Friday, September 30, 2011

Woodworks by John: Design Process

     In a recent conversation the subject of how to go about about designing projects came up.  Many times the client initiates the process with either sketches or pictures of what they want.  Some of them are so descriptive when they talk about their visions then that's all you need to get you going.  The technique that works well for me is that a design  can germinate in my mind for a long time which is then followed by rough sketches to visualize it.  That's how the design for the Dovetail Chair came about.  I built several mock-ups played around with the joinery, angles, dimensions, etc. and ended up with a set of chairs that are comfortable, stylish, and were awarded an Honorable Mention at the Design in Wood competition.
     We were watching an HGTV show that Vern Yip hosted about an urban condo they are planning to give away in Chicago.  He was talking with his assistant and mentioned places he likes to go to get design inspirations.  Can't quote it directly but what it boiled down to is that you never know what stays in your mind when you just observe things that may come out in a later design.  He's right!!!, as they were walking around in some recycled furniture store I saw a set of tables that inspired me for the ones that have been playing around in my mind for a long time now.
Initial Prototype
     If this were a project for a client I would refine it and present them with a drawing of the project.  If, as is the case here, it's a speculation piece or for personal use I like to play around with it in three dimensions.  You can use cardboard, MDF, or an inexpensive wood such as Poplar.  This photo shows the first general shape of these tables.  Their purpose is twofold, first as occasional tables that are just right to put by a sofa or chair and secondly to fill a blank wall space.  By placing them against the wall so together they will present a larger surface that could be utilized for .....?  I like the shape and size and have selected Walnut for the framework and Zebrawood for the insert.  The struggle has been with the legs.  Heck, you can find a four legged table anywhere so let's see what can be done with three!  Didn't want to have a "sea of legs" when they were parked against the wall.

    The first concept was to cut notches and attach the legs into those.  You can see I experimented with placement of them on the rear.  After doing that and looking at them for a while it just seemed awkward and bulky.  The next idea was to have the legs extend up, into the frame with an exposed and splined tenon.  This, on the other hand, looked too slim and fragile.  Finally, after seeing the tables on the HGTV show I came up with the design I like, that's the one in the lower right side.  Good thing too because the Popular prototype for the frame was running out of space!  The mockup leg is made of MDF and consists of a through tenon that is angled out 10 degrees to add stability and give a sense of movement.  In reality, there will be one centered in the short end and two across the back.  Good, you have the design, now, how are you going to build it?
     For the prototype, where only one thing is required it's no problem to work it out the best you can but when it comes to making three tables and nine legs plus the joinery it helps to have some type of consistent set up.  My work method is to use power tools to basically rough out what I can and then finish with hand tools to refine and fit every part into its proper place.
Mortising 45 degrees at the rear
The front through mortise was no problem.  The rear ones are cut 45 degrees to the back frame member.  I needed to make a jig that would hold the frame at that angle plus clamp down during the mortising operation.  This is the set up for one side, the clamp was re-positioned to the other edge for the others.

Now comes the mating part of the mortise, the tenons.  The legs were left long and the mortise will be cut longer than needed as well.  By angling my tenoning jig at 10 degrees every leg will cant out the same amount.  Each leg required two passes and are cut slightly oversize.

Cutting 10 degree tenons


After each tenon was cut, I used a rabbet block plane to fit them to the mortises as far as their width goes.  The length of the mortise is about 1 1/8" and the leg is currently 2 1/4" wide.  Each leg will be custom fit into its' location.
Trimming Tenons
There are several more steps to the legs.  After they are fit into their mortises they will first be angled on the front faces.  Then they'll need to be tapered to about an inch or so at the bottom so they will appear light and delicate.  Where they enter the table frame will be splined.  Basically that involves cutting two narrow slots in the tenon and then driving in a wedge to secure the joint.  You can see how it will look in the practice piece behind.

Prototype Leg
Here's another view of the mock up, do you agree that there is a sense of movement in the design?  I like how shadow and light will play on the angles cut into the front of the leg. In reality, there will be one leg centered on the front and two across the back.  I'll keep you informed as we go through this process. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Card Scraper -- Thanks Jim!

     One of the items used by cabinet makers and furniture builders alike is the cabinet scraper.  What is it?, not much more than a piece of metal with a burnished edge that can be pulled or pushed along the face of the wood and make it incredibly smooth.  Works extremely well on wood with interlocked grain.  As a kid, I remember my uncle scraping the paint off of a piano using nothing more than pieces of glass.  Of course he allowed us kids to do it in an inconspicuous place and it worked.  When the glass no longer scraped off the finish we just got another piece of broken window glass -- hey, we are Dutch after all!
     What brings all of this about is that on the last day of class, one of the students asked me about using card scrapers and my luck with them.  I had to admit that lately I've struggled with it but had good success in the past and was somewhat puzzled.  That prompted me to re-visit the scraper and do some research.  There is a ton of it so let me summarize what I learned and what works.
     The first problem is that my one card scraper had been burnished so many times the edge was "work hardened" and no matter how I tried to burnish it, it wouldn't hold the hook that does the cutting.  More on that aspect of it later.  My first step was to use a single cut file in a holder and really work the edge down. The purpose of the holder is to keep it square to the blade.  It can be bought or you can cut a file sized groove in a block of wood and use that.  Probably removed at least an 1/8 of an inch or so.  In the picture below, you can barely see a holder I use.  It's in the vise, on the left side and is nothing more than a piece of wood, split 2/3 of the way that I insert the card scraper into.  It's then put in the vise and clamped in place.

Whoops, no steel safety toes!
     After filing, I marked the edge with a Sharpie and using a block of wood to keep it at 90 degrees, ran it over a 1000 grit water stone to burnish it.  I then laid it on its' side and did the same for the flat sides of the scraper.  The goal is to get two sides and one edge that is smooth and square.  The smoother the piece of steel is, the better your cut will be.
     Burnishers -- there are two in the picture.  The triangular one is an official, store bought version.  The other is a fuel pump push rod from a 1973 Capri  V-6 that I've had since replacing that car's fuel pump in '75 or so.  If I were going to buy one I'd definitely not get the triangular one, it tended to catch the edge when I used it.  There are round and oval ones available commercially that I'd buy instead.  Your first burnishing action is to lay the scraper flat, apply a drop of oil on the edge and run the burnisher along the flat, side edge 5-6 times.  The purpose is to "draw" the steel towards the outside.  Now it's time to put it back into the holder and burnish the edge to form the hook that will smooth your wood.
     In my frustration with not being able to get a hook anymore, I bought the black thing you see at the top of the board.  This works well, it's from Veritas and has a burnishing rod that you can adjust for any angle up to about 15 degrees.  The only problem is that it was difficult for me to start it right at the beginning of the scraper.  I found that I could get equally good results with it or the old push rod.  The triangular one -- not so much.  I think it's destined for E-bay!
     As I thought about it, the major problem I and probably others have when you burnish is knowing where the heck 10 degrees or so is!  Familiar angles like 90 or 45 we can get a pretty decent guess on but 10 degrees isn't that common.  What I did and it worked great for me was to take an angle checker (upper left of picture) and set it at 10 degrees.  I then had a visual to look at and match my hands angle to it and have success!  Three to five strokes is all it took to form a nice hook.
     In practice, you hold the scraper in both hands and flex the blade.  I find that I'm a puller but you can do either -- push or pull.  By adjusting your angle the scraper will take fine shavings off of the wood much like a plane will.  These are pretty aggressive with a 10 degree hook, lessening the angle to half of that should result in a lighter cut.  You should be able to put a hook on both sides of each edge including the short ends.  At this point I've only done one side.
     So, there you have it.  You can do lots of research on the web to find more details but this is one of those woodworking things that once you find what works for you ----- leave it alone!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Project -- A Present

     Well, I can't really say who or what occasion this latest project is for but he's turning one year old and it has elements of his crib incorporated into it.  I know his parents don't see facebook or my blog so I'll just hope that others who may will keep it a secret until he gets it!  I won't put the completed project on the blog until we've given it to him so that'll be mid-October.
     Let me start at the end of this project since that is the best look, everything else will be an explanation of how I got to this point.  When I made the crib, I cut more of the Walnut pyramid shaped blocks than I needed thinking there could be a future use for them.

Final Smoothing Done

I used a piece of Maple and banded it with Walnut on both edges.  Those are the materials the crib is made of.  This is after all of the machine work was completed and the surface is now ready for several coats of super blonde shellac.  Wanted to do that today but it was pretty close to 90 degrees and it would have dried way too fast so it'll be a morning project.  In the class I just taught we spent a little bit of time on using planes to achieve the final surface as opposed to sanding.  The bronze, #4 Smoother Plane you see at the end of the board is perfect for this.  This picture is with natural light, no flash, and you can see some of the gleam in the lower right hand corner of the piece.  Can't get that with sandpaper, it's only with a keen cutting edge that you can achieve that look!

First steps after Laminating
The first step was too laminate two pieces of Walnut to both long edges of the Maple piece.  The thing you need to be careful of here is that the grain runs the same way on all three pieces when you laminate them together.  Whether you use a hand plane as I do or a power planer this is a real important consideration.  If the grain direction is not taken into consideration, you'll find that the wood will tear as you plane with the grain on one piece but against the grain on the adjoining one.  Then you have little choice but to sand it smooth.

Coping Saw

The next step was making a template that could be used to remove the waste for the Walnut pyramid inlay.  In this case I used a piece of MDF, calculated the opening size and then drilled holes in each corner.  A simple coping saw is ideal for this step and takes very little time to complete.

Chisel in MDF

MDF, being layers of tightly compressed paper can be filed easily.  I thought I'd experiment and see what a chisel would do instead.  I used one of my "beater" chisels and as you can see, the layers of paper cut cleanly.


Whoops,  needed to make two cut outs before I got it right.  I almost wonder if I should have just traced the inlay onto the board and worked it free-hand ..... maybe next time.

After using a plunge router equipped with a guide bearing and a 1/4" straight bit the recess was finished off with a small router plane and chisel.

Router Plane & Chisel to finalize Inlay
All that remained was to locate and drill the holes needed for the things I can't show yet! Since this will be hung on the wall I also used a keyhole bit to put a couple of slots on the back.  I had a deja vu moment when I did that.  When the school district shut down the woodshops in middle school, I kept the guide I'd made for the class to use on just this very same operation.  Heck, Jennifer probably used it when she was in my class in 7th. grade!

Keyhole Slot
The last step of todays process was to spokeshave a very slight chamfer on the front edges to ease them ever so slightly.  Love that corkscrew shaving coming out of my spokeshave.

Look at that Spiral!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hand Tool Class Ended

Yesterday, Thursday 9/22, marked the last day of the Hand Tool Class and I'm sad to see it end!  Other than giving one on one lessons in my shop or doing a demonstration at the Sin City Woodworkers meetings this is the first class I've had teaching adults woodworking skills. The last time I worked with adults is when I was a teacher's assistant at Diablo Valley Junior College and San Francisco State but that was in the mid-seventies so everything has changed a bit!  Being so used to keeping on top of anywhere from 20 to 35 students in a middle school shop having the opportunity to simply teach a technique, demonstrate it, and then mill around helping where needed was a welcome change.  It's been said that I "pre-worry" and working with these students I didn't have to worry at all.  The only stress I had was self imposed, wanting to cover so many things and not enough time to get it all in.  Working with and in Jamie Yocono's  shop and school was a pleasure.  We plan to collaborate and do it again some time.
Here is a picture of the proud students and the work that they produced:

The Results!
Everyone continued working through the entire last day, as with any woodworking project about the only time you're really forced to stop is while you wait for the glue to dry.  I was able to do a demonstration on the sharpening technique I use and brought in a paring chisel for the demo.  One of the students used it to pare the dovetails on his cabinet.  Everyone who used it liked the idea of having that longer handle for added control, it's 15" long chisel so that seems huge!

Paring Chisel in Use

The final machine steps included cutting a groove in the bottom of the drawer for the bottom:

Routing Drawer Groove
 Since this left radiused corners the edges need to be rounded over with a file or block plane or .........
             OMG, is that a power tool in a hand tool class?

Hard at work with the half blind dovetails.  For most woodworkers they are a bit more complicated to do but this student whipped through them in record time and said they were easier and more enjoyable for her, cool!

Half Blind Dovetails
All in all, teaching this class was a great experience.  I hope we do it again down the road.  I talked to a couple of people at the last meeting of Sin City Woodworkers who expressed an interest in taking the class if it's offered at night.  I think that's in Jamie's plans when she works on next semesters schedule.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Experimental Blog


Well, I thought that this Photo Booth picture of Ali would get some attention.  I've been having some of those technical computer $&%$%*^&^& issues where my blog doesn't seem to automatically go to facebook.  If you see this on facebook could you just leave a comment saying so?  I'd appreciate it.
Posted this blog at 4:30pm on Tuesday 9/20

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Coming to the Finish Line

     Thursday's class session began with a demonstration on making and using a scratch stock and ended up with assembling the cabinet.  There are two more sessions next week and I'm confident that the projects will be completed by then.  Students will probably have to finish them at home but that shouldn't be a problem for any of them.  Once again, very pleased with the progress we're making and how hard everyone is working on the joinery.  Hand cut dovetails can be daunting -- everything needs to be "just so" but if it isn't there is a trick for that.  It's called a "Dutchman" and I really like it because it refers to my heritage.  We'll be learning about it on Tuesday as well as taking our dovetail skills to the next level and cutting half blind versions for the drawers.  In the meantime, here's a few pictures showing Thursday's work.

Pondering ......
and Thinking ....
.... but now it's Glued Up!
     After the glue is dried and it  has set overnight, or until Tuesday in our case, it's time to trim the ends of the dovetails flush with the rest of the case.  Traditionally they are left slightly proud, this is done with a sharp plane and chisel if needed.
Trimming the Tails

     See everybody on Tuesday, think about what you want to do for a drawer handle.  I'll discuss some ways you could make your own from a scrap of cool looking wood you may have laying around.

Lie-Nielsen: Small Bronze Spokeshave

Beautiful Tool !!
     In the hand tool class I'm teaching, we're using a variety of tools and my goal is to expose the students to methods of work that are an alternative to using power tools. Not that there's anything wrong with power tools, it's just a whole other experience doing the work quietly, listening to the sound the cutters make as you apply them to the wood.  So much to learn by listening, the wood does talk to you and let you know whether or not your technique is correct, your tool is sharp, and the cut is just so.
     One of my favorite tools is the spokeshave.  Just as the name implies, it's original use was to form the wooden spokes on wheels for wagons and later cars.  I showed the class my old Stanley version and also the one I made myself so they could experience how these tools work.  Our project has a gently curved, bandsawed edge and the spokeshave is ideal for smoothing it out to a fair curve.  Only problem is where there is a slight inward cove -- for that you need a spokeshave with a radiused edge.  I've had my eye on this spokeshave for quite some time so in the interest of educating my students decided to buy it, sounded like a perfect excuse to open my wallet!
    Lie-Nielsen is a custom tool maker located in Maine.  Their tools are beyond compare in quality, and they have customer service where you actually talk to a person!  They will answer questions or give you advice on how to best sharpen, select, or use one of their tools.  Here is a  link to their website so you can see them for yourself.  Their tools are ready to use, right out of the box.  It is recommended that you hone them for optimum performance.  Most other manufacturers tools require more preparation than theirs do.  For cutting tools to really work well, the backs need to be perfectly flat, the sides should be parallel, and the casting that holds the blade should be flat as well.  Preparing this blade took very little time plus there is a video on YouTube, made by Lie-Nielsen that showed the best method to prepare the blade.
     In the class, we've discussed how a sharp tool will improve the quality of the work.  It's also much safer to use a tool that is sharp compared to forcing a tool to do the work that isn't sharp.  What you look for as you sharpen is the scratch pattern made by the stone.  I use Norton waterstones and started out with a 4000 grit and ended with a final honing on an 8000.  Below is a photo essay showing the progression of the sharpening process, you can see by the scratch pattern that there is a small area near the center of this blade that needed attention:
After 3-4 Passes
More ......
..... keep going
Almost there

See the Reflection?
     That's what you're looking for whenever you sharpen a tool.  Doesn't matter if it's a spokeshave, plane iron, or chisel.  The scratch pattern is so fine it'll have a mirror finish.  You remove the burr created by sharpening from the back, install the blade, and you should be good to go.
Setting up and Practicing

Blade Installed

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ready For Delivery

     I'm happy to say that the Faux Barrister Bookcase is ready for delivery however; the weather is just not going to cooperate!  After bemoaning how hot is was last month and the delays in gluing up, now it's raining and I really don't think it's wise to give it the water test.  I spoke with my clients last night and they're excited to get their piece but patient too.  Here's a couple of pictures that I took in the shop last night, unfortunately I couldn't assemble the piece by myself so for now we'll just have to use our imagination as to how it'll look as one piece.  I'll definitely take my camera and try to get some photos in their house.
     There's quite a difference in the overall appearance of the unit with the doors, knobs, and glass installed.  The oval shape you see is the access for electronic cables, there is access inside of each unit to allow flexibility. It's pretty obvious now but once the unit is placed into the media niche and things are put into it it won't be seen.
Upper Unit

     I'm sure thankful for the furniture dollies that Harbor Freight sells so cheaply, they make a world of difference in being able to move pieces around the shop to where I want them.

Straight on View

3/4 View

One of the main items destined for this unit is a turntable.  It'll be housed in the largest area. The placement of it pretty much determined the spacing and sizes of the remaining shelves.  We wanted it to be at a comfortable level for easy access to the turntable.

From this 3/4 view you can see how the molding creates the illusion that these are separate units, just like traditional Barrister Bookcases would be.  You can imagine how this look will continue once the upper unit is placed on top.  The custom molding that wraps around it like a skirt will conceal the material of the top of the base unit and give the appearance of one, continuous bookcase.

     We were talking about doing custom furniture work in my class yesterday and we all agreed that the final steps of a project seem to take the longest.  It sounds quick and simple to say; "all that's left is putting on the doors, back, and hardware" when in reality these things are quite time consuming and have a fair share of head scratching!  For example, let's look at the brass pins used for the doors to pivot and move on:

Cutting Pins
The process was to first use wooden dowels to check for side play of the door.  Since I used jigs and stops to drill the pin holes theoretically everything should have been the same.  They were pretty darn close, that's where being careful through out the building process pays off.  What was involved was to first create a bevel on the both ends of the pin (1/4" brass rod), cut it to the required size using the jig shown in the picture, and then using some super glue and a hammer to gently coax the pin into the sides of the door.

Roller Set-Up

The door needs a means of support at the front of the case as the pin travels in the groove.  Traditionally all that is required is a dowel but I decided to add a small roller thinking that it would make the action a bit easier, especially on the larger doors.  Placement was critical and needed to be consistent on all doors.  With this jig that was accomplished, seems like I contorted myself into some weird positions to get this done.  It wasn't bad on the larger doors but the smaller they got the less room I had for my hands, drill, and head!

Set-Up for Catches
The final step to the door process was to locate the catches in the exact, same location so the reveal on all the doors would be consistent.  Rather than trying to measure this for each door I devised a method to hold the doors at the same location while locating them.  Again, fairly easy on the bigger doors but the small ones were tougher to get in to.  I like using these brass, double-ball catches that can be adjusted for tension and allow for some slight movement due to weather conditions.

     All in all, I'm happy with how this project turned out.  Building custom furniture is always a process of learning and doing research to accomplish what your client wants and the vision you come up with to meet that.  I'd be bored to death if someone wanted me to build ten of these for them, might as well go into production then!  Anxious to get this piece delivered and go on to the next project.  It's going to be a bit different as I set up an Etsy store to sell and market the custom eyeglass cases I've made.  Seems like just the thing for a unique, one of a kind, Christmas present for somebody!

Work Goes On Intently

     Had a wonderful day of work in the class, sure was nice to have the coolness of our first rainstorm in a long time here in the desert.  It's just proof that this dry climate becomes something we're accustomed to here with our woodwork.  The sample cabinet I made for the class regained its "cup" on the shelf and now the drawer will barely open!  You may recall that this particular piece of material cupped badly after I had surfaced it the night before a storm in July.  Unfortunately, by that time work had already begun on the joinery so re-surfacing it was not an option.
     Here's the class in action, our goal is to glue the main portion of the cabinet together tomorrow and then begin work on the drawer  --- hope all of our wood is stabilized!

Precise Dovetail Work, notice the sample Cabinet in foreground

Intently Paying Attention to the Task at Hand

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Coming to the HomeStretch and Using MinWax Wipe On Poly

     Work continues on the bookcases, almost done with the finishing process.  I'm trying a new product from MinWax (new to me) which is a wipe on, polyurethane.  For my solid wood furniture I typically use a natural oil finish that is top coated with a multiple, hand applied finish.  For solid wood, the sheen and feel of the wood is beyond compare.  When using cabinet grade sheet goods, even the best quality ones that you can find, the veneer simply isn't thick enough to achieve the same sheen.
     The concern for woodworkers everywhere, when it comes to the finish, is how to apply it and not have it become contaminated with dust during the drying process.  Dust is a big enough issue here in the desert but now add the typical woodshop environment and you compound the issue considerably.  The wipe on poly eliminates that concern completely.  It's simply wiped on with a clean, cotton rag and dries so quickly the dust doesn't have any time to settle.  A plus I discovered with it is that it will remove any stain that has dried on the surface or oozed out of the pores.  If you've ever stained Oak, that tends to be a problem.  Oak is so porous that it'll allow the stain to settle below the surface and then ooze out and harden sometime over night when you're not there to wipe it off!  In the past, you would have to remove this with some solvent before applying your top finish.  In any case, the Wipe On Poly works well.  A very light sanding between coats is all that's required.
     At this point, everything has three coats except for the base unit which only has two.  The glass wasn't ready for pickup on Friday (think they went home early) but it'll take some time to install the doors and get them adjusted.

Base Unit

Upper Unit
Being able to move the unit around on furniture dollies is a big plus.  Since the backs won't be attached until the doors are in and adjusted it was easier to get to the entire unit and see what's going on in there.

This has three coats of the Wipe On Poly, I like the way the crown molding and the skirt came out.  Even though these are new units I think they have an aged appearance and will look like my client has had them for years, maybe passed on from generations past!

The door frames are ready to have the guide pins, knobs, and glass installed.  The pieces laying in front of them are the door stops that will limit the travel of each door as it slides back into the case.

Door Frames

Friday, September 9, 2011

Second Day of Class

     The second day of class was another successful one.  During the first day everyone began cutting the materials needed for the cabinet after making a practice dovetail or two.  We started off today getting the material prepped for the cabinet sides.  These need to be surfaced to 5/8" thickness so we had a slight bottle neck at the planer but we worked through all of that.  The class is small (5 students) and everyone gets along well with one and other unlike the team on last nights Project Runway -- bet you're surprised I watch and like that show!
Power Tools to Size Material
     One of the goals for this class session was to discuss ways to create what's called a "fair curve".  I brought a couple of spokeshaves for this that they all had the chance to use.  Since the emphasis of the class is hand tools the spokeshave works just as well (better in my opinion) than an oscillating spindle sander and leaves a much cleaner finish on the wood.
Initial Curve Cut on Bandsaw

There are several ways to lay out a curve but we used a thin, flexible piece of wood and clamped that to the starting point of the arc.  It was then flexed until the curve suited their design and a line was penciled in.  After taping both side pieces together, the bandsaw was used to cut it out.

Working Intently
Scribing Line for Dovetail on Tail Board
Laying out the Tails on the Tail Board

Use of a Spokeshave to Achieve a "Fair Curve"

One of the things that's always satisfying as a teacher is to watch your students work at what you've taught.  Look at how intent everyone is to accomplish the task at hand -- love it!

Jamie, the owner/operator/principal/and everything else related to WoodItIs was impressed with how well everyone is working and having success at this complex bit of wood joinery.  She couldn't help but appreciate the quietness in the room as everyone worked on their projects compared to the noise of the machine room.  Love those hand tools -- hope to pass some of that along to them as well.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Class Success!!

     Yesterday was the first session of the hand tool woodworking class I'm teaching at WoodItIs.  Not sure who was happier to see all five class members complete a couple of dovetails successfully --- me or them!  Here are four of them with their completed practice joints:


     Even if you're not familiar with woodworking joints, you've probably seen a dovetail joint on the side of a drawer.  It's a joint that's been traced back to ancient Egypt and found in furniture and burial vaults from that time and they're still holding tight!  Here's a sketch of what they look like:

     The next class session will be tomorrow, Sept. 8 from 11am to 2pm.  This class meets every Tuesday and Thursday for the next three weeks.  It's going to be fun to see how they apply this practice dovetail to the project. This joint is completely done by hand with chisels, mallets, and a dovetail saw.  It's a great exercise in learning how your body mechanics control what the tool in your hand does.  Frustrating at times but rewarding just the same!