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First project with hand-cut dovetails

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Project by RHaynes posted 01-28-2014 07:26 PM 1309 views 1 time favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After practicing for over a month on cutting dovetails by hand and getting some pretty humorous (if not occasionally demoralizing) results, I purchased a few different guides. The first set to arrive was the Veritas guide and saw set. That was followed by David Barron's guides and saw recommendation, a Gyokucho #372. The difference with guided cuts was night and day. This box is my first project with “passable” hand-cut dovetails. I used the Veritas guide and saw set for this project, but after it was completed the David Barron guides arrived—I prefer them greatly over the Veritas set. I’ll post another project soon made with the David Barron guides, much better results.

This is a 4” square, loose-lid box, designed to hold my wife’s rosary beads. It’s 1/2” poplar except for the bottom, which is 1/4” maple plywood. I’m very happy with the fit of the lid as you can see if the last picture. It is finished with Watco’s dark walnut danish oil that I worked in with synthetic finishing pads from Rockler, using the fine grit for the second coat and the extra fine for the third and final coats.

I’m glad I tried to tackle the art of handcut dovetails. It quickly hooked me and I learned a LOT of important skills, especially use of a marking gauge and marking knife, and MUCH better chisel techniques. I’ll be doing more of these in the future.

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.





19 comments so far

View Chris 's profile

Chris

85 posts in 329 days


#1 posted 01-28-2014 08:30 PM

I am brand new to all of this stuff but I love the look of dovetails. Nice work and thanks for sharing.

View Oldtool's profile

Oldtool

1916 posts in 935 days


#2 posted 01-29-2014 01:49 AM

The dovetails and the box all came out great. Tails are nice and tight, great job.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View natrous's profile

natrous

65 posts in 1528 days


#3 posted 01-29-2014 01:59 PM

Very nice job. My plan for this summer is to practice this as well – I hope mine will come out as good as this!

-- I do not like work even when someone else does it. - Mark Twain

View DKV's profile

DKV

3194 posts in 1248 days


#4 posted 01-29-2014 06:28 PM

RHaynes, I have the Veritas guide on order. Can you do a review/comparison of the Veritas/Barron guides? Thanks,

-- Have fun and laugh alot. Life can end at any moment. You old guys out there know what I mean...

View R_Stad's profile

R_Stad

207 posts in 587 days


#5 posted 01-29-2014 06:39 PM

Nice work – your diligence is being rewarded. Well done.

-- Rod - Oregon

View RHaynes's profile

RHaynes

95 posts in 365 days


#6 posted 01-29-2014 08:24 PM

Thanks, everyone for your kind comments. DKV – I will absolutely do a review . . . a side-by-side, A-B comparison of the two different guide systems. I probably won’t have time to write it up today, or to post close-up pics of the joints created with each system, but look for it in the next few days—I’ll send you a PM when it’s up. But as a preview, I can say definitively that I STRONGLY prefer David Barron’s guides to the Veritas.

The Veritas is great (I love nearly everything Lee Valley/Veritas), but the clamping mechanism on the Veritas guide is a bit fidgety. If the torque at which you clamp it down is slightly too strong, you can wind up moving the guide, throwing off the cutting angle it produces. The other thing about the clamp is that you can’t really clamp it to the workpiece for the cuts on the edges. The instructions say to take a piece of equal thickness and butt it up to your workpiece, edge-to-edge. While it’s a nice idea, it’s another thing to fidget with during the cutting of your tails and pins. Also, if you don’t get the edges completely flush, the guide won’t sit totally flat on the end-grain, thus throwing off the angle of the cut again. Last, the Veritas guide is just . . . well . . . big. Compared to Mr. Barron’s guides, it’s REALLY big. Which is why it needs a clamp. Mr. Barron’s are lighter, smaller, more easily moved and adjusted, and don’t need the clamp. The adhesive backed sandpaper pads on Mr. Barron’s guides are more than enough to hold them steady during cutting with minimal hand pressure. And since you don’t have to unclamp and reclamp, you just slide them over to the next cut without having to put down your saw.

The other big difference between the systems is the saw. For the Veritas, you must use the saw that comes with the guide. You can’t use a dozuki (specifically the Gyochuko 372 that Mr. Barron recommends) with the Veritas guide because the stiffening strap (Dozuki means “attached trunk,” referring to the thicker piece of metal that stiffens the blade, making a dozuki a “backsaw”) will hit the guide, causing the top of the saw to move away from the face of the guide, thus decreasing the angle between the blade and the end-grain of your workpiece when cutting. I guess you could use a ryoba or some other brand of backless saw with the Veritas guide, or if you have an English-style dovetail saw with a tall enough blade, but I have neither option available. What’s the big deal? The dozuki is stiffer, thinner, and sharper. The thinner kerf makes it easier to make precise cuts, although if you take the time to turn your knife marks into “knife walls” the way Paul Sellers recommends, it’s nearly impossible to locate the saw blade somewhere other than where you intend to make the cut. For me, the difference is most noticeable in the stiffness of the saw. Both systems guide the blade with magnets. But the stiffer saw connected to the magnet has a better chance of making a truly straight cut. The backless Veritas saw, although attached to the magnet, is inherently more flexible, which I think makes it easier for your cuts to have wider variations in them.

I hope this helps for now. I’ll get a full, illustrated review posted as soon as I can! Best,

Russ

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

View DKV's profile

DKV

3194 posts in 1248 days


#7 posted 01-29-2014 10:32 PM

Thanks a million Russ. Good info.

-- Have fun and laugh alot. Life can end at any moment. You old guys out there know what I mean...

View Kryptic's profile

Kryptic

294 posts in 404 days


#8 posted 01-30-2014 12:41 AM

I feel out of the loop sorta ?

I googled the Veritas guide system and though I have no experience with it, I fail to see why you would hand cut a dovetail, and have it look like its done with a jig like Festool, Leigh, etc., …. but I understand the satisfaction factor of doing it by hand, to which you did an awesome job : )

Going forward. To the best of my knowledge, cnc has not yet achieved, the dovetail joint in a drawer, where the pin, forms a point thats sharp , to be received into the tail. Just my opinion, but when the pins look like sharp arrow heads, …. it’s a joined testimony, to hand done dove tails, otherwise I use a router cuz its faster ? But then again, I’m a pro and your not …lol…… but seriously, push the pins to the arrow,

you’ve done a nice job … Im finding it hard to believe in such a perseverance of a soul , of hand held saw to wood( + jig ) and am most impressed you actually did that.

think “arrow” heads ( pins ) and the combinations and permutations of the “tails”

Best

K

View DKV's profile

DKV

3194 posts in 1248 days


#9 posted 02-01-2014 06:28 PM

Russ, my Veritas guide arrived yesterday. I will play with it and post results. Good luck to me… :-)

-- Have fun and laugh alot. Life can end at any moment. You old guys out there know what I mean...

View DKV's profile

DKV

3194 posts in 1248 days


#10 posted 02-03-2014 09:34 PM

Russ, my first attempt at using the Veritas guide. I could have filled in some of the chips with sawdust and glue but figured since I’m just practicing I’ll let it go. Here’s what I found/prefer. I like to use the guide to about 3/4 the cut, remove the guide and finish using the cut slot only. That way I can better see the line to stop at. Let the saw do the work and add no pressure. I only used sharp pencil marks, cut inside the line of the waste side and made sure the fit was tight. I pared accordingly.

It took me awhile but these turned out better than previous free handing. I’ll get better and quicker each time. Bottom line, I like the guide. Of course I don’t have anything to compare to as you do.

-- Have fun and laugh alot. Life can end at any moment. You old guys out there know what I mean...

View RHaynes's profile

RHaynes

95 posts in 365 days


#11 posted 02-03-2014 10:09 PM

Yeah man, those are pretty tight! I think the whole “fill-it-in-with-flour-and-glue” thing is cheating too, although if I have a gap on the last one of four joints, I might talk myself into covering it up rather than trashing a whole workpiece. I agree about having trouble with that guide seeing the bottom of the cut. I take my shop stool and jack it down so I can see better. I also have a small shaving mirror that I set up behind the cut so I can watch where the saw is on the back of the piece as I cut too. If I don’t quite make it to the line, I just cut the surface down to the stop line with my marking knife and then pare it away when I clean up the cuts with a chisel. I just don’t trust myself to keep that angle all the way down.

BTW—I love how you described your dovetail jointmaking as a “mission” instead of a “project.” I feel the same way myself. Maybe in 10 or 15 years we’ll have it down pretty good.

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

View DKV's profile

DKV

3194 posts in 1248 days


#12 posted 02-04-2014 05:22 AM

It keeps getting better…dovetails are now available to anyone.

-- Have fun and laugh alot. Life can end at any moment. You old guys out there know what I mean...

View RHaynes's profile

RHaynes

95 posts in 365 days


#13 posted 02-04-2014 05:26 AM

Yeah those are looking good. Isn’t it great to have just that little bit of help getting them nice and tight? It took a lot of the apprehension out them for me. The Knew Concepts fret saw also helped me get the depth lines straight too, although I think following Paul Sellers’ instructions for cutting knife walls helped me more on that front.

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

View DKV's profile

DKV

3194 posts in 1248 days


#14 posted 02-04-2014 05:49 AM

Is the New Concepts that much better than cheaper ones? I’ve been on the edge about buying one.

-- Have fun and laugh alot. Life can end at any moment. You old guys out there know what I mean...

View RHaynes's profile

RHaynes

95 posts in 365 days


#15 posted 02-04-2014 04:19 PM

I don’t have much to compare it too. I’ve used a coping saw and a small bandsaw to clear away waste between pins. But when the decision came to buy a fret saw, I didn’t shop around much. David Barron said that saw was the bees knees, so the order got placed. I’m sure there are other options for fret saws/jewelers saws, but I’m very happy with the KC saw. It’s easy to adjust and control, and extremely light, which for a person that suffers from carpal tunnel is very helpful – the harder I have to grip something, the more numb my hands will be the next day.

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

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