|Project by TheWoodenOyster||posted 10-28-2014 03:29 PM||5192 views||17 times favorited||8 comments|
So I have been feeling guilty ever since I began woodworking because I never use dovetails. Honestly, most of the world could care less about a dovetail, but we woodworkers have some sort of magnetism towards them. The first thing I do when I inspect a piece of furniture is see if the drawers are dovetailed. Anyway, I decided that I want to make a project or two with some dovetails, so I elected to cheat my way through and build a sled. I figured the repeatability of using a sled is hard to beat, and even if I eventually learn to cut them by hand, I’ll still use this thing quite a bit.
The sled starts as a basic bare sled with one miter bar made of some hdpe I ripped to the correct width. The rail needs to be nice and tight because only having one rail engaged makes the sled much more susceptible to racking and twisting. Next, I picked my angle and cut a 1 1/2” thick piece of mdf (three laminated layers) at the dovetail angle of 1:8, whatever that angle is. You can see this process in picture 3. I used my do it all sled and it worked great. I used one side of the cut to make the base for the tail cutting side and used the other half of the cut to set the fence angle on the pin cutting side. This pretty much ensured an angle match without having to use any measurement devices other than squaring to the blade. Pictures 1 and 2 best explain that.
Because I don’t have a specially ground blade for the sled, I still have to chop and pare out some waste to get a good fit. I have cut two joints that you can see in the last two pictures. I think the second would look great if it weren’t from a unjointed scrap that probably wasn’t square. Still looks decent and the joint pushes together perfectly. I like how the tablesaw sled gives you more freedom on dovetail size and spacing than a router jig. It allows for a more hand-cut and unique look.
Cutting dovetails with the sled is about half machine work and half hand work, which is a good starting place for me. I can learn to do layout and pare and chisel out waste with this technique without having to worry about how straight my saw kerfs are. Somewhere down the road, I’ll probably learn or be forced to learn to cut a full blown hand-cut dovetail, but this is a good stepping stone until then.
A few lessons learned:
1. I plan to use mdf for all of my sleds from now on. I have had bad luck with even high quality plywood not making an effectively flat sled base.
2. It is very important to center the miter rail dead nuts between the saw kerfs. This ensures the same depth of cut at the two mirrored angles when cutting your tails
Thanks to BricoFleur (sp?) for his dovetail sled design and blog. I used it as a reference, but did some things differently.
Comments and questions welcome!
-- The Wood Is Your Oyster