Hand Dovetail Help

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Project by Charles E Abel posted 03-13-2007 03:54 AM 1889 views 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here are a few pictures of some hand dovetailing that I did after I made my own guide using Rare Earth Magnets that I purchased from Lee Valley.

The time was 1998 or 1999 I don’t remember exactly.
What gave me the idea was a guide sold by Japanwoodworker that is made by a Swedish firm called Nobex.

I purchased one but soon returned it because it didn’t cut a true 90 degrees.

I went ahead and built the Chestnut Kitchen Cabinets using the guide to cut thru dovetails
in all of the drawers (all 4 corners).
I thought about trying to get a patent on the guide but didn’t have the extra money
and just let it go at that.
Well Lo and Behold about 3 or 4 years later Lee Valley came out with their “Patented” Magnetic Dovetail Guide.
Someone put an entry in Methods of Work in Fine Woodworking in issue 171 on how to make a guide using the Rare Earth Magnet.
I haven’t found it yet, but I believe it was Rob Lee from Lee Valley that said you can’t do that because we have the patent on the guide now.
I looked up the patent on Google and don’t really understand why anyone can’t make their own guide
without infringing on the Lee Valley patent as long as they don’t make them for sale.
Is the unique part about the patent that it uses a magnet to hold the saw blade to assist in the cutting?
If so what about the Nobex devise, it uses a magnet also and was being sold long before Lee Valleys patent.
I consider the design of Lee Valleys guide to more complex than needed with the clamps plus a lot slower
to use and a lot more clumsy than the one I designed to use.

There are only 3 angles needed to cut dovetails.
Without showing mine (I might get in trouble if I show it),
I can tell you that it is 3- 1/2” long by
1 – 1/2” wide by 1 – 1/4” high. Grooves are cut 3/16” deep along the 1 – 1/2” side
centered both top and bottom.
One groove is cut across the long side (1 side only) for the 90 degree cut.
The other 2 ends are cut one for tails the other for pins.
The device is flipped end for end to get the cuts needed.
I made mine at 7-1, you can make it any angle you want or make how many ever you desire at as many angles that you need.
I made one for narrow stock like 1/2” and one for 3/4” material.
The magnets are embeded flush on each end and on the one side.

It is very easy to use, I like to cut the pins first.
You really don’t need to do any laying out other than the width of the pins.
Just position the guide where you want to make a cut and let the magnet hold the saw straight.

I have a Lie Nielsen Dovetail saw that I use.

I see a lot of folks talking about struggling with dovetails and I thought that I would share
what I have done to make it much easier for me.


7 comments so far

View Kaleo's profile


201 posts in 4162 days

#1 posted 03-13-2007 09:27 AM

you can make you own guide. and it doesn’t infringe on there patient. I saw the fine woodworking article that you mentioned and the next issue they had to retract the article, because of the patient.

You can make one you just can’t make a bunch and sell them. But for yourself you can. I make jigs everyday that are out there, but I don’t want to buy them.

But if you in someway redesign the product and make it better than you can patient that.

just my 2 cents.

-- Kaleo ,

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4337 days

#2 posted 03-13-2007 04:16 PM

Nice work on the dovetails…is that a whole kitchen of handcut dovetails?

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4184 days

#3 posted 03-13-2007 04:22 PM

Nice dovetails, and you cut them by hand. Good job.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4322 days

#4 posted 03-13-2007 04:35 PM

It looks like you have a pretty good setup there.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Charles E Abel's profile

Charles E Abel

13 posts in 4118 days

#5 posted 03-13-2007 04:55 PM

All of the drawers were hand dovetailed.
The face frames I used pocket screws.
The doors I used a CMT set for kitchens.

View Andy Rockhill's profile

Andy Rockhill

13 posts in 4122 days

#6 posted 03-30-2007 12:43 AM

Very nice work! The dovetails look great!

I’ve never used guides, but often thought about buying some (or making some, but shhh…). I started my foray into the hand-cut dovetail realm with a cheap gent’s saw and felt like a child trying to learn to cut straight with a scissors. But then purchased a Japanese dovetail saw and boy what a difference! Now, I usually saw pretty straight only to screw up with the chisel. :) However, one drawback of the Japanese style saws is that the kerf is too small to saw out the waste with a coping saw (which I find is easier than chopping it out with a chisel). I am saving my pennies for a good western style saw so that (hopefully) I can get the best of both worlds.

That’s a funny story about the patent issue. I am no lawyer, but I can’t see how showing people how to make a device would infringe upon the patent for the device. After all, that’s what the patent does! However, I’m sure the retraction was based upon the advice of a real lawyer. :)

-- Andy from Waukesha, WI -- A student of life

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4350 days

#7 posted 03-30-2007 01:37 AM

I think the infrigement was more about a someone publishing the plans for the jig, than about people making their own for personal use. They’d never sell one if everyone had already made one.

Thats interesting about the other jig already commercially available. It makes me wonder if they bought them out, or if they didn’t have an international copyright on it.

If yours is really a better mousetrap, then you could probably get a patent on that… and perhaps you should. Could earn you a pretty penny!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

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