|Review by JayT||posted 03-25-2014 03:54 PM||4448 views||8 times favorited||33 comments|
Like many woodworkers, I wanted to learn to make hand cut dovetails, but struggled with getting a precise joint. After some disappointing early results, I was ready to either quit or get some help. Somewhere along the line I had seen a blog post that linked a David Barron video where he used a magnetic saw guide.
I decided to bite the bullet and purchase one of the 1:5 guides and hope that helped my joinery. I know that traditionally dovetails are 1:8 or 1:6, but since the ratio is far more aesthetic than functional, I just checked what I had done when laying out freehand. The look I liked came very close to 1:5, so that is what was ordered.
The order came very quickly and the guide was well packaged in a small white box. The guide has an aluminum body with two neodymium magnets embedded behind slick tape and the ratio clearly marked. There was also two spare squares of the slick tape, for when the originals inevitably get a bit chewed up. I did that the first couple of times, but now am not having any issues, so the original pieces should last quite a while. It just shows consideration by a vendor to include replacements for the wearable parts.
The aluminum is a fairly recent change, as he used to make them in his shop out of wood, but demand got to be too much, so the bodies were outsourced. Doesn’t make any difference in use and is a lot easier to locate quickly on the bench than a wooden one. In order to help the guide stay in place while sawing, the flats are covered with fine grit sandpaper.
I first used the guide to just do a few test cuts with a dozuki saw. It seemed to work well, so went ahead and made a test dovetail. Wow, what a difference! As long as you mark clearly, position the guide accurately and don’t overcut the depth, you will get a good joint. With very little practice, you can get extremely precise results. The pic above is only the third dovetail made using the guide and is right off the saw—absolutely no paring other than depth.
A couple other angles of the same joint.
One key for using the guide is a saw with enough plate depth and minimal set. A good dozuki pull saw works well, but I have come to prefer my re-handled gent's saw. It has just enough plate depth to do dovetails in 3/4in thick stock and I like that cutting on the push stroke doesn’t cover the visible marking lines with sawdust.
Another factor of using the guide is how much faster you can work. Fewer lines to mark and much less time spent paring adds up quickly. Many times when using a jig, there is a time penalty to set everything up properly, but in this case, with the simplicity, you get to work both faster and better. That’s a win, win.
In addition to the quality of the tool, you will not be disappointed dealing with David. He made the ordering process simple and easy, responded quickly to e-mails and shipped immediately. I also purchased one of his Macasser ebony marking knives and the beauty and quality must be seen to be believed. I’ll have to review that one soon.
I have heard others refer to using a magnetic guide such as this one as cheating or “training wheels for your saw”. All I have to say to those is that if a small, relatively inexpensive jig will allow someone to create better, more precise joints much faster than before, then give me more training wheels!
-- "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835