View Full Version : Kelly Mehler's Hand Cut Blanket Chest Class at the Marc Adams School

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 12:51 PM
So now that I have my cherry all planed up, I go to the Marc Adams School. On Saturday I took the one day dovetail cutting class. I had never hand cut dovetails before, and I would highly recommend the one day class prior to the blanket chest class if this is your situation. I had read Ian Kirby's book, and watched some videos, but didn't have time to try my hand before I arrived at the school. After doing research here and on the Pond, I had purchase a set of Two Cherries chisels, and an Adria dovetail saw. In both cases, the money was very well spent.

Kelly Mehler is an outstanding instructor. I'll say it again. Kelly Mehler is an outstanding instructor. Marc Adams runs a first class school. There are plenty of large machines (saws, planers, jointers, bandsaws, drum sanders) so that wait time is minimized, and everyone has their own bench. Safety is emphasized, and Zane, Doug and Herman were extremely helpful throughout the week. I'll say it again, Marc Adams runs a first class operation.

The one day class is an excellent intro to hand cutting dovetails. We started out doing one big dovetail, then two, then three. On Saturdays, class starts at 0900, and by 3 pm I was feeling much better about not being "in over my head" for the blanket chest class. I didn't have time to work on my half blind dovetails, but Kelly did give us a lecture on how to do them, and practice material to take home with us.

So, here is a pic of Kelly, and I apologize to him that I don't have a better one to show. I think I caught him in the middle of talking.

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 1:20 PM
I agonized over how to cut the boards, and to tell the truth, I was scared to cut them, afraid I might ruin them by making a mistake.

Eveyone else was planing and gluing up, and I spent a couple hours looking at my wood, and drawing on it with chalk. I wanted to maximize the size of the blanket chest, but I also wanted to have each side and the top be one solid board. I also was trying to have continuous grain go as far around the chest as possible. I ended up with the front, one side, and the back being cut continuously from one board, while the top and one end were cut from another. The top is 18 and 5/8 from front to back, so I made my chest 18 inches from front to back. The front is 38 and a half inches wide, and 18 and 3/4 inches tall.

I was going to cut off all of the sapwood, but Kelly told me to leave the sapwood on the bottom edge, as it would be hidden by the base. Duh...I would have never thought of that, but I guess that's why he is the master and I am the student.

Here are two pics of my boards after they have been cut to rough size. They are laying on just one of Marc's two MASSIVE downdraft tables.

One photo was too dark, and one was too light. I tried to match them with the scanner program, but now it looks like two different colors of cherry. Trust me, it is all the same color.

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 1:40 PM
While the Shakers would have evenly spaced the pins, I decided I liked a graduated version better. I drew up a couple of plans on graph paper, then laid out the final version on my boards. I ended up with 10 pins per side. Now it was time to cut. Again, I didn't want to make a mistake, so I was as a careful as possible. I must admit that I got better at sawing straight and just outside the line as time went on. I had plenty of cuts to practice on!

Here is a picture of one of my boards with my Adria saw and Kelly's Independence saw. He had extra saws of various types so you could try them all and see what worked best for you. Did I tell you he is an excellent instructor?

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 2:03 PM
Kelly believes in chopping out your waste, so we did. This is where the Two Cherries chisels, well sharpened, really paid off. Kelly likes the new Shapton waterstones, and now I have them on my "things I need" list.

Here is a pic of me chopping out waste.

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 2:20 PM
Here's a pic that shows my pin spacing. I used the golden rectangle multiplier to graduate the tails. You will notice that the left side has 3 one inch tails, while the right only has two. I did that on purpose, as part of the left side (actually the bottom) will be covered by the base. When the base is on, the visible tails will be perfectly symmetrical.

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 2:26 PM
Here I am chopping out the waste between the pins. Once you get halfway through, you turn the boards over and chop from the other side.

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 2:33 PM
I learned the hard way, that when you saw the pins, you should try to split the line. Instead, I tried to saw "just outside the line". I figured I would get close, then use the chisel for the final fit. Well, I spent hours and hours "fitting". Next time, I will saw right down the middle of the pin line.

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 2:36 PM
Here I am trying to get the pins just small enough to fit between the tails, but not so small that I leave a gap.

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 2:43 PM
The weekday classes start at 0800. Most people were in the shop, working, at 0715. Most stayed late, until 8 pm or so. Marc shuts down the power tools at 1800, as a safety measure. I stayed really late. Wednesday I was there until 10 pm, and Thursday, I finally got the box together enough for this photo at 11 pm. I took this photo with the clock in it on purpose to show what time I "finished". If I had only figured out to cut through the middle of the pin line after the first set of pins...!

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 2:49 PM
Here is a better photo of the dry fit. You can see some of the curly cherry boards better too.

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 2:55 PM
Friday morning, I cut dado's in the sides for the cedar bottom, till and drawer division. Here is the final pic prior to glue up. The glue up was Friday afternoon, just in time to let it dry a little prior to loading it into the truck for the long trip back to Texas. Right now, my chest is waiting for me to get time to finish it, but I have vacation in November, and promise to post more pics when it is done.

Pete Lamberty
08-25-2003, 2:59 PM
Hi Martin, Nice photo essay about your class. I am surprised at the fact that even tho you never cut dove tails before you were able to plan out the work, spacing, dimensions, etc. I would have jumped right in and who knows how it would have turned out. Good job on that chest. Post more photos when you have a finish on it. OK? Pete

Paul Barnard
08-25-2003, 5:46 PM
Excellent write up and brilliant results.

Having tried all the saws which did you like the best / worse

Martin Shupe
08-25-2003, 8:40 PM
Excellent write up and brilliant results.

Having tried all the saws which did you like the best / worse

I liked both the Adria and the Independence. I did try a Japanese style saw (pull saw), but did not like the "flimsy" blade. When I was shopping for a saw, I read everything I could on Badger Pond about the L-N and Adria. I think I ended up getting the Adria because it is a little taller, and I thought I could use it as a tenon saw as well. I also liked that Tom Law did the sharpening on it. It seemed to me that the Adria makes a slightly (very slightly) narrower kerf, which I would think would be a good thing. Nothing against the L-N, if I had one of those I would be happy, but I do like my Adria.

Incidentally...Kelly said the tools he brought for us to try were not the tools he uses. They were extras. He said that most serious woodworkers will not let others use their tools.

Lars Thomas
08-25-2003, 10:31 PM
Martin, Hey, I really appreciate you taking the effort to post the pixs and your feelings about the class. Looks like you did a great job - Kelly can't take all the credit for that. I can't be positive, but I *think* you liked it ;) ?? My Bro-in-law is moving to Indy, what a good excuse to visit! Looking forward to the completed pixs. Thanks again.

Tom Scott
08-26-2003, 9:11 AM
Great job on the photo essay. Like others, I can't wait to see pictures of the completed chest. Great wood also. How lucky you were to find such nice WIDE boards like that.
This is a project that is on my list also. I made 3 cherry blanket chests last Christmas for family members, but none with a dovetailed carcass (hey, I was making 3 at a time). But, my wife let it be known that she wants one also, and her's will be a similar traditional shaker design like yours.
Again, great job.

Tom Scott