Dovetail of the Day #1: The Beginning

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Blog entry by doorslammer posted 01-17-2010 01:42 AM 1025 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Dovetail of the Day series Part 2: Day 4 »

So the other day I got a wild hair to try hand cut dovetails. Up until now I have always machine cut ally my dovetails. Typically, my thought is, if there is a tool/machine that will let me do something more quickly and accurately, why wouldn’t I use it. However, now I’m fully convinced that with a little practice, hand cut dovetails could be easier and quicker than spending all the time required to set up, test, check the fit, tweak, and re-test a jig setup before being able to cut the project. Also, right now I don’t have a router with dust collection capabilities and free hand routing always seems to create the most dust in the shop.

I’ve decided that I’m going to try and commit myself to doing a practice dovetail joint every day or so and documenting the process and hopefully the improvement as I go. Here are my attempts from my first three days.

Day 1: Beginners luck! This doesn’t seem so hard. Seriously I was really happy with this result as my first attempt ever. My base line was not as crisp as I hoped but not a bad fit.

Day 2: Not so good today. I think I cut my pin too over sized and had to do a lot of chisel work to fit and I think I got them off that way.

Day 3: This is the best one yet!

-- Aaron in TN -

7 comments so far

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 2482 days

#1 posted 01-17-2010 02:07 AM

I think those are excellent. Well done.

-- Brian Meeks,

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3006 days

#2 posted 01-17-2010 02:16 AM

You did a great job. I also think that quality has to do with mood and mindset. How did you feel on day 2? Rushed? frustrated? Not in the mood? I tend to have full on concentration at one point, and then be out of it the next. Even after cutting numerous joints, I’ll still make some that look like my first day.
Good work.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View lumberdog's profile


238 posts in 2684 days

#3 posted 01-17-2010 03:27 AM

Great job, with practice comes knowledge, we learn from our mistakes.

-- Lumberdog.. Morley, Michigan

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1511 posts in 2981 days

#4 posted 01-17-2010 01:13 PM

These are great first attempts, check out Mikes blog on fixing day two.
Doing these every day fir a week or so will really get you up to speed.

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

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2750 days

#5 posted 01-17-2010 01:48 PM

Outstanding work Aaron. Almost nobody does that well on their 3rd try! If you want to use a machine without set up you could try using a scroll saw if you have one. That’s what I use. It’s a fantastic machine to cut joints with, and they look hand cut if you want. If you don’t have one I wholeheartedly recommend you get one if it fits your budget. The cheap ones aren’t any good, but you can get a good Delta for, I think around $250 with quick blade change and variable speed. I have one of those besides the new one I just got. It has really served me well. Another good choice is Dewalt’s best model which I think is around $450 and has a lot of really great features. They have recently moved their production to China though and have had some quality control problems. You could probably also pick up a good used one of either brand on Craig’s list or Ebay. The best one would be an Excalibur, they are expensive, but worth the price if you are willing to pay it. Every woodworker should have one.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View hunter71's profile


2689 posts in 2603 days

#6 posted 01-17-2010 03:08 PM

Small world. I am doing exactly the same thing. My first attempts were not a good as yours. Hopefully toady will be better. I read Stefang’s idea of fitting joints and I feel it will work on some woods. Especially drawer materials. The uneven nature of hand cut appeals to my liking. I am not a cabinet maker but hand fitting any wood is a challenge to me. Might need it on a truck someday.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 2651 days

#7 posted 01-17-2010 04:21 PM

There have been a lot of first attempts posted since mine. It’s probably a coincidence, but I am taking full credit for getting people interested :D

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

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