Hand cutting dovetails #1: Just starting out

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Blog entry by DrewM posted 03-11-2010 03:49 AM 1651 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Hand cutting dovetails series Part 2: My Technique »

I decided that in my journey of woodworking hand cut dovetails should be one step along the way. I just have some “cheap” hand tools including the not so great marples chisels sold at HD and some saws i got from xona tool. They might not be the best out there but they work for the time being.

So I went out to HD and picked up some 1×6 pine and got to work. The first two attempts were not the best but i used them as learning experience. This is my third attempt at cutting dovetails.

I know its not the best but im proud of my attempt. The boards warped after I had cut them ( didnt let the wood settle I know) causing the gaps to open in the joint. Maybe if i glued and clamped it together they would close up.

Tomorrow I’m going to try and take pictures of my techniques and post them. Hopefully you guys can give me some hints on making them better.

-- Drew, Delaware

7 comments so far

View bigike's profile


4052 posts in 3284 days

#1 posted 03-11-2010 04:00 AM

that’s no problem all you have to do when glueing it is fill in some of the cracks with saw dust from the wood you cut and leave the pins and tails about 1/32” proud of the surface and sand it down flush it should cover the gaps. so all you have to do is get the gaps a little smaller or the fit a little tighter that’s all. other than that what you have looks very good if you seen mine you make a project from what you have and sell if for alot of $$$ LOL ;)

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View jcontract's profile


84 posts in 3083 days

#2 posted 03-11-2010 04:45 AM

Ike. Looks good. Funny you just cut your first set of dovetails. So did I, you can see mine here. One tip I learned in my class, is that if you have some smallish gaps, you can douse the joint with water which will cause the joint to swell. Another is to slightly undercut when you chop out the waste, but be sure to leave the baseline intact.

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 3986 days

#3 posted 03-11-2010 06:53 AM

I can’t believe you expect to get advice from this crew on hand cutting dovetails. lol

Seriously though, I think we all go through this phase, thinking that we need to be able to hand cut dovetails to be a “real” woodworker, you know? Luckily, I grew out of it. I heard Norm say on the show he did to reproduce a round candle table that he was pretty sure he could do it without any hand tools except a box cutter, and he was proud of it. Anyway, I got a machine that does a pretty good job on dovetails and now I’m at the stage that I think I might need to use my hand plane more than I do. I hope I get over that soon too.

I’ll prolly get some nasty comments for saying that but, it takes all kinds to make, well, something made out of all kinds.


-- Jim

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3561 days

#4 posted 03-11-2010 01:44 PM

Great first attempt, here is a blog from fellow LJ Mike that may be of interest.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3330 days

#5 posted 03-11-2010 04:44 PM

This very well done for a beginner. I can tell it won’t be long before you master this.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 3032 days

#6 posted 03-11-2010 06:34 PM

Drew, You look like yo did a far site better than I could. I haven’t attempted the hand cut dove tails yet, but it is on my “to-do” list. BTW, it that a glass made from a wine bottle? I make those myself. They make great drinking glasses!

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View DrewM's profile


176 posts in 2995 days

#7 posted 03-11-2010 07:29 PM

Cozmo, that glass is part of a set of crackled cobalt drinking glasses given to me by my mother. You should try cutting dove tails one day, so far I have only used “cheap” tools and once you figure out a little method it isn’t so bad. I just need to improve my technique to yeild better results.

-- Drew, Delaware

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