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Project #1

The Dovetail Box

Want to follow exactly what I'm doing?

Optional plans are available to those who don't want to draw their own design and instead replicate my processes and measurements exactly. For more info, read about the online school.

Project Overview

In this quick video, I will brief you on the project ahead so that you know what to expect and can get the most from this course. Many resources are available at your fingertips so don't miss the opportunity to make the most of them!

You will learn:

  • What you need to begin this project
  • How the course is structured
  • What processes you will learn
  • How to use the resources available.

Tool List

Unsure you have all the right tools for the project? This handy guide helps you choose not only the tools you need, but also gives my recommendations in order of preference. It also provides various options to suit different budgets.

You will learn:

  • Tools required for this project
  • Tools recommended for the project
  • My first, second and third choices
  • What to avoid.

Pre-Machined Material Packs

Want to start this project on the right foot? Purchase pre-machined timber in a variety of materials here. Perfect for those who want to avoid the fuss and get stuck straight into the project!

You will get:

  • Timber that is straight, square and parallel
  • A choice of various woods and colours
  • Delivery straight to your door!

1. Dimensioning Material

In this lesson, we will get everything cut to size and marked out ready for laying out the dovetails. There's a lot to learn from this seemingly simple task!

You will learn:

  • The importance of face sides / edges
  • How to cut and shoot components
  • How to label components
  • How to avoid common assembly issues

2. Marking Out Dovetails

In this lesson, I show you how to accurately mark out the tails on a dovetail joint for superior accuracy. I also cover what can go wrong and the consequences as a result.

You will learn:

  • How to layout a dovetail joint
  • Where to set the marking gauge
  • Which dovetail ratio is best
  • How to prevent potential problems

3. Cutting The Tails

In this lesson, you will learn how to cut the male part of the dovetail joint to a professional standard and how to avoid common mistakes beginners make.

You will learn:

  • The most important part of dovetailing
  • How to saw to a line
  • How to chisel the waste
  • How to refine the joint

4. Transferring The Tails

In this lesson, you will learn how to accurate transfer the tails to the pin boards for maximum accuracy and control. Don't miss this important lesson!

You will learn:

  • How to accurately tranfer tails
  • The use of a vee groove
  • Using a pencil vs knife
  • Avoiding and fixing component shift

5. Cutting The Pins

In this lesson, I cover the step that will make or break your dovetails. Unlike the tails where you had some leeway, these components need to be spot on.

You will learn:

  • How to saw to a line
  • How to chisel to a baseline
  • The use of an undercut
  • Testing the fit and diagnosing problems

6. Troubleshooting Problems

If you're dovetails don't quite fit, in this lesson I will share a series of steps that will help you fit the dovetails accurately with maximum control.

You will learn:

  • How to benefit from grain direction
  • Hidden faces and edges within dovetails
  • How to remove waste on pin walls
  • How to remove waste on pin bases

7. Gluing The Box Together

Theres a lot more that goes into gluing up than first meets the eye. Planning, preparation and patience are all needed at this part of the project.

You will learn:

  • How to prepare for a glue-up
  • How to adjust clamps for squareness
  • How to make gluing blocks
  • Avoiding common mistakes when gluing

8. Flushing Off Joinery

In this lesson, we unearth all the hard work that has gone into the previous steps and see what the result is! It also gives an opportunity to fix any small gaps.

You will learn:

  • How to avoid breakout
  • How to take advantage of breakout
  • How to flatten the sides of the box
  • How to flatten the base of the box

9. Planing Edges Square

In this lesson, we begin construction of the lid. You will need to edge joint 3 panels together in order to do this and make a lid that looks good and is also stable.

You will learn:

  • How to orient timber for aesthetics
  • How to orient timber for stability
  • How to edge joint components
  • How to produce a ‘spring joint'

10. Gluing The Lid

In this lesson, I will show you how to glue the lid so that it is flush and flat. Care needs to be taken at this stage as it will save you a whole lot of effort later in the project!

You will learn:

  • How to clamp the components
  • Using clamping cauls
  • Using risers
  • How to account for clamp deflection

11. Attaching The Base

In this lesson, I will show you how to attach the base of the box accurately. It's incredibly easy to blast a screw through the side of your box by doing this wrong!

You will learn:

  • How to cut the base to size
  • How to align the base
  • How to layout screw locations
  • How to drill pilot and clearance holes

12. Sizing and Flattening The Lid

In this lesson, I discover that my lid is incredible twisted and in need of some TLC. This is how I go about flattening and fitting it to the box.

You will learn:

  • How to diagnose twisting and cupping
  • How to flatten a large face
  • How to thickness the lid
  • How to fit the lid

13. Cutting Rebates For The Lid

There are many ways to cut rebates whether its by machine or hand. In this lesson, I show you two methods of creating the rebates incredibly accurately

You will learn:

  • Methods of cutting the rebate
  • How to use a shoulder plane
  • How to use a rebate plane
  • How to refine the rebates

14. Shaping Finger Pull

While the method of removing the lid is up to you, whether thats shaping a finger pull or making a handle, this is how I went about creating my chosen method.

You will learn:

  • Different methods of shaping the pull
  • How to shape a consistent radius
  • How to refine edges without rounding
  • What grits to use

15. Making Plinth Profile

The plinth will hide the plywood base of the box but needs to be rebated in order to be fit. In this video, I show you how to cut the long rebates accurately.

You will learn:

  • methods of cutting the rebate
  • How to clamp the component
  • Laying out marking lines
  • How to cut the long rebate

16. Mitring and Fitting The Plinth

Once the plinth profile has been cut, you now have to accurately mitre it on the corners. In this lesson, I show you multiple ways of achieving a gap free fit.

You will learn:

  • Methods of cutting the mitres
  • How to layout a perfect 45 degree
  • Making a 45 degree shooting board
  • How to extend mitres that are cut short

17. Chamfering The Plinth

In this lesson, I show you how to chamfer the corners of the plinth to complete the profile. Again, there are many ways to do this, all of which are detailed in this video.

You will learn:

  • Different methods of chamfering
  • How to clamp your work
  • How to avoid breakout
  • How to avoid rounding

18. Sanding The Box

Sanding is a topic that isn't often taught, yet may be the difference between having a piece that looks crisp, and having a piece that resembles a wooden cloud.

You will learn:

  • When to use hard vs soft blocks
  • What grits to use
  • How to retain crisp edges
  • How to remove the arris

19. Finishing The Box

In this final part of the project, I show you my personal process when it comes to applying finish to the box in order to achieve a clean, even result.

You will learn:

  • What finishes to use
  • How to apply the finish
  • How to cut back layers
  • How to avoid damage and fingerprints

20. Project Summary

Now that the box is completed, lets reflect back on all the different processes we carried out and the skills you have picked up along the way.

You will see:

  • What skills you learnt
  • What projects to move onto next
  • Viewer projects
  • The finished box


The Collins Complete Woodworkers Manual helped me tremendously when beginning woodworking and I've been recommending it to my viewers and students for years. I'm yet to hear a bad review from them.

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