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Dovetails- Hand cut or machine where do you stand?

by woodworker59
posted 06-04-2012 09:12 PM

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81 replies

81 replies so far

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2262 days

#1 posted 06-04-2012 09:19 PM

Being an engineer, I have to say that I like the look of precision work. So, naturally I tend to favor router cut or even CNC machine cut. That is not to say that I don’t appreciate the work of hand cutting.

There are certain aspects I really find interesting in hand cut joints and one is the skill it takes to make a tight one.

What’s even more impressive to me is a blend of the two in question, the precision of a machine cut dovetail (or joint) that was done by hand. When I see levels of craftsmanship like that, I cannot help but be amazed.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2290 days

#2 posted 06-04-2012 09:30 PM

Since I have a Leigh dovetail jig, I use a dovetail jig and I like it. I have no doubt that had our forefathers had power routers and dovetail jigs, they would have used them—it’s simply a matter of expediency, efficiency and economy.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View bondogaposis's profile


4727 posts in 2349 days

#3 posted 06-04-2012 09:45 PM

I’ve cut them both ways and although my hand cut dovetails are a bit a crude I prefer them over the machine cut. I do find it quite a bit harder to hand cut half blinds so sometimes I’ll break out the router. I hope one day to get my dovetails to look real purdy and that is going to take practice, so in the meantime I’ll live with less than perfect.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2473 days

#4 posted 06-04-2012 09:52 PM

By hand of course, no machine will make the variety and look of a well made hand cut dovetail. That is not to see using some machine aids, like a trim router to hog waste on a half blind dovetail is not permitted.. :-)

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

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2633 days

#5 posted 06-04-2012 10:27 PM

I feel like hand cut dovetails are one of the few things in woodworking that ties us to our woodworking ancestors. Now days almost every task can be touched with power tools from milling to cutting to sanding. Most of them are more efficient, some hundreds of times more efficient (milling stock). I would like to think that some tasks should remain clear from power tools to respect the art of the craft.

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2923 days

#6 posted 06-04-2012 10:31 PM

I have used the PC Omnijig and the Leigh jig for dovetails and both worked quite well, the last being compound dovetails for a cradle with the Leigh. Took a lot longer to figure out than I thought.

Two weeks ago I took a seminar with Rob Cosman and was impressed with the hand cut dovetails he taught.

I think my next project will be finished with hand cut, and to answer your question, I like the look of both!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3646 days

#7 posted 06-04-2012 10:41 PM

depends on quantity:

a few dovetailed boxes = by hand
20 dovetails drawers = jig

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View jmos's profile


827 posts in 2367 days

#8 posted 06-04-2012 11:00 PM

I’ve got a Rockler dovetail jig; used it once and it worked fine. Once I dialed it in it produced a very tight joint. That said, I cut all mine (mostly) by hand anymore just for the challenge. I find it enjoyable, in a frustrating sort of way, to cut them by hand and see how well I can get them to turn out. Although I do often cheat and cut the faces of the tails with a bandsaw so I know those faces are square.

-- John

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3478 days

#9 posted 06-04-2012 11:24 PM

I think hand cut dovetails are quite traditional. But I find that the only people that seem to really notice are other woodworkers. So to save time, I use the Leigh jig.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Don W's profile

Don W

18713 posts in 2565 days

#10 posted 06-04-2012 11:40 PM

I like to hand cut dovetails, but I own a dovetail jig. (I don’t like the one I own, but that’s another story). I’m with Purplev, a few by hand for sure. If your cutting lots and time (and money) counts, I’d get out the jig.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 3750 days

#11 posted 06-04-2012 11:46 PM

I have done it both ways…...although much much more with jigs. I prefer the look of the minor defects of a handcut dovetail. If I made them in large numbers….......jigs.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#12 posted 06-05-2012 01:48 AM

Hand cut. Jigs are for box joints ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Ken Fitzpatrick's profile

Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4021 days

#13 posted 06-05-2012 02:03 AM

Have an old Craftsman half blind jig for 35 years and it worked just fine for me. Splurged on a PC two years ago for the full cut ability. I really like jigs. Anything that makes the project go easier. I think even the Shakers would use jigs if they were available back in the day.

Hand cut are beautiful and I have seen a number of experts cut them in no time. They work wood every day, all day and I get it. Since I retired I can do the same but still like my jigs.

I do know how and have done some hand cut (just to prove to myself I could) but would only use it for something extremely special and sentimental.


-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

View bent's profile


311 posts in 3666 days

#14 posted 06-05-2012 02:14 AM

depends on who the project is for, and what they expect(time frame, price, style).

View Gerry's profile


264 posts in 3238 days

#15 posted 06-05-2012 02:31 AM

I agree with Sharon. That being said, I am just finishing a chest of drawers (9) using a Leigh jig for the first 4, getting spotty results.

I then used the router table with a shop made jig for the pins, transferred the pin tracings to the tail boards, and cut the tails by hand. ( yes, I know, tails before pins?????)

In the grand scheme of things, my favorite time was hand cutting the half blind dovetails in the bottom of the case. Soooo, I guess I prefer doing them by hand.

-- -Gerry, Hereford, AZ ” A really good woodworker knows how the hide his / her mistakes.”

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2199 days

#16 posted 06-05-2012 04:35 AM

Seems I have opened quite a box of worms with my question, I have not done a accurate account, but seems to be split pretty close to right down the middle… I would like to address a couple of the things I read. While I would agree that for the sake of time the jig probably works faster(I have never used one) it goes back to my initial thread about it being a production piece. As a one man show here, I really don’t look at things in terms of how fast I can get it done. I can understand how having a lot to do will slow things down, I did a chest on chest a couple years ago, 13 drawers in all. It took most of a week to hand-cut all the dovetails just for the drawers not to mention the case corners. I guess the difference with me is I build them as much for me as for the people who ordered them, I try to put as much of me into every piece as possible. If it takes me an extra day or two to complete so be it. I guess it may be because I don’t need to make a living off my work, it just supplements my income. I suppose if tonight’s dinner were in the balance I would be hammering out dovetails on a jig in a heartbeat. Although I disagree with the notion that if the Shakers had routers and jigs they would have used them.. I really don’t believe so. Everything I have read concerning the Shakers tells me otherwise. I love the challenge of my craft, and the excitement I feel when a dovetail joint almost sucks itself into place when its cut just right, or the feeling of a mortise and tenon joint that is so sound you know that it will out live whoever buys it. The right angle chair that I have on my project page is a perfect example. Its built using pegged mortise and tenons throughout, the only way that chair is coming apart is with an axe. You can just feel it when you pick it up. Okay I have gone on long enough, just didn’t want to ask a question and then never come back to reply.
thanks to all who have answered so far, I hope that more respond. To me every joint I cut is my signature on that piece, I don’t need to burn my name into a piece its everywhere you look.. have fun and enjoy your craft.. Papa

-- Papa...

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#17 posted 06-05-2012 05:25 AM

This reminded me about a friend who wanted to learn to make dovetail joints. I had never done them either. After I learned to make them by hand just like I saw Roy doing it, I saw my friend. I asked if he had learned? He said yes, he got a jig and router and learned to make them ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View newwoodbutcher's profile


740 posts in 2847 days

#18 posted 06-05-2012 05:28 AM

I agree with Wayne that woodworkers are the people who appreciate hand cut dovetails. If your clients can’t tell the difference, machine dovetails are more profitable. For me, I make them by hand as I don’t sell my work and I really appreciate developing and showing off my skills.

-- Ken

View Ken Fitzpatrick's profile

Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4021 days

#19 posted 06-05-2012 11:26 AM

Hi Papa,

This is a great discussion. I have to disagree with you though re: Shakers. I’ve done a lot of reading as well on the Shakers and have been to a few of their settlements in New York, Massachusetts and Vermont. One thing I have taken away from all of this is that the Shakers were leaders in inovation. They were the first in the communities to bring in running water and electricity and other labor saving devices.

In Hancock Massachusetts they built a round barn that is entered on three levels accomplished with grading of the land around it. They drive wagons of hay to the upper level dropping the hay in a center shaft to the second level where waiting cows devour it. The lowest level is for what comes out of the cow’s so wagons could come in to load up the results and distribute around the farm.

They have an aqueduct that routes water to the enclave from almost a half mile away. This water is used to power a laundry and woodworking shop where water powered washers and water powered table saws are used.
In the main 3 story house they use dumb waiters from the basment kitchen to the upper level to serve food in their large dining rooms. These dumb waiters are the size of large cabinets with many shelves to hold the volume of food that was lifted to the main dining room. The were certainly innovators.

I guess it could never be proven because their enclaves died out in the last century, but my gut tells me the brothers would certainly have modernized thier work shops as new fangled jigs were invented.

Anyway thanks for starting this forum. From what I can see, those who hand cut their dovetails are strong advocates of continuing in that fashion. I applaud their sticktoitiveness (I hope that is a word, I’ve heard it so many times over the years). Their results are indeed beautiful pieces of work.


-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

View helluvawreck's profile


31071 posts in 2864 days

#20 posted 06-05-2012 11:43 AM

I cut them by hand and with jigs. It all depends on what I’m working on at the time. I do enjoy cutting them by hand, however, and it gives me a lot more sense of accomplishment and pride when I do.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3074 days

#21 posted 06-05-2012 12:16 PM

I have a nice little Leigh Super Jig sitting on my shelf and have used it from time to time, but honestly I prefer hand cutting mine any day of the week. I just do this as a hobby… As a way to express myself… As a way to create something that hopefully will last longer than I ever will (as corny as that may sound).

In this modern Walmart/microwave society we live in most folks (including myself at times) want things cheap and right now. We get so caught up with being in a hurry we tend to forget the journey of creating something can be just as rewarding as the completion. I don’t care to kick things out of my shop as fast as possible… I care more about representing myself, and who I am.

My adopted Dad told me something long ago that has always stuck with me my entire life. Most likely the reason I am so particular (or anal as my lovely bride loves to refer it as) about things I take on… He use to tell me “Son, what ever you do in life has your name on it and represents you. Whether it being as simple as signing your name, the yard you keep, the work you do…. That is who you are.”

Maybe I look way to far into this, but to me knowing I hand cut my dovetails represents I actually cared enough to take the extra steps. To make it more a part of me….

Not to mention there is just so much more you can do by hand cutting dovetails than with a machine. Your limits is pretty much your imagination…..

Sorry for rambling….

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3317 days

#22 posted 06-05-2012 12:56 PM

I don’t think my hands would let me do an excessive number of hand cut dovetails. I’m having enough trouble with fine motor control these days. You should see how long it takes me to tie a fly! Ack!

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2199 days

#23 posted 06-05-2012 01:57 PM

Before I get lost in this,,
Ken I can’t believe that you could spell sticktoitivness or however you did that,, I sure cant.
although the Shakers were innovators, I believe for the reasons Maveric777 used they would have stayed with hand cut. They were far to concerned about their reputations as crafstman. Ken is that where New England farmers came up with the idea of the honey trough in their farms? I grew up on a dairy farm, all my relatives are or were dairy farmers.. we had a trough just behind and below where the cows tail would hang when they were being milked. Into this trough gravity would propel the honey where it would be pushed along until it dropped into the lower level of the barn to be collected and spread back onto the fields. My Grandfathers barn was built on the three level grading system, hay on top baled( at least as long as I have been alive) my father tells of loose wagon loads when he was young. cows in the middle and honey on the bottom.. I agree that its my signature all over the piece and I also agree that I want to build something that will outlive me for many years.. I can’t paint like Piccaso and though I write music I am not Elton John, and I may not be Roy Underhill., But my furniture will live for 100 years after I am long dead and seated at the banquet. I thank everyone who has contributed to this forum, its been great to read all the responses..I was even up doing it a 4am.. tough when you cant sleep… Seems to be happening more and more these days.. must be getting old..

-- Papa...

View Scot's profile


344 posts in 3394 days

#24 posted 06-05-2012 02:15 PM


-- If the old masters had power tools, they would have used them. So get off your damn High Horse.

View ducky911's profile


237 posts in 2787 days

#25 posted 06-05-2012 02:25 PM

I have a 24” akeda jig…i built a blanket chest with it…..came out perfect…pins are small…just finished a hand cut 14 degree blanket chest with the pins how i wanted them…came out perfect with alot of time invested..

So if you got the time (i am retired) i like hand cut

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2199 days

#26 posted 06-05-2012 02:32 PM

Ducky911 I am retired as well, mostly because they crushed me with a back-=hoe a few years back..but I am just now finishing a 1785 Shaker blanket chest that has hand cuts on all four corners.. 9 per corner.. I don’t go for the super small pins, mine are average I guess… they are 1/2” on top and 1/4” on bottom.. any smaller than that and they just get to fussy for me..
Scot.. like the saying, but its not my horse that’s high its the saddle, horse is just a Shetland pony.. lol

-- Papa...

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#27 posted 06-06-2012 03:25 AM

woodworker59 They really did stack hay long without bales. I’ve done it and driven the horses pulling the load.

I’m sure I would yield on my hand cut snobbishness if I were doing production work ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Dave's profile


2 posts in 2179 days

#28 posted 06-06-2012 03:49 AM

I adore the zen and craftsmanship of hand cut dovetails. If a project is small enough, and I have the time, I love doing them by hand.

But.. in my current situation where I have the need to produce a large number of pieces (with drawers) and I need them cut with precision and rapididty…... You can have my dovetail jig and routers when you can pry them from my cold dead fingers.

-- I'me every bit as accomplished and talented as Norm Abrams.... when he was 4....

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2199 days

#29 posted 06-06-2012 03:59 AM

I am sure that if I were in the situation of having to make my living at this, I would go for the jig method to improve quantity without losing quality, but as this is supplemental income for me, I choose to take my time and do what I love. It really is a form of therapy for me to cut them by hand.. I really look forward to a few hours spent cutting dovetails. Have cut over 50 on the blanket chest that I am working on now. I have also cut hay by hand with a sythe and stacked it onto wagons and then forked it into the hay loft, on a small farm though. We had a small farm when I was growing up, couple milkers, couple beefs, pigs, chickens, rabbits.. but most of my relatives were big time milkers and had the bayling machines then.. we were so small we just cut 4 acres for our own by hand.. ahh for the good old days.. I am pleased to see that my question brought out so many interested parties.. do what feels right to you and you will never go wrong.. its all about your craft and how you do it.. just enjoy..

-- Papa...

View Everett1's profile


213 posts in 2531 days

#30 posted 06-06-2012 04:09 AM

Agree with PurpLev

Even though i’m a wussy pants, and have only dont hand cut dovetails in practice, since I got a Leigh 24” jig on craigs list for 80 buckaroos, i was psyched to use it.

-- Ev in Framingham, MA

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#31 posted 06-06-2012 04:13 AM

WW59, I tell people I retired at 19. they ask how did i do it. I tell them I left the farm, got a good job with 40 hour, 5 day weeks ;-) No more 4 AM starts and 10 Pm finishes 6 days a week and only working 8 to 10 on Sunday ;-(

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2574 days

#32 posted 06-06-2012 10:33 AM

It’s a matter of preference.
If it’s therapeutic for you, by all means, hand chop away.

Take it as you will, but I’ll be buried with one of my routers. ;-)

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18713 posts in 2565 days

#33 posted 06-06-2012 10:58 AM

TopamaxSurvivor, that’s my story to the word. I planned to be a farmer all through high school. Got a “temporary” job coming out. What, no work on saturday AND Sunday!!. I was hooked.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2199 days

#34 posted 06-06-2012 01:04 PM

Like I said all my relatives are or were most are gone now big time farmers milking 200 head or so with the old single cow carry to each one machine. When I was 9 or 10 my dad called me into the garage one day to inform me that I was old enough to take care of some animals now. He worked for the Department of Transportation for the State. From then on we had a farm, or should I say I had a farm and every year as I got older it got bigger.. 4:30 every morning from then until I bailed out and went into the service. My kid brother still holds a grudge nearly 40 years later because I left him holding the bag. Enough about that,, You router people are pretty hard core, I love my chisels and such, but there is no need to drop one in the box with me when I go.. if you want to take a router with you be my guest but man I think that there has to be something else I would rather have.. I have been tempted to try one of those jigs, just an old stick in the mud I guess. plus it makes it hard to hear the game with the router running in my ear.. hope everyone has a great day, looking forward to reading more of your great responses… I have a blanket chest to stain.. later..Papa

-- Papa...

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3426 days

#35 posted 06-06-2012 02:24 PM

I guess one is never too old to learn a new trick or two. However, does one wish to invest the time and effort and endure the frustrations inherent in the learning process? At my age, I don’t.
While I greatly admire hand work of any kind, woodwork especially and dovetails most certainly, I’ll stick with my router cuts.
Patience is not my strong suit.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View funchuck's profile


119 posts in 3055 days

#36 posted 06-06-2012 02:51 PM

I converted to hand tools about 1 year ago, but I used power tools for about 7 years (probably more). So I have cut them both ways. I greatly prefer hand cut dovetails.

My wife has no interest in my woodworking and even buys furniture at IKEA sometimes! But, when she saw me hand cutting dovetails, she suddenly showed more appreciation for my work. She even had me show some of her friends (who didn’t really care!).

-- Charles from California

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2199 days

#37 posted 06-06-2012 05:03 PM

Gene Howe- I can understand the patience factor, when I was first learning to cut dovetails, I must have cut a couple hundred of them or more.. I would cut a set of pins and tails, then cut the board straight and do it all over again and again and again. The thing is, once I cut a few sets that fit really sweet, I was hooked. there is just something about when a really nice tight set of pins and tails come together that just make everything right in the world if only for a couple mins.. Funchuck- its amazing how quality hand work will appeal to even those that have no interest in what we are doing. It just cries out to everyone, I am built with pride and integrity. How great does that feel when people notice the care and attention we put into something.. great job keep up the hand work.. Papa

-- Papa...

View pintodeluxe's profile


5658 posts in 2811 days

#38 posted 06-06-2012 05:47 PM

Jig and router. It is hard to beat the speed and accuracy of machine cut dovetails.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Loren's profile


10385 posts in 3645 days

#39 posted 06-06-2012 06:29 PM

They aren’t too much of a hassle to hand-cut in 1/2 drawer
sides, but the carcase dovetails in 1” parts are trickier in my
opinion… or at least take considerable care in getting
the bottoms flat with chisels.

I have jigs to cut them by machine now but for years and
years I didn’t. I never used them in work for clients… I
just made them occasionally for my own stuff.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15351 posts in 2616 days

#40 posted 06-06-2012 06:36 PM

By hand. Don’t have a jig or the router to use the bit (that I also don’t have). Allmy builds (meager tho they are) are personal to date, not for sale, so I do what I want to, including choice of joinery.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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David Craig

2137 posts in 3106 days

#41 posted 06-06-2012 07:00 PM

As I grow in the area of woodworking, I find myself attempting more hand tool work. I don’t have any angst against power tools nor intention of dumping them. I do, however, try to make sure that jigs and items of that nature are used for convenience and accuracy, rather than an alternative because I do not know how to do something by hand. Just a personal thing with me, I want to be able to do things both ways and keep those options open.

Nice thread,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Dustmite97's profile


439 posts in 3218 days

#42 posted 06-06-2012 07:06 PM

I use a router. I have a half-blind dovetail jig. A pain to set up but it makes easy work of joinery. I also love the look of hand cut dovetails, I need to try them sometime.

View Oldtool's profile


2622 posts in 2188 days

#43 posted 06-06-2012 07:35 PM

Well, if you are keeping a tally, put me in the hand-cut column. I guess it’s more for the quiet atmosphere, the minimal dust, and the shorter set up time. Also, hand cutting allows me to try varied spacing, hounds tooth, etc.
I have two routers, seldom take them off the shelf. In fact, the newer one, about 2 years old, was only used once, and I didn’t like the results. (not used to cut tails though, making molding.)
Besides, a router would prevent me from hearing my Jimmy Hendrix CDs.

-- "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 TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#44 posted 06-06-2012 11:28 PM

One of the fascinating things about hand tools and dovetails was when Roy and Norm were in the same hour on the local PBS station. Roy would be done with lots of things by the time Norm got set up, but if one was doing 10 drawers, well, i think Norm would pass him ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2949 days

#45 posted 06-07-2012 12:01 AM

I do them by hand. I do not own a router or any other machine to accomplish dovetail joinery. Almost all of my work is now by hand. But I absolutely agree with some others, if I depended on woodworking to put food on the table, I dang sure would be a powered dovetail joiner.

-- Mike

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3063 days

#46 posted 06-07-2012 01:37 AM

I cut them by hand because I enjoy it.

-- PaulMayer,

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2501 days

#47 posted 06-07-2012 01:41 AM

Hand cut using a bandsaw. :-)

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2199 days

#48 posted 06-07-2012 02:16 AM

Oldtool, I like your style, only with me its the Red Sox games… I hate to miss something because I have a router running in my ear…
Loren, while I agree that cutting dovetails in thicker stock is more hassle, I have just finished a blanket chest with 13/16” case sides and cut 9 dovetails per corner.. Will be posting some pics as soon as its finished.. a good sharp chisel will cut through an inch just fine.. I find that the fussyness required to do sharp tight half blind dovetails is or can be quite frustrating.. but still fun and exciting at the same time.. thanks to all who have answered, seems to be a hot button topic.. love to real all the replies..
its not about which is best, its about which YOU like, and how you like to work.. there is no wrong way to do it if they are tight and right.. its all good…Papa

-- Papa...

View Loren's profile


10385 posts in 3645 days

#49 posted 06-07-2012 04:16 AM

To be sure it can be done and perhaps I overstated the problem –
it’s no big deal to cut any sort of through dovetail if you have the
time to do it, a good tight-kerfed saw and the equipment to
make your chisels shaving-sharp. Fine mortise and tenon joints
with tight shoulders by hand are finicky to do certainly – the cheeks
are forgiving but the shoulders are not.

When you get tired or in too much hurry or your tools are not
sharp enough or a combination of these factors contributes
to frustration and declining quality of results. Best to cut
joints when you are fresh and clear-headed in my opinion.

View Kelby's profile


134 posts in 2408 days

#50 posted 06-07-2012 05:30 AM

I enjoy cutting them by hand, although I’m far from perfect at it. I don’t enjoy the router/jig, but it works well and efficiently. Sometimes good and efficient is more important than enjoyment. Sometimes not.

-- Kelby

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