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My Own Road to Damascus #2: My first hand cut dovetail!

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Blog entry by Kookaburra posted 07-19-2012 07:33 PM 1471 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Why do I do this? Part 2 of My Own Road to Damascus series Part 3: Let's try shaping by hand »

Thanks to George_SA for the link to the 5 minute dovetail exercise. I am going to try to do one each time I get some time in the shop. Unfotunately, work has me on the road a lot these day, so I will have to be patient. What would happen if I brought a couple of saws and chisels along with some chunks of wood when I checked in at the airport? Maybe I am better off catching up on my LJ reading!

Back to the topic at hand. I used a short piece of oak to do my first. I like working with oak and have enough peices around the shop that I can practice with the same wood and compare my results.

So, without further ado, here it is!

It does have a few problems, I know. It is not at all tight – anything made with this would be very unstable. And it is not lined up well. I am not sure why that did not work out – I thought I was extra careful in my marking. But it sure is purdy in my eye :) I think I will glue it up and put it in a place of honor in my shop. Maybe the first, 10th and 100th practice dovetail will become a museum display ;)

I made my first step down this road and there are many more in front of me. Stay tuned.

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.



20 comments so far

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 914 days


#1 posted 07-19-2012 07:35 PM

Thats your first dovetail?
MAN THATS GOOD.
My first dovetail has a socket too big and a tail the incorrect angle….

-- My terrible signature...

View George_SA's profile

George_SA

205 posts in 936 days


#2 posted 07-19-2012 08:07 PM

That looks better than my first try. My next try will also be with a harder wood, but I need to sharpen some chisels again.

-- There are some things that money can't buy - Manners, morals and integrity

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4157 posts in 1579 days


#3 posted 07-19-2012 08:13 PM

They also become more fun

Great start, they tighten up with practice

jamie

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View BTimmons's profile (online now)

BTimmons

2165 posts in 1208 days


#4 posted 07-19-2012 08:15 PM

I used oak on my first set of dovetails, too. I ought to try my hand at it again now that I have a wheel marking gauge, should make things easier.

The one thing that jumps out to me is that you need to be careful about sawing inside the waste line that you mark out. Get as close as you comfortably can, but it’s alright to leave just a hairs width of material, you can always pare off the excess with a chisel and it makes for a cleaner surface than your saw will. It’s a lot easier to take tiny little shavings off one bit at a time and creep up on that final fit. Seeing the intersection up top in particular looks like you tried to saw along your marked out line rather than trying to saw around it.

From one newbie to another, you’ve got a good start. Keep it up.

-- Brian Timmons - http://www.BigTWoodworks.com

View Brit's profile

Brit

5285 posts in 1566 days


#5 posted 07-19-2012 08:16 PM

That is good first attempt Kay. I’ve noticed that a number of people have done a similar thing to you i.e. deciding to cut a dovetail a day or whenever they get the time. I’ve often thought that maybe they are trying to run before they can walk. The key to cutting most hand cut joinery IMO is learning to saw accurately. Once you can precisely control where the saw goes, cutting joinery becomes a whole lot easier.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 914 days


#6 posted 07-19-2012 08:23 PM

I think the easiest wood to dovetail stuff is Balsa

-- My terrible signature...

View Kookaburra's profile

Kookaburra

748 posts in 947 days


#7 posted 07-19-2012 09:20 PM

Oh my. I thought oak was a good choice but after reading the comments above and Brian’s write-up maybe I should run down to my local big box and get a couple of pieces of poplar. I have some maple but since most of it is figured, I don’t want to use it for dovetail practice. :) How about cherry? Would that be a better learning ground than oak?

Andy – you are so right. I should be confident about cuting a straight true line with my saw before I jump into dovetails. But I am so very impatient! Perhaps I will get a larger piece of poplar and cut it down by hand. A bit of practice cutting at least.

I am awaiting my Badass hybrid cut 16” tenon saw, which I ordered back in April. I am going to have to drop Mark a line and see what is up with that! (I cannot remember how long the wait was supposed to be but I want my saw!) . I am absolutely certain that with a fancy new saw in my hand, my cuts will be straight and clean! Right?

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 914 days


#8 posted 07-19-2012 09:27 PM

Kookaburra, try Balsa :D

-- My terrible signature...

View Brit's profile

Brit

5285 posts in 1566 days


#9 posted 07-19-2012 09:27 PM

Well if they’re not Kay, at least you can rule out the saw. LOL.

Just kidding. Having a decent saw is half the battle and you’ve bought one of the best. That will make the job of learning to saw properly a lot easier.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Kookaburra's profile

Kookaburra

748 posts in 947 days


#10 posted 07-19-2012 09:29 PM

Alexandre – balsa seems so very soft. You have not had problems with over-cutting? I do know i can pick up balsa pretty easily, so that aspect is a real plus.

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View Dave's profile

Dave

11199 posts in 1563 days


#11 posted 07-19-2012 09:30 PM

Nice dovetail. Oak is not easy. The Japanese call them swallowtails.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are." http://chiselandforge.com

View BTimmons's profile (online now)

BTimmons

2165 posts in 1208 days


#12 posted 07-19-2012 09:37 PM

Yeah, balsa would be too soft, I think. Poplar is a good alternative. Not as squishy as balsa or pine, not as hard as oak. Much finer grain too, so it’s easy to pare with sharp chisels to make those fine adjustments. Mahogany would be a step up from that. Cherry is nice stuff, but I think it may be too high on the hardness scale for beginning attempts.

-- Brian Timmons - http://www.BigTWoodworks.com

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 914 days


#13 posted 07-19-2012 09:42 PM

Kay, where do you live?
Which woodstore do you go to?
Seems like im pretty close…

-- My terrible signature...

View Kookaburra's profile

Kookaburra

748 posts in 947 days


#14 posted 07-19-2012 09:53 PM

Alexendre – I live near Oberlin, Ohio, but I only moved here recently from Chicago. I still do all of my real wood shopping in Chicagoland – a place I know and trust – Owl Hardwood. I spend about half my time in Ohio, about half in Chicago and the rest traveling between the two :) For some reason I thought you were Canadian – but Canada is only about 10 miles from where I live! (although that international border is in the middle of Lake Erie)

AND I just got a note back from Mark at Badass – my saw is on the schedule for mid-August. Could I wait a month to cut anything? (I do have other saws – a small dovetail saw, a coping saw and a couple other big box cheapies)

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 914 days


#15 posted 07-19-2012 10:07 PM

LOL i am canadian.. I thought you lived in canada….

-- My terrible signature...

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