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Any pointers on handcutting dovetails trying it for the first time next week

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Forum topic by Travis Henley posted 12-12-2009 10:51 PM 1099 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Travis Henley

24 posts in 2555 days


12-12-2009 10:51 PM

Hey everyone next week I’m going to try to hand cut some dovetails. I thought I could ask for some pointers here anything would be helpful and very much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

By the way they will be small but not really small they will be on a jewelry box

-- Travis Henley, North Carolina, Henleycarpentry@yahoo.com


16 replies so far

View lew's profile

lew

11340 posts in 3221 days


#1 posted 12-12-2009 11:09 PM

Practice!!! Mill some extra stock the same thickness as your work and cut a whole bunch of practice pieces. Also, when you cut the tails, clamp the work piece at an angle so that you are cutting on a vertical line instead of the angle of the tail. Cutting straight down is easier than trying to follow an angled line.

Make sure you mark which parts are the waste and which are the pins/tails. It’s easy to get confused as to which is being removed. Remove most of the waste with a coping/fret saw. Use sharp chisels. Chop the waste only half way through then flip the piece and chop from the other side to avoid splitting out the work piece.

Those are the things I always mess up on.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

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Travis Henley

24 posts in 2555 days


#2 posted 12-12-2009 11:12 PM

Thanks, you are definitely right about marking waste and had not thought of the flipping to chisel both sides. Thanks again!

-- Travis Henley, North Carolina, Henleycarpentry@yahoo.com

View cstrang's profile

cstrang

1829 posts in 2633 days


#3 posted 12-12-2009 11:32 PM

I can only echo what Lew said. I tried cutting dovetails by hand a few weeks ago and I have a whole new respect for people who do this all the time, my first few didnt turn out very well at all but I am getting better. Practice, practice, practice and good luck with it!

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

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Travis Henley

24 posts in 2555 days


#4 posted 12-12-2009 11:34 PM

Thanks! When I do my first one I will have to post it maybe someone will get a good laugh!

-- Travis Henley, North Carolina, Henleycarpentry@yahoo.com

View Blake's profile

Blake

3442 posts in 3339 days


#5 posted 12-13-2009 12:07 AM

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Travis Henley

24 posts in 2555 days


#6 posted 12-13-2009 12:19 AM

Thanks Blake what you posted will help a lot!

-- Travis Henley, North Carolina, Henleycarpentry@yahoo.com

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

17671 posts in 3141 days


#7 posted 12-13-2009 12:29 AM

Just relax and do it. The first ones I cut were probably the best ones I ever did :-((

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

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Travis Henley

24 posts in 2555 days


#8 posted 12-13-2009 12:48 AM

Does anyone have any tips on marking the dovetails?

-- Travis Henley, North Carolina, Henleycarpentry@yahoo.com

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TopamaxSurvivor

17671 posts in 3141 days


#9 posted 12-13-2009 12:57 AM

I use a bevel square, but I’m going to make some 6:1 and 8:1 markers one of these days when I get an “around to it”. :-))

I use a marking gauge to mark the depth, a pointy pencil or knife for the long grain and a pointy pencil for the end grain. Don’t froget which side of the line to cut!! I like making the tails first because that is the way Roy taugh me :-))

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

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Travis Henley

24 posts in 2555 days


#10 posted 12-13-2009 01:12 AM

You mentioned the most important thing that hopefully I won’t do, cutting on the wrong side of the line!! Dang that would suck!

-- Travis Henley, North Carolina, Henleycarpentry@yahoo.com

View FlWoodRat's profile

FlWoodRat

732 posts in 3374 days


#11 posted 12-13-2009 01:41 AM

Travis,
I’ve found one of the keys to cutting details is to start with a good flat stock. Layout your pins, cut them with a good saw, then clean up the waste with wicked sharp chisels, using paring blocks as a guide. When sawing, let the saw do the work. Relax and slide it through the wood like it was a file. After you have cleaned up your pins, then layout and cut your tails. ALWAYS CUT ON THE WASTE SIDE OF THE LINE.

Like everyone else has said.. Practice Practice Practise and don’t obsess over them. DT’s dont have to be pretty to be strong joints.

If you have the time to watch a few short videos,, follow these links from Tom MacDonalds web site:

http://www.mlwwoodworking.com/Video/Episode_1.html

http://www.mlwwoodworking.com/Video/Episode_159.html

http://www.mlwwoodworking.com/Video/Episode_108.html

http://www.mlwwoodworking.com/Video/Episode_109.html

http://www.mlwwoodworking.com/Video/Episode_115.html

http://www.mlwwoodworking.com/Video/Episode_111.html

Bruce

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

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TopamaxSurvivor

17671 posts in 3141 days


#12 posted 12-13-2009 02:03 AM

AS soon as you layout, put “X” on all the waste sides of the lines. Hopefully that will help, but not always :-)) It’s a good idea to mark the outside of the box too, hate to have the dovetails cut so the inside is out :-(( There are so many good joints that are easier than hand cut dovetails, they are mostly for esthetics IMO. I like them :-))

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

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Travis Henley

24 posts in 2555 days


#13 posted 12-13-2009 02:08 AM

Thanks for the help I’m sure they will turn out decent now just can’t get excited

-- Travis Henley, North Carolina, Henleycarpentry@yahoo.com

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TopamaxSurvivor

17671 posts in 3141 days


#14 posted 12-13-2009 02:15 AM

One more thing, I have found it is easier to pare the pins when making that final fit. Lot more room to work around them than the little slots around the tails. When You are doing the final fit, make sure your corners are well cleaned up. A little wood in there can cause you to pare the pins too much making the joint a bit loose and sloppy when the problem was a little fuzz in the corner:-((

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

View lew's profile

lew

11340 posts in 3221 days


#15 posted 12-13-2009 05:49 PM

Travis,
Here are a couple of links to show you two different layout jigs for dovetails. Blake has a really nice brass layout jig and the other one is a home made jig. There is some debate on the actual angle of the tails. Although not critical, it is slightly “wider” for softer woods.

http://lumberjocks.com/Blake/blog/12336

http://lumberjocks.com/topics/11959

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

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