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Handcut dovetails which to do first

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Forum topic by pontic posted 03-14-2017 11:30 PM 1271 views 0 times favorited 54 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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pontic

473 posts in 418 days


03-14-2017 11:30 PM

Do you start with the pins or do you start with the tails. I know this sounds like a silly question. I rarely hand cut dove tails and need some advice on it. I have the marking gauges and saws and chisels. It’s just been a while. I use my Omnijig and all I’ve done lately is Half blind dovetail joints. So I would like to get back into handcut thru dovetails.
Thanks

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum


54 replies so far

View TraylorPark's profile

TraylorPark

207 posts in 1408 days


#1 posted 03-14-2017 11:44 PM

I don’t know what the conventional wisdom is on this subject, but I always cut tails first. For me it’s easier to transfer the cut tails to the mating piece and then cut the pins.

-- --Zach

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JayT

5438 posts in 2021 days


#2 posted 03-14-2017 11:49 PM

Oh boy, that question can open a can of worms. People do them both ways and there is no wrong answer, just whatever works for you.

I’ve done both and settled on tails first, as well, for the same reason as Zach. Easier transfer of the marks.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

8126 posts in 1296 days


#3 posted 03-15-2017 12:04 AM

Tails for me.

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

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Loren

9546 posts in 3457 days


#4 posted 03-15-2017 12:10 AM

I find it’s easier to cut an exact 90 degrees
straight down than hold the saw at an
angle and cut to the mark. I cut the tails
first for this reason, transfer the pin marks
using a chisel or a special claw-shaped
piece of ground hack saw. If your pins are
to be small, a chisel won’t fit well between
the tails.

Of course the opposite is true – when cutting
pins first marking the tails is not obstructed.

View johnstoneb's profile

johnstoneb

2575 posts in 1982 days


#5 posted 03-15-2017 12:52 AM

I usually cut tails first for most of the above reasons but have cut pins first on occasion.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

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bandit571

18414 posts in 2493 days


#6 posted 03-15-2017 01:01 AM

I always cut pins first. ( so does some guy named Klaus..) as there is more room to mark tails, easier to hold the pin board ON the tail board to mark. I have tried the tails first…meh, mine turn out too sloppy. I go back to pins first, and I can get tighter fitting joints.

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

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John

212 posts in 1391 days


#7 posted 03-15-2017 01:22 AM

I’m a tails first guy myself. I’ve tried both and prefer tails first.

-- I measured once, cut twice, and its still too short...

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pontic

473 posts in 418 days


#8 posted 03-15-2017 03:06 AM

Thanks guys so much.
I shall try tails first. Second question? Do you all use an angle guage or do you free hand the angles on the layout. Or do you use a 90degree equal segmentation and then put the angles in with a angle transfer thingy . I’m leaning toward 90 degree layout and then freehand the angle marks with a chisel.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

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Loren

9546 posts in 3457 days


#9 posted 03-15-2017 03:11 AM

I freehand it. I cut all the tail cuts going
one way then flip the board around and
do the rest so my muscle memory just has
to do one angle. Obviously practicing on
pine is a good idea but also the angles with
hardwoods should be shallower than with
pine.

View JADobson's profile

JADobson

910 posts in 1920 days


#10 posted 03-15-2017 03:28 AM

I cut tails first. I can gang cut boards to save some time.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany

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Marcial

134 posts in 355 days


#11 posted 03-15-2017 04:05 AM

I’m a fellow dovetails newbie (except a prior Condor tails project) and for now it’s a tails first approach. The only way pins first would make sense (to me) is if you used a router for the pins. Thanks for asking the Q.

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bandit571

18414 posts in 2493 days


#12 posted 03-15-2017 04:42 AM

The fellow named Klausz I referred to ( now that I’ve spelled his last name correctly) aka Frank Klausz….seems he also does pins first…..

In fact, he even has a youtube video ( I just got done watching it, again) on hand cut dovetails…..See if you can keep up…

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

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ColonelTravis

1627 posts in 1703 days


#13 posted 03-15-2017 05:49 AM


I find it’s easier to cut an exact 90 degrees
straight down than hold the saw at an
angle and cut to the mark. I cut the tails
first for this reason
- Loren

Not sure where I first saw this technique mentioned but I started doing this a few weeks ago and it has worked wonders for me. Tilt the board instead of the saw.

View JayT's profile

JayT

5438 posts in 2021 days


#14 posted 03-15-2017 11:18 AM

I usually use a David Barron magnetic guide for dovetails and did a review on it. I can and have cut them freehand and get good results, but still use the guide. Even though I can now cut accurately enough to not need the guide, it makes things go a lot faster.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

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pontic

473 posts in 418 days


#15 posted 03-15-2017 01:19 PM

For those who freehand. How many dovetail runs have you cut before you felt proficient at doing it freehand?

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

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