All Replies on Am I the only one who finds this annoying.... ?

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View Benvolio's profile

Am I the only one who finds this annoying.... ?

by Benvolio
posted 06-23-2013 02:12 PM

36 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile (online now)


3000 posts in 1195 days

#1 posted 06-23-2013 02:13 PM

It doesn’t bother me. I definitely don’t get emotional about it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View a1Jim's profile


113148 posts in 2421 days

#2 posted 06-23-2013 02:17 PM

Leaving scibe lines for dove tails has almost been a standard for at least 200 years. If doesn’t bother me ether.

-- Custom furniture

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1142 posts in 779 days

#3 posted 06-23-2013 02:20 PM

I have heard that the score line is like a signature to show everyone that the dovetail was hand cut. I guess when people see that, they are supposed to recognize that the joint was hand cut. Of course, the only people who know that are furniture designers and woodworkers, so the score line most likely means nothing to 99% of the population.

For the record, I also think it looks bad. It’s like masking off trim while you are painting and then leaving the tape there forever. Or leaving pencil marks on your work. I’m with you, I think it looks bad and I don’t really understand why people leave it there.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View bandit571's profile


8116 posts in 1527 days

#4 posted 06-23-2013 02:20 PM

Ah yes, the scoring mark. Look at a Thomas Sheraton drawer side, you will see the same marks. Unless one intends to leave a drawer open (ouch, my knee cap!) it remains inside the case. Old masters did not care about the inside unless it was going to show, they did not even sand the case’s backs. It was one less thing to do before the client paid for the item, and got it out of the shop. The old “Time = Cash” thing. Don’t worry about it.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Benvolio's profile


142 posts in 775 days

#5 posted 06-23-2013 02:23 PM

Surely, this looks better?

More like an organic piece of art – like the wood YEARNS to be that shape. Like the joint was always meant to be… adding the score line would be like ruining the mystique of the artisan revealing seeing the man behind the curtain.

Perhaps as woodwoorkers we’re guilty of seeing pieces in terms of projects that bespeak the craftsman, rather than in terms of works of art that bespeak the wood??

-- Ben, England.

View RGtools's profile


3314 posts in 1498 days

#6 posted 06-23-2013 02:26 PM

Depends on the piece. On a tool chest a nice deep score line is going to aid construction. On a chest of carefuly crafted drawers, the line just looks off. You can of course be more gentle with your scribe and just give the barest hint of a line, you can rub that over with chalk to make it more visible to the eye (your chisels will find it just fine. This will be erased when you fit the drawer.

If it bothers you, fix it.

The dovetail in my picture is a tool-chest, which will get painted anyway…so why bother making the line not show?

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


11035 posts in 1462 days

#7 posted 06-23-2013 02:27 PM

It’s your struggle, so it’s not unreasonable. I make such marks, and if they smooth away during fitting, fine. If not, also fine. I kinda like a hint of them showing vs. dragging heavy-handed canyons for marks that can’t be removed. To me, that shows a finer touch.

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

View helluvawreck's profile


16631 posts in 1710 days

#8 posted 06-23-2013 02:33 PM

I would say that if it’s going to be on something like a box where it will be exposed then the mark should not be there. If it’s on a drawer where the dovetails are hidden then it’s up to the craftsman to decide. My mother collected and sold antiques and most of them had the mark.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View johnstoneb's profile


1022 posts in 1017 days

#9 posted 06-23-2013 03:47 PM

+1 a1jim marking guages for dovetails have been mainstream since dovetails came into being.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1485 posts in 1205 days

#10 posted 06-23-2013 04:17 PM

Aside from the purpose it serves, it’s a high fashion woodworking affectation that shouts, “Look at my fine hand work,” instead of an artifact of production furniture manufacture when all dovetails were hand cut.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View MrFid's profile


615 posts in 748 days

#11 posted 06-23-2013 06:43 PM

Although I understand tradition, craftsmanship, etc, they have always secretly bothered me in my work as well. It’s hard for me to admit that even to myself, but I think they do bother me slightly. I got over it because pictures like that in FWW convinced me that they were supposed to be there. Chalk up another brainwashed dovertailer. I tend to leave them there, but I do cut shallower with the gauge than I used to in order to leave a fainter line (happened without me even thinking about it). Thanks for bringing me one more thing to agonize over! :)

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2492 days

#12 posted 06-23-2013 06:49 PM

I prefer to cut the pins and tails a little shy and plane the
long grain down to flush. This approach often obliterates
the gauge lines.

I don’t do it because the lines bother me though.

On drawers, leaving the lines is common. On exterior
fine case joints I think it better if they are planed off.

For that matter, the dovetail is a rather busy, workmanlike
joint. If you want refinement in your case joinery,
investigate doweling.


View MrDan's profile


200 posts in 2132 days

#13 posted 06-23-2013 06:53 PM

I’m with MrFid. I think I got “talked into” accepting them by seeing them everywhere in highly respected magazines and books. I don’t like them, but over time I’ve come to accept the scribe lines.

View ChuckV's profile


2542 posts in 2371 days

#14 posted 06-23-2013 07:22 PM

Some people even put the lines back if they get planed away during clean-up. To each his own.

-- “While the world with closed eyes sleeps, The sky knows and weeps - steel rain. ” ― Nathan Bell

View NiteWalker's profile


2710 posts in 1421 days

#15 posted 06-23-2013 08:00 PM

I think it’s an eyesore and would never leave the line like that, just to “prove a craftsman has been there”.
Would you have your car freshly painted and then have fingerprints added just to “prove a craftsman has been there”?

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

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1015 posts in 2651 days

#16 posted 06-23-2013 08:09 PM

The scribe line ‘left behind’ is just a professionals way of signing the dovetails as ‘hand done.’ Doesn’t bother me but, it’s not necessary. It’s like saying, “see…i can do it too!” Not necessary.

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View poopiekat's profile


3921 posts in 2578 days

#17 posted 06-23-2013 08:26 PM

As for post #5, in my opinion nothing is more unsightly than edge grain burnt by overzealous sanding… yeah now, that’s the hallmark of craftsmanship!!

Give me scribe lines any day…

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View RibsBrisket4me's profile


1418 posts in 1349 days

#18 posted 06-23-2013 08:32 PM

poopie kat, I was thinking the same thing about that burnt endgrain…YUCK!


View ChuckV's profile


2542 posts in 2371 days

#19 posted 06-23-2013 09:00 PM

If you just cannot get enough of this never-ending battle on LJs, search for “scribe line”. Here is an oldie but a goodie:

-- “While the world with closed eyes sleeps, The sky knows and weeps - steel rain. ” ― Nathan Bell

View Benvolio's profile


142 posts in 775 days

#20 posted 06-23-2013 09:20 PM

well we seem to be a fairly evenly dispersed bunch between the offended, the defender, and those who have better things to worry about!

It’s been interesting to hear other opinions, but I still feel that for a craftsman to leave scribe lines on as testiment to the hand hewn joint is a type of narcisissim.

I guess my take on design and building is that the journey should be a selfless one; the craftsman devoting his time and craft so that the piece he’s making should stand indipendant in itself. By leaving on the adages of production like scoring lines, there lies a pang of the craftsman claiming part of the glory of the piece for himself.
Fair enough, the craftsman should claim the piece for his own; but the piece shouldn’t claim the craftsman.

(that being said, I wouldn’t trust my opinion too far on matters of aesthetic as I rather liked the burned endgrain in the picture above!!)

-- Ben, England.

View RGtools's profile


3314 posts in 1498 days

#21 posted 06-23-2013 10:36 PM

I should have added three expressions that I have taken to love.

“A craftsman should be invisible.” Ryan Cazair, whilst he was beating quality control into my poor little brain on the production floor of a jewelery shop.

“Leave fingerprints” a paraphrase of James Krenov while talking about the slight marks left behind by a maker of cabinetry. He hated baselines to show FYI.

“Leave fingerprints, not smudges” where I fall between the two.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View bandit571's profile


8116 posts in 1527 days

#22 posted 06-23-2013 10:49 PM

A “knife line” does look better than the ones i have seen with Sharpie marks…

Marking guage cutter nice and sharp? Should leave just a barely seen line.

Someone who burn a dovetail joint with a sander, has no idea how to use a handplane to smooth out the joint.

Doesn’t bother me one itty bit if there is a line like that. Shows someone took the time to mark things out, before they made the joint.

IF one planes the joint smooth, does that also mean that any layout marks will be gone?

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


946 posts in 954 days

#23 posted 06-23-2013 11:32 PM

If you don’t like them, make them light and smooth plane your drawer sides after the glue dries.

It’s YOUR work…

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1526 posts in 1319 days

#24 posted 06-24-2013 12:16 AM

The marking line might be considered as part of the design to give the dovetail “separation” from the rest of the drawer wall. OTOH, the pic on the OP seems strange to me, almost as if it was made with a jig and then the scribe mark was added, specially since the drawer does not seem to to be complete, the bottom part has a half dovetail missing. Whoever made that drawer made some strange choices IMO.

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

View jusfine's profile


2338 posts in 1770 days

#25 posted 06-24-2013 12:41 AM

I don’t like to see them, I don’t leave pencil marks on my work either, and it seems like the same kind of thing.

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

View Rick M.'s profile (online now)

Rick M.

4963 posts in 1224 days

#26 posted 06-24-2013 07:04 AM

Woodworking is not immune from fads, this is just another one. In 5 or 8 years it will be something else.


View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


15528 posts in 2520 days

#27 posted 06-24-2013 07:16 AM

+1 a1jim I don’t worry about the side of drawers that are closed 99.99% of the time ;-)

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

View RRBOU's profile


122 posts in 1136 days

#28 posted 06-24-2013 11:48 PM

Each to their own. When I first started I left them as this was the way I was taught. Almost every one that saw them questioned them or commented that there was a bad scratch in the draw sides. I got tired of trying to justify them to the recipient of the project. I personally think they are terrible looking and now never leave them.

-- If guns cause crime all of mine are defective Randy

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 1341 days

#29 posted 06-25-2013 02:37 AM

Glue a nice piece of veneer over the whole drawer side and all is well. Only you will know that there are dovetails underneath, together with a giveaway scribe line, and that’s the way it should be. But I know, I know, and I do sympathize, it’s really hard to be a narcissist when only you know it’s there.
Then it will be just like a bad accident scene, safely resolved by the authorities “Nothing to see here Ma’am, keep moving please”.

“the craftsman should claim the piece for his own; but the piece shouldn’t claim the craftsman”. Nicely put Benvolio.
Eventually the maker will be dead and the piece will truly have to stand on its own, with no troubling questions.

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View Tony Strupulis's profile

Tony Strupulis

243 posts in 1967 days

#30 posted 06-26-2013 09:28 PM

You can leave the scribe lines when the joint is not exposed, so leaving them on the side of a drawer is acceptable. I believe you should not leave layout marks on a finished piece such as dovetailed casework. I believe the quality of your work will speak for itself. You don’t need layout marks to prove you did it by hand.

When I build a dovetailed box, I scribe nice and heavy on the INSIDE of the box. I really like having a scribe line to work from, so I will sometimes scribe the outside VERY LIGHTLY knowing those marks will be planed out in the final product.

Another way of doing the layout on an exposed joint is to use a regular old wood pencil. Stick a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to the edge of your bench and use it to put a very sharp, flat (chisel like) point on the pencil. The point should be so sharp and delicate that you need to re-sharpen it for each layout line.

-- Tony -

View Tony_S's profile


509 posts in 1927 days

#31 posted 06-27-2013 12:42 AM

It’s an eyesore in my opinion, and means nothing in regard to “hand cut” anymore.

Ive seen several instances where the dovetails where machined, assembled, then scribed after the fact.

To each their own though.

The craftsman should claim the piece for his own; but the piece shouldn’t claim the craftsman

Excellent quote Ben…

-- Come Heavy...or don't come at all.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


15528 posts in 2520 days

#32 posted 06-27-2013 02:48 AM

machined, assembled, then scribed after the fact should be a capital crime!!

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

View lumberjoe's profile


2861 posts in 1092 days

#33 posted 06-27-2013 03:10 AM

This comment is pretty deep, but I recently had an argument with someone about this very topic and did a bit of research.

A long time ago, journeymen did a lot of the joinery – especially on secondary pieces like drawer boxes. The whole “leave the scribe lines” method was simply a way of showing off to your boss. If your scribe lines are visible, it means your joints fit so well you didn’t even need to plane them down. More often than not, they did not make it to the final piece as the master craftsman would clean them up. They also left them on their tool caddy’s as your tool caddy was like a resume.

I hate it and would never leave them

-- Unplugged Woodworkers -

View tirebob's profile


131 posts in 1698 days

#34 posted 06-27-2013 06:33 PM

I don’t care if the lines are visible or not as far as the look of the piece, but I do love leaving them purely for sadistic reasons as it drives some guys mental! You never hear the guys that like them complain that someone else hasn’t left the lines, but you always hear the guys who hate them b!t@h out those of us who leave them. I find it funny…

No different then my knowing my wife has to have everything dead square and even on her desk, so the game is to move one thing slightly and see how long it takes her to lose her mind! lol! Eventually it got her to the point she just straightens out whatever I moved and says nothing, so now I don’t do it anymore… You guys who get worked up over lines could learn a thing or two from her. If it’s your work, do whatever you want. If it is someone else work, get over it…

View RonInOhio's profile


720 posts in 1708 days

#35 posted 06-27-2013 08:28 PM

Maybe I’m a little unqualified to comment in this thread, but doesn’t the line mark differentiate
between a hand cut dovetail, and a dovetail cut by jig and machine ? In theory anyway ?

Never heard anyone else complain about the line mark.

Never gave it much thought.

View BLarge's profile


178 posts in 1306 days

#36 posted 06-27-2013 09:06 PM

Its weird, when I see a joint without the marking line, it looks strange to me….

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