Beads Box #3: Handcut Dovetail Carcass

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 04-19-2009 06:49 AM 4836 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Laminated Sides are Cut Part 3 of Beads Box series Part 4: Mild Cutting, Doors part, Dadoes, and rabbets »

Finally after getting the table saw and tuning it, I’m able to get back on track with woodworking projects…

I still dont have my router table, so using the incra fence wouldn’t be possible to get the dovetails done. I read “The Bandsaw Book”, and it had a really nice Jig for making dovetails on the bandsaw with handcut look and fit, but with the automation of a machine and jig. I really liked the idea, and figured I’d use that technique.

unfortunately, using that technique requires that your bandsaw table can tilt 10 degrees right AND left, mine as it happens only tilts 5 degrees to the left… one of those things that you never really realize their importance when you are getting your first or a specific tool. I guess I can make a fixture that will create a 10 degree angle between the table/platform and blade, but I just didnt want to focus on jigs, as I was very eager to get more progress on this project. I figured, I’ll use the jig to make the tails, but the pins (which require the table to tilt both ways) I’ll cut by hand.

Another thing that I had to improvise while using the jig was that the jig calls for material of same specific thickness (all pieces are 1/2” , or 3/4… etc) and since I had hand planed all the parts to thickness, well – they are not exactly perfectly the same as each other, nor they are perfectly thicknessed across the entire part… so I had to make sure that my cuts are following the mating parts thickness (for the tails – not to cut too deep , not too shallow). other than that, the jig did help quicken the making of the tails by automating the cuts at 10 degree angles. I then proceeded to chisel the waste, and clean out the tails.

after I had the tails, I transferred the lines to the mating parts, and handcut the pins with a Japanese pull saw, and cleaned the waste with my chisels.

could look better, but for a first time, I’m extremely happy with the results. each tail and pin that I worked on I felt more and more confident with it…I can see how only more experience will help me finesse this joinery.

Handcut Dovetails

So I have the carcass ready. next step will be cutting some dadoes in the carcass parts (not yet glued) for the drawer divider, and drawers slides:

Handcut Dovetails Box

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

7 comments so far

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1000 posts in 2802 days

#1 posted 04-19-2009 09:58 AM

Hooray for progress! It’s fun to see it go from Sketchup model to something real. Those are some very nice first-time dovetails, too! I haven’t tried doing any by hand yet, because I’m a complete sissy :)

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3174 days

#2 posted 04-19-2009 02:47 PM

Looking good, its killer about your bandsaw not tilting both ways though!

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6819 posts in 3400 days

#3 posted 04-19-2009 05:42 PM

Hi PurpLev;

Nice job.

Instead of using a chisel to cut the waste out, try doing it with a coping saw. It is a very quick and accurate, (with practice), method.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3069 days

#4 posted 04-19-2009 08:51 PM

Thanks Lee. I tried to get as much of the waste with the bandsaw (you can see the cutoffs in the 2nd picture) but it doesn’t have the capabilities of a coping saw (which I don’t have). so I had to do a bit more work to get this all cleaned out. on the 2nd piece, I took my metal cutoff saw (looks like a shallow coping saw) twisted the blade on it to 90, and tried to use it like a coping saw… with the blade thickness, and the saw’s shallow body construction it gave me ‘almost’ the ability of a coping saw… took off more of the material, and gave my chisels a bit of a break.

sIKE. I tried to look at the bandsaw construction, but cant really figure out why they limited the left tilt to only 5 degrees.. looks like it could have been made to allow a ‘full’ 10 degrees to the left like other saws… oh well, can’t have it all perfect I guess – I’m otherwise extremely happy with the saw – review is in the near future as I feel I’ve had enough experience with it to grunt a review.

Gary – I just like doing hand work (did I write that?!?). I find it somewhat meditating in a way. but when it comes to getting something done – if I’ll have the automation setup , I’ll use the quick way. leaves more time for other things.

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

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13347 posts in 3093 days

#5 posted 12-30-2010 11:45 AM

Hand cut dovetails are nice.

View Stevelegh's profile


4 posts in 2089 days

#6 posted 02-05-2011 03:53 AM

I am impressed with the progress of your workshop. One question is how to do you manage the safety features of the shop? My family are encouraged, as I stated in an earlier post, but I would like to ensure they are safe when searching for bits and pieces. Advice would be welcomed.

-- Steve -

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3069 days

#7 posted 02-05-2011 07:09 AM

Steve, as I mentioned in the other post, keep the shop floor clear and trip-proof. keep sharp tools stowed away, and keep children away from powertools. those that have safety lockable power switches – make sure you use them and lock those power machines out when not in use to avoid accidental turning of the machines on, and instruct kids of the dangers, and the proper use of hand tools to make them aware of the risk, while still generating confidence to use and respect them.

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

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