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Forum topic by DKV posted 870 days ago 1505 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DKV

3073 posts in 1135 days


870 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: dovetail skills

Why is it that whenever anyone talks about cutting dovetails they always either discuss how to use a dovetail jig and/or discuss how to cut them by hand. I have dedicated my weekend to conquering my lack of dovetail cutting skills and have discovered that cutting them on the tablesaw is the easiest. For some reason I just can’t seem to keep a saw perpendicular during the cuts. It takes longer than handcutting because of all the blade and fence changes but it seems to work. What am I missing?
Thanks,
Don

-- 2014 will be a different year...at least for me it will.


22 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112014 posts in 2208 days


#1 posted 870 days ago

Your right Don most of the time folks talk about using a jig or cutting dovetails by hand but the can be made on the table saw or on a router table.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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kaschimer

89 posts in 1020 days


#2 posted 870 days ago

Think of hand-cut dovetails of a mark of extreme craftsmanship… me personally, the last ones I cut, I didn’t use a jig, and I didn’t hand cut. I used a bandsaw… Do I feel cheap for not hand-cutting them? No. I am not at that level yet, and I needed to get them done.

-- Steve, Michigan - "Every piece of work is a self portrait of the person who accomplished it - autograph your work with excellence!" - Author unknown

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DKV

3073 posts in 1135 days


#3 posted 870 days ago

My tablesaw dovetail joint with a little bit of glue and saw dust to fill the mistakes. I don’t quite until I can make the perfect dovetail joint. Machine, jig or by hand…it will happen.

-- 2014 will be a different year...at least for me it will.

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DKV

3073 posts in 1135 days


#4 posted 869 days ago

Here’s my next update. After 3 days here is my progress at learning hand cutting dovetails. Lots of good videos on Youtube with lots of opinions on the best way to cut dovetails. I invite all experts to critique my joints. No glue and sawdust this time.

-- 2014 will be a different year...at least for me it will.

View GrandpaLen's profile

GrandpaLen

1494 posts in 903 days


#5 posted 868 days ago

Don,

I believe you have a knack for hand cut dovetails.

Looks good. Are you cutting pins or tails first? – Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View AffineCreations's profile

AffineCreations

28 posts in 889 days


#6 posted 868 days ago

For some reason I just can’t seem to keep a saw perpendicular during the cuts.

When learning to hand cut dovetails, that was exactly my problem. I came up with a cheat that I am sure will make an experienced woodworker just cringe at me. I would use a metal square as a guide. Rest the square with the thicker base on top of the endgrain and the thin portion hanging down the side. I could use the “bottom” of the thick part of the square as a guide for starting the saw. Obviously, this is for cutting the pins.

One real trick I learned from watching videos was when cutting the tails, place the piece in the vice at the angle of the cut, so the cut line is perpendicular to the floor. Turns out our brains like to reference perpendicular according to gravity more than the visual cut line in front of us. Of course, this means doing half the cuts, then rotating the board and doing the other half.

All this advice from someone that is now busy learning to cut dovetails with a jig and router.

P.S. Nice work there, you seem to be mastering this skill.

-- - Nicholas, Silver Spring, MD http://AffineCreations.com

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GrandpaLen

1494 posts in 903 days


#7 posted 868 days ago

Don,

Here’s a ‘Daily Chuckle’ chuckle for you, as you have asked ”experts to critique my joints”.

Expert; defined.
an ‘Ex’ ...is a has been.
a ‘spert’ ...is a drip under pressure.

Smiles to you – Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View DKV's profile

DKV

3073 posts in 1135 days


#8 posted 868 days ago

Good one Len and thanks for the feedback. I wish more “sperts” would comment. Affinecreations, I think we are in this together. Here’s my take…I want to be able to say I can create “perfect” dovetails by hand. After that point I will probably use machines for any dovetails I need. I’ve been practicing using pine, redwood and strips of plywood. I’m sure that when I come under pressure to cut dovetails by hand on a piece of walnut, maple or rosewood (my favorites) I’ll choke. Anyway, today I try the bandsaw. Woodgears.ca has a great video on the subject. BTW, it would be nice to know your first name. Affinecreations isn’t as easy to type as Bob, Rob, Len or Don. I’ll continue posting my results (maybe you can also) and maybe we can draw more experts in to the discussion.
Later guys,
Don

-- 2014 will be a different year...at least for me it will.

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

775 posts in 947 days


#9 posted 868 days ago

I don’t often incorporate dovetails in my professional work since I’m usually not able to justify the time. Every now and then some tricky joinery issue comes up for which the dovetail is perfectly suited. If I have to cut them I’ll always use the fastest method that’s available at the moment. Usually that involves a Japanese saw, chisels and a scroll saw to take out the bulk of the waste. I use chisels to pare down to the scribe lines and have nothing against using a block of wood clamped to the scribe line to make it easy to chisel quickly and accurately.

If there’s a blade available that I can remove the set from, I’ll cut tails first on the bandsaw to get that part done rapidly.

Since I don’t cut dovetails often jigs aren’t worth keeping (shop space is valuable) and I can cut a good joint by hand. If I’m working on a project in my spare time I’ll often do it entirely with handtools for fun and practice.

I’ve heard of people using tablesaws before but since the OP says it actually takes longer I’m not likely to use that method. Even if the learning curve is steeper my preference is to use the method that permits me to get things done the quickest without losing quality.

Routers are great tools but they are messy so I often prefer alternate methods that don’t scatter so much dust.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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AffineCreations

28 posts in 889 days


#10 posted 867 days ago

DKV,

What?! My first name is listed in my sig! (ha ha) I just now edited my profile to include my name and the website now adds it to all my posts. Thanks for the suggestion.

Seriously, I agree with you with learning a skill “by hand” first and then relying on machines to do it for you. Last year when I was learning dovetails by hand, I just set out a project and gave it a try. My wife didn’t mind, as she got a new jewelry box as the result. Having a set project got me more focused on “getting it right” than just the endless array of practice corner joints.

I’ve tried the bandsaw technique, but never perfected it and since have been playing with a new router set up. Posted the results of the first project here, a Tea Box

-- - Nicholas, Silver Spring, MD http://AffineCreations.com

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1526 posts in 1106 days


#11 posted 867 days ago

You are missing nothing, the table saw with the band saw is a perfectly good way to make dovetails. The only “drawback” if you will is when you want to make small or thin pins which would be limited by your saw thickness.

Keeping the saw straight is a matter of practice, you will eventually learn to use your arm as a pendulum and let the saw do the work (the more pressure you apply the more the saw goes the wrong way), which is the secret to making a straight cut.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View DKV's profile

DKV

3073 posts in 1135 days


#12 posted 867 days ago

Nicholas, the tea box is a beauty. Great joints. Maybe you can document for the rest of us how you did that. JGM0658, you can’t believe the numbers of practice cutoffs I’ve done by hand and I’m getting a lot better with my “perpendicular” work. Can’t say a lot for my horizontal work though, I think it’s to do with age…:)

-- 2014 will be a different year...at least for me it will.

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DKV

3073 posts in 1135 days


#13 posted 532 days ago

After almost a year I am finally getting the hang of it. Still improvement to be had but progress. Practice, patience and go slow…

-- 2014 will be a different year...at least for me it will.

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 1600 days


#14 posted 532 days ago

Looking good Don, but what did you mark that line with, a machete?

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DKV

3073 posts in 1135 days


#15 posted 532 days ago

Some of the “experts” on Youtube say you should be able to see the line to show that your dovetails were hand cut. Maybe I pressed to hard. Way to hard, maybe? I wanted everyone to know I didn’t use anything but my hands. I guess…Maybe… Hell, I don’t know why it looks like a machete cut. Do you? Just when I thought I had arrived you go and spoil everything…

-- 2014 will be a different year...at least for me it will.

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