First Dovetail

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Project by Skillet posted 1544 days ago 1924 views 0 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My first dovetail looks like a “first”, but I enjoyed every minute. I bought a piece of a 1×6 from the scrap bin at the big orange depository store with the intentions of making dovetails and eventually a box I attempted to do one a couple months ago. Utter failure before I even got half way done. I bought some tools last week to help me do this project. I bought a marking gauge, coping saw, & bevel gauge. I started with cutting the boards to length with a hand saw, about 10” long. I marked them with the marking gauge. I broke out my bevel gauge. I set it by eye. I remembered learning that what ever angle I started with I gotta keep it. I made the tails first. Then I used the tail board to mark the pins on the end of the other board. I cut those out. I noticed that using a coping saw it was very easy to mess up and get off track. I trimmed some extra from one pin and there it was my first dovetail.

-- Skillet, Louisiana

22 comments so far

View woody57's profile


645 posts in 2029 days

#1 posted 1544 days ago

great job for your first attempt
keep practicing

-- Emmett, from Georgia

View Steffen's profile


326 posts in 2637 days

#2 posted 1544 days ago

looks like you have the right idea you just need to practice.

-- Steffen - Kirkland, WA

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 1944 days

#3 posted 1544 days ago

You got it. Keep on practicing. It gets easier, practice, practice, practice.

-- Marc

View Chase's profile


448 posts in 1629 days

#4 posted 1544 days ago

my hat is off, it will be a long time before I attempt to do a dovetail by hand… In fact I haven’t tried one by machine / jig yet!

-- Every neighborhood has an eccentric neighbor. I wondered for years "who was ours?" Then I realized it was me.

View NormG's profile


3999 posts in 1606 days

#5 posted 1544 days ago

Lot better than my first attempt. Don’t worry about the coping saw. I have seen people do wonderful things with one.

-- Norman

View rance's profile


4125 posts in 1763 days

#6 posted 1544 days ago


A good start. It doesn’t look quite as bad as my first, but close. :) I hated hand tools until I used a sharp one. The only reason I tried hand-cut is I saw Rob Cosman at a store, explain his methods. Go buy his video and/or book. No, I don’t have an interest in him, but I do use his method for teaching DT’s. He teaches with high-end tools, but I’ve found that some compromises can be made as long as you stay within the guidelines of his parameters.

Pine is not the easiest for HCDTs, try using Poplar or Mahogany, or a combination. Oh, and BTW, you can eyeball the angle for the tails. And lastly, glue up what you have, then cut it off, write the date on it and put it in a bag. Keep doing this and in a year, lay out the contents of the bag chronologically and see your progress. It is an eye opener. You may want to discard your coping saw blade and replace it with a 12.5pt skip tooth scroll saw blade. I think you’ll like it a lot more.

Keep it up and post your progress.


-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1276 posts in 1600 days

#7 posted 1544 days ago

Structurally, it looks wonderful. A few shims will help the cosmetics.

When you see the beautiful hand cut examples from experts, you are not seeing their first ones ;)

Keep it up.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View OutPutter's profile


1194 posts in 2592 days

#8 posted 1544 days ago

Not bad for a first try. I think you may have had a little trouble staying on the correct side of the line. I never knew how thick a line could be until I started woodworking. Keep up the good work.


-- Jim

View PurpLev's profile


8476 posts in 2251 days

#9 posted 1544 days ago

considering the fact that you used all new tools with little experience with them – not bad at all! I take from your writing that you just cut the joinery with a coping saw? no chisel work at all? this is impressive!

as noted before, experience and time will get your dovetails tighter and tighter to the point it just becomes another joint for you, and not a goal.

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

View Skillet's profile


67 posts in 2052 days

#10 posted 1544 days ago

Hey thanks ya’ll. I’ll keep practicing, I’ll might keep them to compare in a year. So true about the correct side of the line, especially harder with the coping saw. I’ll have to get that skip tooth scroll saw blade. I have three other corners to complete. I might make a bottom, maybe a top, then I’ll have a box. And yes, I didn’t write it, but I did use a chisel to clean out the joints. I have been watching Robby Pederson on one of the Woodsmith videos. Thank you Woodsmith! You guys are encouraging too! Thank you.

-- Skillet, Louisiana

View donjoe's profile


1360 posts in 1633 days

#11 posted 1544 days ago

Practice makes perfect or so they say. Good job, keep it up.

-- Donnie-- listen to the wood.

View NBeener's profile


4806 posts in 1776 days

#12 posted 1544 days ago

Something that … I’m quite sure … I will NEVER be able to do….

So … I applaud you.

Nicely done !

-- -- Neil

View WildWillie's profile


12 posts in 1578 days

#13 posted 1544 days ago

Not bad for a first attempt. Im sure someone has told you, but I will again anyway. Dove tails are much easier to cut with really sharp tools.. Keep practicing.. They will get easier. I promise.

-- Bill Goff, PA

View mafe's profile


9456 posts in 1691 days

#14 posted 1544 days ago

I’m impressed, I try to find my currage to start, but need to a little more time.
I am especially impressed that you post it, it gives us all currage, it will at least make it easier for me to get started.
Thank you.

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View dmoney's profile


191 posts in 1681 days

#15 posted 1543 days ago

good job, thanks for posting, i’ll be attempting this soon.

-- Derek, Iowa

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