Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Dutchman for a Dutch Man!

     My uncle, who's Dutch like me, will be celebrating his ninetieth birthday next month and there is a luncheon planned in his honor.  Anyone who can survive ninety years deserves to be honored!  Well, this presented somewhat of a problem because after all, what do you possibly get for someone when they've spent nine decades here on this earth?  After all, I've only done six+ of them and my favorite gifts seem to be gift certificates to tool places.  A passion of his has always been music, he's been involved with it for all the time that I can remember so that seemed to be the perfect starting point.
     I recently bought some Sapele and plan to  eventually make a sofa table from it.  It seems similar to African Mahogany with a very pronounced ribbon grain.  Since I'd like to incorporate some carving in the table I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to see how this wood works.  Here's the motif chosen for the pencil box I'm making for my uncle.  By the way, I'm swearing any of my relatives to secrecy on this project -- please don't tell him about it.

     What could be more appropriate for a life long musician than the treble clef.  Here it's in the early stages of carving but in spite of the interlocked grain I feel like it's coming along okay.  The box itself  will have a sliding top and dovetailed corners.  Always up for a challenge and this wood proved to be just that.  The back of the box was pretty straight forward and my goal was to make as small of tails as possible.  Not only is the grain interlocked but it also has the tendency of wanting to split as you pare off the ends.  So far, so good.
     When I got to the front of the box I started with a half pin but the remainder of the box had remain intact to house the groove the lid would eventually slide into.  Well, you can see there is a bit of a gap above the middle pin.


     Good time to follow my heritage and create that Dutchman to fill the gap.  The story I've always heard is that this term came about because the Dutch are frugal and thrifty people, that sounds so much better than cheap!  Rather than tossing the entire board which would be wasteful, a sliver is glued in to take up the slack.  It's best to do this from a cut off of the board so that the match is as close as possible. You could use a hand saw to cut this sliver but I used the tablesaw instead.

Beginning of the Dutchman

     Use a push stick and don't cut all of the way through cut off piece.  If you're lucky you'll only need to do this once.  Prior to fitting it into the gap I use a bit of sandpaper to taper the end.  Always pay attention to the grain direction, it needs to match the joint.

Dutchman Glued In

     For these boxes my preference is to use Liquid Hide Glue, it has a pretty long open time and cleans up well.  Once the glue was dried, a zero-set saw was used to cut it flush.

Dutchman Trimmed Flush

     This was followed by careful planing with my block plane.  I've put a slight camber on this blade but even with the low cutting angle of the block plane the Sapele wants to splinter if you plane off the edge.  Very important to not only plane from the outside in but also pick up the plane without dragging it back over the edge.  The plane did a great job cleaning up the dovetails.

Upper Left Pin Remains
      Here you can see the results of careful planing.  The wood takes on a different appearance, obviously the pin on the upper left remains to be planed flush.  With the interlocking grain of this wood, even a smooth plane set for a super fine cut creates a bit of tear out.  Before doing the final work I'll need to experiment to see what the best way to finish the surface will be, it may call for a cabinet or card scraper with a very small burr.
     By the way, this is the first project I was able to use the new marking gauge that I made.  Beautiful, thin line that was easy to work to.  The sides for this box were resawn from a piece of 4/4 Sapele, here's how that line looked.  I always scribe the line from both sides and then bandsaw between them.

Scribed Prior to Re-Sawing


  1. John what a wonderful gift for your uncle. You are quite the craftsman, love good quality and you my friend do excellent work!
    Happy Weekend,

    1. Thanks Kathy, sorry it's taking me so long to respond, appreciate your kind words.

  2. OH! This is going to be a true treasure! He will love it! The craftsmanship and love that goes into this box will surely be evident! Thanks for spending the time to make dad something truly special! Cousin Deb