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dovetail common mistakes and key principals

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Forum topic by treesner posted 10-12-2016 05:27 AM 407 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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treesner

166 posts in 424 days


10-12-2016 05:27 AM

Topic tags/keywords: joinery

hey guys trying to learn how to cut simple dovetail joints. Curious if you would shed some light:

1)what are the biggest mistakes novices make while cutting or practicing dovetails (and how to fix)?
2)what are the biggest wastes of time?
3)what mistakes are most common even at an expert level (and how to fix)?
4)what are your key principals for better more consistent dovetails?
5)what does the progression of exercises look like for learning dovetails?
6)how much room do you leave between your cuts and the line?


10 replies so far

View DirtyMike's profile

DirtyMike

449 posts in 362 days


#1 posted 10-12-2016 05:34 AM

1. layout and angles
2. cutting dovetails
3.n/a
4. good saw, dovetail blocks, sharp chisels and double checking your layout.
5. n/a

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2187 posts in 940 days


#2 posted 10-12-2016 12:35 PM

Assuming we are talking hand tools:

1) layout + sawing on wrong side of line
2) being anal about DT’s, trying to be perfect aka forgetting you are human + using guides. f
3) sawing out of square and/or off line
4) USE GOOD SHARP chisels and use a quality saw + only way to perfect technique is be consistent
5) start with drawers – 1st through DT’s then 1/2 blinds, then go to a carcase or wide board
6) I generally cut to the line, on 1/2 blinds cut short and pare to line

My suggestion is focus on what technique you will use. For example,

Mark with a pencil or knife?
Cut out waste with a coping saw or not?
Tails or pins first?

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View treesner's profile

treesner

166 posts in 424 days


#3 posted 10-12-2016 06:53 PM


Assuming we are talking hand tools:

1) layout + sawing on wrong side of line
2) being anal about DT s, trying to be perfect aka forgetting you are human + using guides. f
3) sawing out of square and/or off line
4) USE GOOD SHARP chisels and use a quality saw + only way to perfect technique is be consistent
5) start with drawers – 1st through DT s then 1/2 blinds, then go to a carcase or wide board
6) I generally cut to the line, on 1/2 blinds cut short and pare to line

My suggestion is focus on what technique you will use. For example,

Mark with a pencil or knife?
Cut out waste with a coping saw or not?
Tails or pins first?

- rwe2156


Thanks!
how would you suggest fixing 3) sawing out of square and/or off line?

View treesner's profile

treesner

166 posts in 424 days


#4 posted 10-12-2016 06:54 PM



1. layout and angles
2. cutting dovetails
3.n/a
4. good saw, dovetail blocks, sharp chisels and double checking your layout.
5. n/a

- DirtyMike

why do you think dovetails are a waste of time?
they seem like a good way to practice cutting straight and chisel control

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rwe2156

2187 posts in 940 days


#5 posted 10-12-2016 10:33 PM


how would you suggest fixing 3) sawing out of square and/or off line?
- treesner
practice > practice > practice

and using a decent quality saw.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View DirtyMike's profile

DirtyMike

449 posts in 362 days


#6 posted 10-12-2016 10:51 PM

Because my time is limited. dovetails are excellent joints and are very strong but there are simpler joints that are quicker. To me hand cut dovetails are put on a pedestal, like proving yourself as a true woodworker. early furniture makers covered them up as they were unsightly. I can cut dovetails but i like the look of box joints better.
The questions you ask are excellent and on point.

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3018 posts in 1257 days


#7 posted 10-12-2016 11:10 PM

If you want to learn, I highly recommend 30 days of dovetails. You take scrap wood and cut dovetails to join two boards every day for a month. You are careful, but not paralyzed because you’ll do it again the next day. Cut off the completed dovetail joint and mark a date on it, and then do it the next day, and the next, and the next, etc. You will have a visible exhibit of your progress, what you need to work on, etc. I started with through dovetails for about 10 days or so and then switched to half-blind once the through dovetails were in pretty good shape.

Best single thing I have ever done to improve my hand tool skills.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

686 posts in 1258 days


#8 posted 10-13-2016 02:13 AM

As a self proclaimed Dovetail master the one mistake I read about is wood choice.
Start with a wood like popler.Stay away from pine it saws nice but can be very difficult to chisel cleanly.
When your feeling like your practice has improved up your game by cutting your pin board with a harder wood.Like walnut or Cherry.
Then finally make both pieces out of a hard wood.
Hard maple is the ultimate challenge.
It will show all the little gaps not seen in a darker wood.

Aj

View diverlloyd's profile

diverlloyd

1432 posts in 1317 days


#9 posted 10-13-2016 02:33 AM

Well the best mistake is laying everything out and then cutting what is not the waste. The fix is cut off and try again.

View TheTurtleCarpenter's profile

TheTurtleCarpenter

823 posts in 526 days


#10 posted 10-13-2016 03:22 AM

I agree with What CharlesA and AJ recommend. It doesnt matter to me if someone cuts pins or tails first but I think the most common nail in the road is that the pins or tails are not cut and pared to 90 to the face. Think about if you were to peer over your tail board, the cutouts on the top should mirror down to the bottom where you will be transferring the marks. If they were not mirroring what is on the face you will be marking them fatter or smaller at the bottom and these small difference will result in gaps. I am far from being an expert on dovetails but when I first started cutting them this was where I saw my mistake. Later on I made a small wood square with a 3/16” blade to check my cuts for 90 before transferring. When you make the opposing cuts stay back from the line a little and pare if needed a little at a time

-- "Tying shoelaces was way harder than learning to Whistle",,,,,member MWTCA area K. Kentucky

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