My dovetail journey #2: My second hand cut Dovetail

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Blog entry by George_SA posted 07-09-2012 08:50 PM 2087 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: My first hand cut Dovetail Part 2 of My dovetail journey series no next part

I sharpened my chisel for the second try and decided to stay with the pine for no. 2; Reason 1: The free pallet hard wood needs to be cut and planed to size (for which I didn’t have time today) and the pine is just ready to use. Reason 2: If I can learn to make a dovetail with softwood, then it will be easier in hardwood. This logic is based on my experience with welding. I learned to weld on 1.6mm square tubing and welding angle irons and other thicker material was very easy. Furthermore I have no fear of welding square tubing. (I may be wrong in this, as the same logic may not necessarily be true for wood :-). No 4 will be in some type of off-cut hardwood as the pine that I have been using will be finished after no.3

Lessons learned:
1) Sharp chisels make a HUGH difference. With a sharp chisel you can even try softwood.
2) I need to get a better dovetail saw or at least I need to sharpen my present one. I need to get a triangle file for that though. (I have a saw offset tool to set the teeth after sharpening that I inherreted from my father) and which I have used many moons ago.
3) I need to practise making straight cuts.
4) Using a chisel to get rid of the waste works much better than using a saw and with a sharp chisel it is quite quick.

All in all I think my second try went well, but I still need some practice before trying a box.

No 1 and no 2 comparison

No 1 is left and no 2 right

-- Sometimes life gets in the way of one's woodworking :)

7 comments so far

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1033 posts in 2280 days

#1 posted 07-09-2012 09:51 PM

It’s going in the right direction. As someone once said – ” a journey of a thousand miles starts with just a single step” – I think.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View GrandpaLen's profile


1650 posts in 2240 days

#2 posted 07-10-2012 06:25 AM


You are well on your way, now put 2 side by side and practice, practice, practice makes perfect.

Work Safely and keep your irons Sharp. _ Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3302 days

#3 posted 07-10-2012 12:05 PM

Quite an improvement on no. 2 George. I can see that you will master this skill very quickly. Just one little suggestion that you make the shoulders for your pins and your tails about 1/32” more than the thickness of your material. That way the pins and tails will wind up a little proud of the sides, and you can plane or sand them down to be even with the surface on both sides. Maybe you already did this, but I can’t tell from the photos.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View bobasaurus's profile


3407 posts in 3152 days

#4 posted 07-10-2012 02:46 PM

What helped me the most was purchasing a marking gauge and marking knife. Using the marking gauge to score the depth of the shoulder around the board gives you a clean baseline that you can set the chisel edge in directly for chopping. The marking knife (with a bevel on only one side of the blade) can score lines that exactly trace the border of your tails or pins, rather than the slight offset a pencil or xacto knife will give you. I also saw just shy of the scored lines then pare to them with a very sharp chisel.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View Kookaburra's profile


748 posts in 2192 days

#5 posted 07-10-2012 03:53 PM

That is a great improvement George!

I have not had a chance to do my practice yet becasue it has been so hot in my shop, but I should be able to get to it this week. I will post my attempt and we can encourage each other!

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View George_SA's profile


370 posts in 2181 days

#6 posted 07-10-2012 04:38 PM

Thanks for all the encouragement.

Bobasurus; thanks for the advice of a marking knife. I will see whether they are available here.
Kay, a nice sharp fine tooth backsaw or dovetail saw helps in making good cuts. before my next try I want to sharpen my saw. I looked at some backsaws and a dovetail saw today, but in my neck of the woods they aren’t better than what I already have. Furthermore make sure your chisels are very sharp. (I use the scary sharp method and a honing guide)

Try no 3 will be next week when I get back to my shop. I must say that the dovetails are quite a nice warming up exercise before starting in the shop.

-- Sometimes life gets in the way of one's woodworking :)

View Mosquito's profile


9280 posts in 2260 days

#7 posted 07-10-2012 04:54 PM

Looking good for practice… Keep at it and you’ll get there eventually. I’m still working on it myself. I’ve found poplar to be much better to practice in. I don’t have an actual work bench, and I work out of the spare bedroom in my apartment, so I don’t really go chopping away with chisel and mallet, but stick to paring instead.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

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