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Project by DKV posted 05-07-2012 11:03 PM 2686 views 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Most of you will not consider this a project but I couldn’t find a section called “mission”. It’s been my mission to learn to handcut dovetails. After hundreds of attempts and many, many videos on Youtube I think I have the “rules” down. Here’s what I’ve found out. The rules are your rules. Example, always use the same pencil so you can automatically see where to cut on the inside of the line. Another example, when clearing the sockets place the end of your chisel in the scribe line and lightly tap a couple of times at 90 degrees and then hog out at 92 degrees. That way you’ll have a nice clean scribe line and wiggle room at the center of the socket. Anyway, I apologize if anyone thinks I should not have posted here. I’ve done a lot of projects that were far easier and quicker than my dovetail “mission”.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

12 comments so far

View Texchappy's profile


252 posts in 2363 days

#1 posted 05-07-2012 11:28 PM

Look pretty clean. I’ve been told they get easier with time. Most of the videos take ten minutes so there’s your next challenge ;)

-- Wood is not velveeta

View FredIV's profile


121 posts in 2533 days

#2 posted 05-08-2012 12:24 AM

i work on hand cut dovetails whenever i get the chance. i’ve gotten it down to less than 5 minutes. my technique is getting better and still have lots of room for improvement.

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2647 days

#3 posted 05-08-2012 12:44 AM

Fred, cutting a dovetail is not like swimming or riding a bike, imo. If you do not cut them on a regular basis you get rusty. Anyway, practice, practice, practice…

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View Martyroc's profile


2712 posts in 2449 days

#4 posted 05-08-2012 02:33 AM

Nice job, I learned to cut dovetails by hand many many years ago,and you are correct, if enough time passes you lose your edge.

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2757 days

#5 posted 05-08-2012 04:47 AM

need to learn dove tails .i be happy with learning them with a router .but would like to know hand cut ones too those look good to me

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View Allanwoodworks's profile


112 posts in 2984 days

#6 posted 05-08-2012 05:36 AM

Very nice! I too have been on a mission to learn them myself. One question for you is on the use of plywood, Just curous if you got a clean cut with your saw? It looks super clean in the picture. Did you have any problems working with plywood?

-- Ty, Up in Washington

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2647 days

#7 posted 05-08-2012 06:02 AM

MVW, I only used plywood because I had so much scrap. Very good plywood from a hardwood store, not a big box store. It cuts and holds up better. I used a Shark saw (very thin, very sharp) and cut short of the scribe line with multiple kerfs. I then used my chisel to hog out the sockets using the 90 degree/92 degree method to maintain a very clean line for the socket bottom. I’m now ready to try walnut, maple, rosewood, etc. I have also found that if I was cutting dovetails frequently I would come up with some kind of jig to make the cutting and cleaning faster. I’ve tried dovetails on the tablesaw, bandsaw and router. I have more control over the process when I cut them by hand…just too slow. Anyway, good luck and keep me up to date on your progress. I’ll post more pics with better wood soon.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View sawdustmaster's profile


70 posts in 2969 days

#8 posted 05-08-2012 02:05 PM

I started learning to cut dovetails by hand a few months ago. I wasn’t interested in spending tons of money on a fancy jig so I spent tons of money on fancy hand tools, it just seems more pure to cut them by hand. Anyway, practice makes all the difference. I just started using an actual marking gauge instead of a pencil and the scribe line itself has made a substantial difference in the accuracy of the cut. Is it really possible to get airtight dovetails or is that just what it looks like in all the magazines? I always seem to have some sort of tiny gap in there somewhere.

-- --Now we are surrounded sir. "Excellent private, now we can attack in any direction."

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2618 days

#9 posted 05-08-2012 04:28 PM

Is it really possible to get airtight dovetails or is that just what it looks like in all the magazines?

Yes it is possible, all you have to make sure is that you cut on the waste side of your scribe line. I think Schwarz has made a very good point, dovetails are not only a matter of sawing. You need the correct stance, so that you can build muscle memory and your arm moves as a straight pendulum all the time. Once you get this down dovetails become easy and air tight. As Franz Klaus one responded to a question of making dovetails, ” it is not the dovetail the problem it is that you cannot cut to a straight line. “

The neat thing is seeing the progress, with time your dovetails will look great and besides the satisfaction, there are a myriad of dovetail combinations that cannot be made with a jig.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View BigMig's profile


465 posts in 2756 days

#10 posted 05-08-2012 08:30 PM

Hey, DKV, I’m on a similar mission and your joints look much more advanced (better) than mine.

Way to go!

-- Mike from Lansdowne, PA

View Dusty56's profile


11822 posts in 3831 days

#11 posted 07-01-2012 10:08 PM

Certainly the cleanest cuts I’ve ever seen in plywood !
Speaking of ply , that looks like some very high quality plywood…I haven’t seen plys that uniform or solid in years.
Keep up the good work : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View DocSavage45's profile


8699 posts in 2985 days

#12 posted 08-16-2012 06:30 PM

Be proud. Dovetails are the mark of the true woodworker! Good discussion. The more mistakes the more we learn.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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