My First and Second Set of Hand Cut Dovetails

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Blog entry by FlWoodRat posted 08-12-2009 10:00 PM 1718 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A while back I posted a review of Major League Woodworking’s Home Run 4-Pak.

Anyway, my current shop project is a four drawer storage cabinet that sits below my Table Saw. Building this gave me the opportunity to use dovetail joinery for the drawers and putting the 4 Pak to work.

After watching Tom McDonalds videos on how to cut DT’s I started hacking away. Below you will see a picture ofmy first attempt at hand cutting DTs.

I used the 4-Pack marking gauge to layout the base lines for all the pins and tials, and the paring block to lay out the pins. Then I used a Marples Japanese Pull saw to cut the pins on both drawers. Like Tommy says…. practice practice. The first set of tails I tried to cut are on the top. Easy for all to see that GAPS…. The bottom drawer came out a lot better but still, not of the quality I’ve seen produced here by our fellow LJ’s.

I called Tommy at his shop and spoke to him. He suggested two things: 1. Watch the videos again and notice how he says…... “Cut to the outside of the tail line” and 2… Get a DT saw. I took his advice. Here is a look at the corners of the DT’s I cut on my second attempt at hand cut DT’s for the second set of drawers.

By the way, the black lines you see on the tails are the pencil marks Tommy said to LEAVE… I think Tommy’s advice helped a lot.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

12 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3616 days

#1 posted 08-12-2009 10:19 PM

very nice, even the first set looks good… but obviously the 2nd attempt is much tighter!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View ChrisN's profile


259 posts in 3740 days

#2 posted 08-12-2009 11:30 PM

They look good to me, the bottom box in the first picture looks tight as a drum…I need to get over my fear and give it a try!

-- Chris N, Westford, MA - "If you won't eat something from your fridge that turned green...why would you eat something that started out that way?"

View cwdance1's profile


1158 posts in 3226 days

#3 posted 08-13-2009 12:34 AM

Most days I have trouble cutting a 45 let alone a dovetail. Great job

View dustyal's profile


1293 posts in 3442 days

#4 posted 08-13-2009 02:28 AM

I enjoyed your post… thanks. Second set does look better than first set… practice, practice… etc. I posted my first cut and haven’t had the nerve or the time to get back to it… but I need to. How quick we forget. Dovetail saw is something I’d like to have. I used a flexible flush cut saw and that created a little problem. Also, I need to learn how to stop more cleanly and uniformly at the depth line. I over-shot by the depth of a saw tooth on a few and that makes things a bit unsightly.

Anyway… again… nice job.

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4368 days

#5 posted 08-13-2009 02:49 AM

Nice job and a great learning curve. I guess. Practise makes perfect.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3309 days

#6 posted 08-13-2009 02:50 AM

Good Job – Keep it up. I find it very satisfying when I complete a dovetailed drawer or box.

-- Marc

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3640 days

#7 posted 08-13-2009 02:52 AM

Nice work on the dovetail!

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3876 days

#8 posted 08-13-2009 11:52 AM

Gentlemen, thanks for your kind words.

Dusty, your first cut’s looked great. I’d be proud of those as they were definitely much better than my first attempt.


-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View JJackson's profile


104 posts in 4050 days

#9 posted 08-13-2009 12:02 PM


Good start! I think they look very good for your first attempt. You might check my profile, I have some of my practice HT Dovetails pictured there. I learned how to cut mine from Rob Cosman. You may want to check out some of his DVD’s. Let me know if I can help you in anyway. Great job so far, keep at it!!


By the way, I love you raised panel jig for the tablesaw! Where do I order one from you?? : )

-- Jeff, Indiana

View patron's profile


13600 posts in 3308 days

#10 posted 08-13-2009 12:16 PM

very well done , my man .
you are getting better !

a friend of mine had a 600 year old chinese trunk ,
that was heavily carved ,
all dovetailed .
upon inspection ,
it was like your first one .
some filler in the joints here and there !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3853 days

#11 posted 08-13-2009 05:08 PM

Good job!!

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View matt garcia's profile

matt garcia

1892 posts in 3639 days

#12 posted 08-14-2009 02:27 AM

Great job!! I need to work on my handcut dovetails!!

-- Matt Garcia Wannabe Period Furniture Maker, Houston TX

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