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Handy tools #3: Mirror for cutting dovetails

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Blog entry by Dave Polaschek posted 03-04-2018 10:44 AM 637 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Little froe and doweling plate Part 3 of Handy tools series Part 4: Scratch stock »

As I attempt to get better at dovetails, one of the things that frustrated me was that I was continually cutting the back side either too low or too high. If I stop cutting to look around the back, I’ve changed my position, and it takes me a stroke or two to get everything lined up again and that can cause troubles.

So I got a great little tool for $6 at the drug store. A folding stand mirror I can set up behind the dovetail I’m cutting so I can see the back side of the cut without changing position. It’s made a huge difference in getting my initial cuts to the line without crossing over.

-- Dave - Minneapolis



13 comments so far

View Handtooler's profile

Handtooler

1601 posts in 2186 days


#1 posted 03-04-2018 11:49 AM

Dave, That’s a very handy tip! I’m quite sure I can benefit, as well as, many others of us who struggle with the problem.. Thanks.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343 bassboy40@outlook.com

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 701 days


#2 posted 03-04-2018 11:52 AM

Welcome to the club, Dave. YES … this technique has saved a a great many dovetails for me as well!
 

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

2286 posts in 636 days


#3 posted 03-04-2018 12:21 PM

Thanks, Russell. I’d seen this tip around for a while, but until I set it up and tried it, I didn’t think it would make such a huge difference.

Ron, I see you went with the fancy adjustable model of mirror there. ;-) One of the things I didn’t appreciate when I bought the tilting stand model was just how often I’d be tilting it up and down. I stand when cutting down on the tails, but then sit down on my shop stool to use the coping saw to trim the waste. Gotta adjust the mirror in between those two.

I also seem to have settled on 1 in 4 as my angle, both for hardwoods and soft. Not sure why, but it looks and feels right to me, and since it doesn’t matter for strength, I’ll cut ‘em the way that makes me happy.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 701 days


#4 posted 03-04-2018 12:25 PM



Ron, I see you went with the fancy adjustable model of mirror there. ;-) One of the things I didn’t appreciate when I bought the tilting stand model was just how often I’d be tilting it up and down. I stand when cutting down on the tails, but then sit down on my shop stool to use the coping saw to trim the waste. Gotta adjust the mirror in between those two.

- Dave Polaschek

Yes, lean it against the holdfast and use that gnarly black of pine for adjustments … LOL!

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

2286 posts in 636 days


#5 posted 03-04-2018 01:13 PM


Yes, lean it against the holdfast and use that gnarly black of pine for adjustments … LOL!

Yep. Awfully fancy! ;-)

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View Kelster58's profile

Kelster58

670 posts in 594 days


#6 posted 03-04-2018 01:28 PM

That’s a pretty cool idea. Would work great for me too…...as long as I don’t see myself in the darn thing. It would surely break if my visage appeared in the mirror.

-- K. Stone “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

2286 posts in 636 days


#7 posted 03-04-2018 01:42 PM

Kelly, I’m told that good dovetail cutting form has you able to see both the front and top of the board. That should have you high enough that you won’t see yourself. ;-)

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View doubleDD's profile

doubleDD

7492 posts in 2097 days


#8 posted 03-04-2018 04:45 PM

Mirror mirror on the wall who has the fairest dovetails of them all?
That’s a cool idea Dave. I’ll have to keep this in mind.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

9773 posts in 2505 days


#9 posted 03-04-2018 07:29 PM

Dave, excellent tip. Thanks for posting it.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

2286 posts in 636 days


#10 posted 03-04-2018 09:55 PM

Thanks, Kevin & Dave. It sure helped me.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View chewy626's profile

chewy626

1 post in 1592 days


#11 posted 03-04-2018 10:43 PM

Than is a great tip, I had not seen it before, eager to try it out on the next dovetails.

View htl's profile

htl

3957 posts in 1213 days


#12 posted 03-04-2018 11:09 PM

Great tip I use one when I’m using my box cutting jig.
Helps me see where I’m going and how well it turned out.

-- Learn More About Making Wooden Models. An Index Of My Model making Blogs. http://lumberjocks.com/htl/blog/116729

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

2286 posts in 636 days


#13 posted 03-04-2018 11:19 PM

Chewy & htl, yeah, it turns out that seeing what you’re doing helps. Who knew?!

-- Dave - Minneapolis

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