished piece is likely to be in the vertical alignment of the legs rather than in gauging equal thirds. There is no reason not to glue the legs into place unless you just don't want to. If the fit is snug enough that they won't come loose of their own accord, you can leave them unglued and slide your dovetails in and out at will. If you have never made fine furniture before, these candle stands are an excellent place to start. They look good, they're easy and useful, and you can make them from a tree with a story behind it. "Remember that old tree that used to stand over by . . ."

More photos.......



"The Woodwright's Companion: Exploring Traditional Woodcraft" By Roy Underhill
© 2012 The University of North Carolina Press

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