My first project and practice dovetails

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Forum topic by NicholasS posted 01-13-2012 06:11 AM 3461 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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23 posts in 2352 days

01-13-2012 06:11 AM

I started and finished my first woodworking project today:

It’s a dovetail marker, I know it’s not much but it’s the first thing i’ve ever made except for a “frame” that keeps my plate glass from moving on my sharpening table.

And with that dovetail marker I’ve made this practice dovetail:

I made two others before this one but, if you can believe it, they were even worse. I think one of the problems is my saw. The blade is bent and it’s not very sharp. I ordered a Veritas dovetail saw today and hopefully my next dovetail will be much nicer.

9 replies so far

View lysdexic's profile


5254 posts in 2620 days

#1 posted 01-13-2012 06:20 AM

Nice job. The key here is that you are doing it. Your dovetails will get better with every one that you do. I’ve heard, and I believe, the advise that if you do 30 dovetails in 30 days you will own that skill.

I’ve got the Veritas dovetail saw and have no complaints. I think you will enjoy it.

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View woodluc's profile


11 posts in 2327 days

#2 posted 01-13-2012 12:50 PM

Nice work Nicholas,
You will get better at dovetails. Practice makes perfect :)


View Nighthawk's profile


556 posts in 2354 days

#3 posted 01-13-2012 01:17 PM

Well you doing better than me on my first attempt at dove tailing by hand… heck you made a jig… lol

Its all fun though I should give it another try…

Well done BTW..

-- Rome wasn't built in a day... but I wasn't on that job? ...

View jmos's profile


827 posts in 2367 days

#4 posted 01-13-2012 02:45 PM

That really doesn’t look bad for an early attempt. Keep practicing, my first attempts were terrible. The Veritas saw is nice, I’m happy with mine. There are lots of sources of advice on the web, many are helpful. For me a big step was to use a marking knife, and to get a system down on whether to take the line or leave the line; when I started really thinking about that I saw a big improvement.

-- John

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Don W

18713 posts in 2565 days

#5 posted 01-13-2012 11:17 PM

They should be. To make good dovetails you need a sharp saw and a sharp chisel. I made a marking guide exactly like that one. What do you mark with. Are you using a knife or awl instead of a pencil? Make the mark deep enough that the saw will follow it. With a good saw, its doesn’t need to be very deep.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View NicholasS's profile


23 posts in 2352 days

#6 posted 01-14-2012 03:58 AM

Thanks everyone for the kind words of support.
Don W: I’ve tried a knife and a pencil but I mostly used pencil. I’ll try to use a knife more and see if that helps. I don’t think I’m going to try again until I get my Veritas saw though. I don’t want to develop any bad habits with this bent saw that I will have to unlearn when I get the Veritas saw.

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Don W

18713 posts in 2565 days

#7 posted 01-14-2012 03:43 PM

I just started hand cutting dove tails to, so I feel your pain. My eyes are not what they used to be, so a pencil is easier for me to see, but I found an awl works best for me. I will make a better marking knife to try though.

Here is what works (your new saw should work great), mark the line, set the saw on the line and draw it backwards for the first stroke. I use my fingernail to help guide the blade. It will naturally follow the intent for the line. Then a light cut forward.

I still get some spots that are not as tight as they should be. For those, I fill with glue and grab some sawdust off the dust collector of my RAS and work it in. It hides the line pretty well. Look through my Blanket chest blog . I give some details on how I DT. I find watching others helped me find my style. I watched Paul Sellers a lot, but tend to want to go faster after watching him. I have to tell myself, I’ve been doing woodworking for 40 years, but not cutting DTs.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Viking's profile


880 posts in 3193 days

#8 posted 01-14-2012 04:04 PM

Practice ….... Practice …..... Practice!

This is a great first effort and like your jig.

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2652 days

#9 posted 01-14-2012 04:33 PM

They just get better from there. My first attempts that that joint were not pretty, but a few practice sessions and you really start t get the hang of it.

For Layout I like to use a pencil…or even a pen for the tails, and I use a custom knife to transfer that to the pins. I took an old steak knife and dulled the heck out of it on the concrete floor, it leave a clean mark but a fairly fat one that is easy to see and track with a saw.

Take the time to shade in your waste with a pencil, that makes life easier when it comes to figuring out which side of the line you want to cut on.

Keep it up.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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