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Dovetail Pins Hand Cut Problem

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Forum topic by hackery posted 06-20-2016 08:03 PM 448 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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hackery

49 posts in 176 days


06-20-2016 08:03 PM

Topic tags/keywords: dovetail pin through cutting snap pop break problem question walnut

Hi

I am hoping someone on here can help me as this problem is driving me crazy!!

I can cut and fit through dovetails in pine all day long with no real problems however I decided to try and make a little box from walnut and cherry and the walnut is giving me lots of trouble.

I start with the pins first method as I use a little brass dovetail marker gauge and that’s how it lays them out. The shoulders are marked with a razor sharp marking knife so nice and deep(ish) ready to deepen with my chisel. I cut as much waste out that I can with a coping saw and then start the chisel work…. with the walnut no matter how delicate and I mean super delicate I am with the chisel and mallet (Thor soft faced rubber hammer) and ensuring that I am well between the saw kerfs one of my pins always snaps / pops off. I have cut at least 50 dovetail joints in pine the last few months and never had this happen but with the walnut it keeps happening and I don’t know what I am doing wrong.

I even tried rotating the work as test in case it was something to do with cutting with the grain vs cross cutting but the same issue occurs. Walnut is ultra expensive here and literally only one place that sells hardwood in the whole of the country (Northern Ireland) and it’s miles away so rather than continuing to to waste wood not understanding what I am doing wrong I thought I would ask here for anyone that can shed some light on the problem.

Please save my sanity!

Thanks

Hackery

-- Notice woodworker and now metal worker - Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK


9 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

5765 posts in 951 days


#1 posted 06-20-2016 08:09 PM

Cross grain dovetails aren’t something good to practice with.

Are you doing half blind dovetails?

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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hackery

49 posts in 176 days


#2 posted 06-20-2016 08:37 PM

Hi The Fridge

Thanks for your reply.

Sorry not sure what you mean that cross grain are not good. Do you mean they are more difficult to do or that it’s not good practice as in it’s not something that any woodworker would normally do?

No they are full through dovetails.

Thanks

-- Notice woodworker and now metal worker - Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

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Kirk650

294 posts in 214 days


#3 posted 06-20-2016 08:54 PM

I think theFridge is wondering if you are dovetailing with the grain improperly oriented. The grain should run in the direction of the pins and tails. If not there is no strength in the joinery. If you have the grain direction right, I just can’t imagine pins and tails popping off.

Walnut, being rather dark, is hard for me to mark and see the marks. Makes me sorta cross eyed after a while.

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hackery

49 posts in 176 days


#4 posted 06-20-2016 09:26 PM

Thanks for the clarification Kirk.

Believe it or not the whole grain direction thing was never something I thought about with the pine joints although fairly sure they are all end grain to end grain. 70% of them were practice joints and the rest are used on a toolchest and drawers all in my workshop and already taken one hell of a beating so they must be correct.

The walnut sides were literally square as in all 4 sides were equal so I am starting to think that perhaps as you say with it being dark coloured and this is some very dark walnut and poor overhead lighting in my workshop it’s night time here that perhaps I have cut them the wrong way around although I am nearly 100% sure I rotated one of the pieces 90 degrees as a test cut to see if it made any difference.

For the waste I did successfully remove I found it to chisel out a lot easier / cleaner / smoother than the pine which surprised me given the hardness of the walnut…. resawing it to size on the bandsaw was a nightmare it was that hard as opposed to the cherry which was pretty quick.

Will taken advantage of natural light tomorrow to see exactly what I have done and do a few more test cuts but it’s starting to sound like I have been trying to pin the wrong ends.

I must have watched every hand cut dovetail video on Youtube which is pretty much how I am trying to teach myself woodworking and not one of them mentioned grain orientation. Just goes to show if one basic instruction is missed out from a video how much of a knock on effect it can have.

Thanks guys made myself out to be totally stupid but I knew I was missing something so appreciate the help.

-- Notice woodworker and now metal worker - Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

692 posts in 1263 days


#5 posted 06-21-2016 12:06 AM

You will learn more by just doing it.So don’t consider it a waste of time.
Lots of you tube videos I have watched are full of baloney.

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TheFridge

5765 posts in 951 days


#6 posted 06-21-2016 12:20 AM

Learning from your mistakes is still learning bud. If you did them cross grain then paring of the waste would be easy. And the pins would pop off very very easy.

I’ve done them crossgrain just for looks but they don’t really offer any structural strength unless they are pretty wide for a pin. Practicing them that way is still practicing. Just very few situations where you would use that joint.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Texcaster's profile

Texcaster

1140 posts in 1139 days


#7 posted 06-21-2016 12:42 AM



You will learn more by just doing it.So don t consider it a waste of time.
Lots of you tube videos I have watched are full of baloney.

- Aj2

Excellent advice on all points.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View Kirk650's profile

Kirk650

294 posts in 214 days


#8 posted 06-21-2016 03:51 AM

Hackery, we all learn by doing, so you haven’t wasted any time. A little wood waste perhaps, but we all do that from time to time. I’m just about to make a blanket chest for a niece, and she wants dovetail joinery. That’s a lot of dovetailing, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a few problems. I’ve been stalling on starting the project. I admit it. The chisels are sharp. The wood waits on me.

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TheFridge

5765 posts in 951 days


#9 posted 06-21-2016 04:21 AM

i found that just the practice of cutting to the line has made me a lot better. When trying dovetails at first you spend most of your time marking as opposed to doing what really matters when cutting dovetails. Cutting to a line.

When I started to worry more about consistent lines than consistent dovetails I improved a lot. My tenons and other hand ht joinery improved as well.

I’m by no means an expert. It’s just a little something that’s worked wonders for me.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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