My first handcut dovetails!

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Project by Damien Pollet posted 05-06-2011 10:34 AM 1940 views 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
My first handcut dovetails!
My first handcut dovetails! No picture No picture No picture No picture No picture
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Aren’t they cute?

I found a nice straight oak board, with just one ugly knot and otherwise pretty nice grain, at one of the local home improvement stores, which I intend to use for exercises and making tools.

First exercise was to resaw a piece of it from 20mm to half that, to test if I’m actually able to properly use a japanese saw. Apparently yes :)

Resawing went well, but the halves cupped so the second exercise was to plane them flat, and I ended up with ~7mm thick stock. In the process I managed to get 0.04mm shavings from my cheap plane, they don’t look as transparent as some photos I’ve seen, but it’s good to know that the plane is actually capable of it.

Third exercise was this, the pieces were small and I still lack proper workholding, so it was more like hand-carving than proper mallet → chisel → piece → backer board → workbench. It’s not easy to see where exactly to adjust the fit… there are small gaps but the joint is solid and relatively square. Maybe I will cut the sides to make a dovetailing square out of it, but for now I’ll let it enjoy the stay on my Swedish-built VVØRKBËNCH :)

(full size photo here)

15 comments so far

View Andrius_Sta's profile


38 posts in 2624 days

#1 posted 05-06-2011 11:17 AM

Nice DoF man.

-- Andrius Sta, Utrecht The Netherlands

View Damien Pollet's profile

Damien Pollet

73 posts in 2609 days

#2 posted 05-06-2011 11:58 AM

You got to love those light & cheap prime lenses ;)

View Sodabowski's profile


2374 posts in 2832 days

#3 posted 05-06-2011 01:33 PM

50 mm f:1.8? :p

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View Damien Pollet's profile

Damien Pollet

73 posts in 2609 days

#4 posted 05-06-2011 02:24 PM

35mm, but that was at f/2.4 I think, with a little on-camera flash & diffuser to counter the window backlighting :)

But I must admit it’s possible it will get a big brother soon… that new 50mm f/1.8G is verrrryyy tempting !

View RDR's profile


38 posts in 2672 days

#5 posted 05-07-2011 03:56 AM

I wanted to complement you on your dovetails, but say that the photo made me click on the project. Way to go on both fronts :) Clearly I’m not the first to notice. I’m really loving getting to know both my new daughter and my new T1i and 50 mm 1.8.

-- The Dude abides...

View christopheralan's profile


1126 posts in 3720 days

#6 posted 05-07-2011 11:48 PM

Looks great dude! Well done!

-- christopheralan

View bigike's profile


4052 posts in 3288 days

#7 posted 05-07-2011 11:55 PM

great job.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3066 days

#8 posted 05-08-2011 12:04 AM

First ones? wow! my first ones were not even close. You did a good job

View Damien Pollet's profile

Damien Pollet

73 posts in 2609 days

#9 posted 05-08-2011 01:29 AM

Thanks :) I didn’t time it exactly but it took me really long, easily half an hour or more for each half. Basically I sawed 1-2mm into the waste then pared (or carved, rather) to the lines. And that’s how one learns that oak endgrain is hard…

View richy7768's profile


12 posts in 2592 days

#10 posted 05-08-2011 01:59 PM

cool that you can do it with hand tools but my motto is god gave us hands to use tools edison gave us electricity to use power tools

View Damien Pollet's profile

Damien Pollet

73 posts in 2609 days

#11 posted 05-08-2011 04:29 PM

Sure, but as much as I’d love having table saw, jointer, router, dovetailing jig, etc. I’d have a hard time fitting them in my budget and my 20 square meter living room… So I guess I’ll have to keep using hands for a while…

BTW, I’ve had my current pair custom made by Evolution & Natural Selection Inc. No problem with them since 30 or so years I’ve had them. Great brand, I recommend it :)

View mafe's profile


11725 posts in 3089 days

#12 posted 05-09-2011 12:15 AM

Best thoughts,

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

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2654 days

#13 posted 05-10-2011 04:28 AM

Practice time is time very well gained.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6856 posts in 3979 days

#14 posted 05-13-2011 01:46 PM

Hi Damien;

Great looking dovetails.

The time spent learning to use hand tools will serve you well. Far better to learn them first, then move on to the machinery.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Damien Pollet's profile

Damien Pollet

73 posts in 2609 days

#15 posted 05-13-2011 07:23 PM

Thanks again everyone!

@ Lee: Yes, I’ve been reading Krenov’s books and I think I have a similar position wrt. machines. I can perfectly see myself using them to do the heavy work, and I hope to get jointer/planer and friends when I get adequate space, but, as a hobbyist, I don’t really care about productivity. I’d rather have nice shapes and surfaces that don’t look too mechanical. Or maybe I would go to the complete extreme and use CNC to make complex mathematically-generated shapes :)

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