Dovetails without a chisel?

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Forum topic by 12strings posted 09-24-2012 04:18 AM 774 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 1476 days

09-24-2012 04:18 AM

How good are you REALLY?

I’m just wondering if any body saws their dovetails with a back-saw, then uses a fretsaw or coping saw to cut out the remainder of the waste COMPLETELY DOWN TO THE BASELINE…NO CHISELING?

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

4 replies so far

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2739 days

#1 posted 09-24-2012 04:25 AM

It can be done in soft woods. It’s a very quick and dirty method
in my opinion but it can be done. With a bowsaw and a 1/4”
blade the blade can be turned 90 degrees so you cut vertical
with the front half of the blade and then turn the corner
by working the twist and move into the horizontal. There’s
an old article about Frank Klauz cutting shop box corners
this way.

I’ve fooled with sawing to the line using a 1/16” bandsaw blade
and a fence. While the geometry turns out fine, the crispness
of the pared line isn’t there.


View Prplhrtjarhead's profile


80 posts in 1197 days

#2 posted 09-24-2012 05:03 AM

I’m not too proud to say I love my porter cable router and dovetail jig. I wouldn’t even dream of doing dovetails with a hand saw. As Loren said, just not crisp.

Modern engineering has given us the tools that make woodworking faster, more accurate and easier and more convenient for dolts like me to accomplish some ncie projects that my hands cannot accomplish themselves. Thus, I (we) are able to enjoy woodworking in such a way that I (we) don’t have to apprentice for years to learn the trade and still get very good results.

Love the old-timey skill sets, but at this point in my life, I’m all about working smarter, not harder. Good question though.

-- "We'll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness." R. Reagan, "The Speech", 1964

View Mosquito's profile (online now)


6641 posts in 1384 days

#3 posted 09-24-2012 05:05 AM

Yes. I’ve done it with a dovetail saw, and a jewler’s saw with a spiral scroll saw blade. They weren’t the best, but it worked. Paul Sellers also has a few videos of him doing exactly that, and the fit was fantastic.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN -- Stanley #45 Evangelist -

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2739 days

#4 posted 09-24-2012 05:17 AM

The “fine” dovetail is kind of a 20th century crafts revival
construct. Craftspeople of earlier periods tended to cut them
not-so-neatly and put them behind mouldings and so forth.
The idea of displaying the exactlingly-cut dovetail
as a mark of excellence sort of correlated with the
rise of modern, stark geometry in casework and a need
for design features which defined price/quality points
for buyers. If you couldn’t put a moulding or a shaped
detail on anything, the option was to put the detailing
down in the surface of the board in the form of dovetailing,
inlay and veneering.

I’m not saying I don’t like dovetails… just that their function
in marketing and defining artisanal casework is a construct.


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