Dovetailed chopping block

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Dovetailed chopping block

Postby woodchubber » Tue Mar 10, 2009 6:39 pm

Hello, decided to make some dovetailed legs for my chopping block and thought it may be of interested to others.The design is based on eastern european ones, discussed before on these boards.
The timber is all Oak, though I could have used Chestnut or any other timber that is durable outside.
Crosscut block and some oak branchwood
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First job was to cut 3 leg blanks.I tried to incorporate a crook to give the legs a natural outward splay
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Next axe out a flat that will register against the side of the block
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Next job is to carve out the tapered dovetails.Below shows the material that will be wasted pencil marked.(looking from the register flat)-note that the dovetail shoulders need to be straight because they will later engage in a straight sawn dovetail mortise.
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Here's the chopped dovetail
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..and the others done
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Then mark out where the dovetail mortises need to be cut
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Then offer up the leg with the flat side against the block and mark off. Remember this will be the bottom of the mortise, so sawcuts will start inside these marks and will splay out to the bottom of the mortise.
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Cutting the mortise inside the marked line at an estimated angle
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A central kerf is sawn to assist waste removal and the waste chiseled out to a flat bottom
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Then the leg is knocked home with a mallet
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Here's the last mortise being cleaned up
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Took about an hour and just needs legs to be tidied up a bit
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Hope this has been useful, any questions- see Rob Wood :wink:
All the best John
Last edited by woodchubber on Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby Nicola Wood » Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:07 pm

That looks great. We keep one in the front room for spoon carving and it doubles up as a coffee table!
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby SeanHellman » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:15 pm

I like your post Woodchubber, a great tutorial.
I have been meaning to ask the forum, for some time, why so many people use end grain chopping blocks, I have shifted to cross grain chopping blocks where a log is split in half and I use the flat inside face to cut on. My axe never gets stuck in the block unlike when using an end grain face to chop on. I do not like having to put energy in pulling my axe out of the block, it interupts the flow. Any thoughts?
Last edited by SeanHellman on Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby woodchubber » Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:28 am

Cheers Sean, I am a relative newcomer to green woodworking and still learning from what I see others do.What you say about chopping on long grain makes perfect sense to me so I'll make another block and give it a try. Only possible snag I can see with this particular design is breaking away the mortise shoulders if care is not taken when deciding where to put them.
Thanks for input John
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby davestovell » Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:12 pm

What an interesting idea, I was, by chance, putting some legs on a block on Tuesday.

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I was wanting some turning practice and thought "why not make some fancy legs for that block" so I did.

I like the way your dovetail method gives the widest base where as my legs give a smaller base.

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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby Nicola Wood » Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:21 pm

The legs are also quite easy to remove if you want to transport the block.
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby goldsmithexile » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:44 pm

SeanHellman wrote:I like you post Woodchubber, a great tutorial.
I have been meaning to ask the forum, for some time, why so many people use end grain chopping blocks, I have shifted to cross grain chopping blocks where a log is split in half and I use the flat inside face to cut on. My axe never gets stuck in the block unlike when using an end grain face to chop on. I do not like having to put energy in pulling my axe out of the block, it interupts the flow. Any thoughts?


I also prefer using a cross grain block, I have always used them. The axes never grab but they DO tend to wear the surface out faster seeing as you lose chips off it fast. I like how the working surface develop's various dips angles and slopes which are useful to stand wonky crosscut firewood upright for splitting :lol: On ocasion I have ocasionally used the block (made of half a 12inch 3 foot long ash log with 4 legs set into square tapered mortices) on end so I can see more closer for a fine detail axe cut, and it dioes grab the axe. I might be missing something, maybe down to poor axe technique?
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby gavin » Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:22 am

To see video of this "European Dovetail" or "Romanian Dovetail" technique refer the 2 individual youtube links part 1 and part 2
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby Donald Todd » Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:40 am

SeanHellman wrote:…I have shifted to cross grain chopping blocks where a log is split in half and I use the flat inside face to cut on. My axe never gets stuck in the block unlike when using an end grain face to chop on. I do not like having to put energy in pulling my axe out of the block, it interupts the flow. Any thoughts?


Don't ignore the Safety aspect of this. If end grain, then the axe is less likely to bounce off the block. On the other hand getting it out if it's jammed could be equally dangerous. A well worn inside face may be the best compromise. Rough a new block up and cut notches with a saw.( Where did I read that?) It's the same as with a shavehorse; adapt it to best suite your needs.
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby goldsmithexile » Sun Nov 01, 2009 12:06 pm

On mine a nice semi circular hollow has developed along one edge, which is just right to set a bundle of hedge flailings to chop to short kinderling length with the bill hook. The shape holds them together in a bundle, one chop usually does the trick.
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby SeanHellman » Sun Nov 01, 2009 7:17 pm

Donald Todd wrote:Don't ignore the Safety aspect of this. If end grain, then the axe is less likely to bounce off the block..


Donald, as far as I can remember my axe does not bounce off the cross grained chopping block.

Robin, that's a good idea, a bucket on the block, how many more years of life do you get out of it?
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby goldsmithexile » Sun Nov 01, 2009 10:04 pm

SeanHellman wrote:Donald, as far as I can remember my axe does not bounce off the cross grained chopping block.


Neither does mine (axe bounce off the block). I have always used side grained chopping blocks, maybe because they are more "bench-like". If I have over done it and the arm/s are getting tired I just stop for a while. I never chop much more than 12 inches above the surface of the block, make sure the axe is sharp, my feet are well apart and well planted. Block is nicely levelled, solidly planted, not wobbling or rocking. No crap to trip or stumble over (cleanish work area) And I generally cut so that the axe will alays hit the block if it should miss or glance off the billet that is being trimmed. I have never had any serious accidents with an axe, apart from I sometimes cut my fingers when I forget the axe is on the workbench and brush past it.... :roll: :lol: :lol:
Thinking about it, with an end grain block doesnt fine grit etc eventually get embedded in the end grains and get stuck there, to play havock with your axe? The side grain sort of continually renews itself, almost like a waterstone does. It will wear out faster, but hey a chopping block is not for life is it! Its easy enough to knock a fresh one up...
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby Robin Fawcett » Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:14 am

goldsmithexile wrote: Its easy enough to knock a fresh one up...


Malcolm Lee (anyone had any sightings lately?) used to make a Windsor stool with a half log for the top. When he'd chopped down as far as the tops of the legs he'd clean it up, finish the seat, glue and wedge the legs and SELL IT. Then he'd make another chopping block.
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby Nicola Wood » Mon Nov 02, 2009 2:20 pm

Robin Fawcett wrote:Malcolm Lee (anyone had any sightings lately?) used to make a Windsor stool with a half log for the top. When he'd chopped down as far as the tops of the legs he'd clean it up, finish the seat, glue and wedge the legs and SELL IT. Then he'd make another chopping block.

:lol: :lol: :lol: I like his style! (I've not seen or heard of him in ages either - I'm still in touch with Anna, his ex-wife, though :mrgreen: )
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Re: Dovetailed chopping block

Postby Donald Todd » Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:39 pm

goldsmithexile wrote:
SeanHellman wrote:Donald, as far as I can remember my axe does not bounce off the cross grained chopping block.

Thinking about it, with an end grain block doesnt fine grit etc eventually get embedded in the end grains and get stuck there, to play havock with your axe? The side grain sort of continually renews itself, almost like a waterstone does. It will wear out faster, but hey a chopping block is not for life is it! Its easy enough to knock a fresh one up...


I would fully agree with both you and Sean; I just thought I'd point out a possible explanation. One reason end grain is the norm may be that cross cutting a bole is the easiest way to get a flat surface. Sharp tools as you say are essential.
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