My first handcut dovetails....yikes!

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by JamieH posted 08-10-2011 03:36 AM 2238 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JamieH's profile


52 posts in 2797 days

08-10-2011 03:36 AM

Topic tags/keywords: oak terrible needs work practice

Ehh….not too stoked on these. I have made had a few attempts using my veritas dovetail sawguide system on some yellow pine. Results were not good. Directions not good enough for a newbie like me I guess. I dunno. So I tried again tonight on some red oak pieces I got from a friend. I used the jig for the tails, then used the tails to scribe the pins and free hand sawed the pins ( I hope I am using the right terminology). My sawing and chisel work leaves much to be desired. I think a cutting marking gauge would help me be more decisive on my cuts and where to stop/start, etc. A better saw might help too. Well, it’s a start I guess.

16 replies so far

View acducey's profile


65 posts in 2503 days

#1 posted 08-10-2011 04:20 AM

They look lots better than my first practice attempts. Keep at it and you’ll be making furniture grade joints in no time.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3302 days

#2 posted 08-10-2011 04:45 AM

oh yes i agree with the other guys here…those are great for first time cuts…your on the right trail, just do as suggested..practice makes perfect…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2996 days

#3 posted 08-10-2011 05:05 AM

Nothing to be ashamed of. My first ones wouldn’t even hold together. :)

Mark with a knife and not a pencil. Don’t worry about trying to saw so close to the line. Stay away and trim down with a chisel.

The more practice you get, the closer you get to the line and less you trim off until one day, you forget to trim off and it fits.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Ollie's profile


146 posts in 3273 days

#4 posted 08-10-2011 08:55 AM

These are not really that bad for a first go. I have tried handcut dovetails a few times and struggled too.
I agree with David Kirtley cut a good milimetre from the line, also it can be handy to place a small mirror on the reverse side of the board to keep your eye on the straightness of the cut from both sides.

I have seen a demonstration by David Barron where he very quickly marks and cuts dovetails using a marking knife and his specially made alignment board. Check out his website

Also there has been good articles on dovetails in the UK magazine Furniture and Cabinetmaker you can read some on the website

Good luck and practice makes perfect.


-- Ollie, UK.

View lew's profile


12060 posts in 3754 days

#5 posted 08-10-2011 11:28 PM

Wish my first one were that good- or the third one for that matter.

Can’t really add anything to the already great suggestions, except maybe to make sure your chisels are really sharp.

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

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3647 days

#6 posted 08-10-2011 11:38 PM

they don’t look too bad for starters…. practice practice practice will take you much further than a better saw and a marking gauge (although those are good to have too)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3463 days

#7 posted 08-11-2011 12:12 AM

i agree with the rest – not too bad. as in, you could glue those up with epoxy and probably be ok :-) I have to work on mine too, which is why I just built a marking gauge..

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2920 days

#8 posted 08-11-2011 02:30 AM

Your first on dovetail is normal and nothing is wrong with your allignment. The error was only caused by the adjustment of sawline with reference to markedline. I mean you should cut appropriately where you have to give a little oversize to make it tight. Cut the tails exactly on the marked line, then the pins should be cut offline depending on the oversize fitting either to the left or to the right from the marked line.
Keep practising.

-- Bert

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3671 days

#9 posted 08-11-2011 02:49 AM

Nice dovetails.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2921 days

#10 posted 08-11-2011 03:35 AM

I suppose the old saying about practice makes perfect, applies, but I gave up practising when I bought my Incra LS-25.
Yours look good for the first time out. Much better than I can do that’s for sure.

-- Life is good.

View JamieH's profile


52 posts in 2797 days

#11 posted 08-11-2011 04:01 PM

Thanks for the encouragement and information, guys. Time to start practicing some more!

View Bertha's profile


13528 posts in 2691 days

#12 posted 08-11-2011 04:37 PM

They look pretty good to me! That’s a difficult wood to learn on. My hat’s off to you.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View steviep's profile


233 posts in 2645 days

#13 posted 08-11-2011 04:44 PM

hand-cut dovetails are allot like songwriting. You have to get the first hundred bad ones out of the way before the good ones come along. Keep it up, looks good!

-- StevieP ~ Micheal Tompkins - you were not here on earth long but left a giant mark on us. RIP Brother

View Napoleon's profile


788 posts in 2808 days

#14 posted 08-11-2011 08:18 PM

Thats not a bad first attemt. The best teacher in making “the tails” is Rob cosman. He know what he is doing and even i have made a lot of them i learned some new things from him.

-- Boatbuilder&blacksmith

View helluvawreck's profile


31082 posts in 2865 days

#15 posted 08-11-2011 09:00 PM

That’s no worse than my first ones. Most people make mistakes on dovetails the first time and it’s no big deal. There not off that far. So you know what you gotta do? You gotta just pick up that dovetail saw and practice some more until you can do them to your satisfaction and then you will have acquired a worthwhile skill that will be very valuable for your woodworking.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

showing 1 through 15 of 16 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics