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Reply by Jon Spelbring

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Posted on Questions about hand cut dovetails

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Jon Spelbring

199 posts in 2857 days


#1 posted 1629 days ago

I just took a class on hand cut dovetails at woodcraft – he used that method for marking out the tails. Once you try it, it will make sense.

1. Mark out where the half pins will be on your tail board(this part gets cut off of the tail board)
2. Decide how many tails you want to have (Hint: divide the width between the two marks in step 1 by the number of tails you want)
3. Set your divider to that size. You will have to play with it a little, but you should be able to “walk” the dividers from one of the marks in step 1 to the other.

4. Now is the tricky part: What you want the dividers set to is the distance of one tail PLUS one pin, so from step 3, open the dividers a little, then do the walk-thing again. Now, the distance between the 2nd mark from step 1 to where the divider leg ends up will be your tail+pin.

5. Now, starting with one of those original marks, walk the dividers across the board, making a mark/dent each time. Once that’s done, do the same thing, but starting from the other side (again, from one of those two original marks.

That’s it. Geez, written out, it sounds complicated, but it’s really not. I first saw the technique on one of Rob Cosman’s videos – highly recommend both his videos, and his shop book on dovetails.

I hope this helps, and doesn’t just confuse you more.

-- To do is to be


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