Check this out -- this is the very first dovetail ever cut by a student I just started with this morning. The fit is good, the shoulders are square, and both pieces line up.
Here's another view of it:
There's only one slight bauble and that's on the right side of the tail. That happened about 10 seconds before I mentioned you should pare from both sides of the tail and not off the edge when squaring up your initial cuts!
We started work on dovetails around 8:45 and after explaining the theory behind it and some design considerations for sizing we started off doing practice cuts in some scrap. It's enough of a challenge to follow a line and cut it square; for tails you also have to angle it inward as you cut. Lots of little things to remember and try to control just for a cut about 3/4" long! Add that to the fact he'd never even used hand tools and I think you too will be impressed. Including the talking and practicing before we started the joint itself this represents roughly three hours work.
He came prepared with what I'd consider premium quality tools --- Lie-Nielsons! He had found someone selling their collection for less than they are new and these tools looked as if they hadn't been used much at all, quite the bargain. Now one thing I always stress to my students is that a quality tool won't make a mediocre worker better but it will improve the quality of your work if you have the skills to back it up. Let me put it this way, I played violin in the 4th. grade at the insistence of my Mom. Give me a million dollar plus Stradivarius and it'll still sound like a cat that got its tail caught in the door!
At this time he doesn't have a workbench to work on or enough space to put one anyway. I showed him the bench on bench that I always use and that will more than likely be the first project we'll tackle. It's small enough to place anywhere and move as needed. When doing hand work you really need a reliable way to hold the wood, there's enough things going on that you don't want to worry about the wood moving on you.