Mayday, Mayday - help with HC Dovetails

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Forum topic by dakotawood posted 11-25-2012 12:21 AM 741 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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189 posts in 1869 days

11-25-2012 12:21 AM

I’m getting set to cut my first hand cut dovetails. I’m cutting them on a bookcase where the sides join the top. My question is a matter of logistics. I plan on cutting tails first (on the top board). The thing I can’t figure out is how do I transfer my tails to the pin board when the pin board is 51” tall. My bench is obviously much shorter. If I clamp the side board into my vise – the top of this board is a good foot above the bench top. So it will be near impossible to butt the tail board to meet up nicely with the pin board (can’t use the ol’ rest the tail board on a hand plane that’s laying on its side). I hope I’m explaining this logically. How can I transfer my tails to the pin board effectively?

-- Travis, South Dakota

5 replies so far

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2734 days

#1 posted 11-25-2012 12:32 AM

Put a milk crate on top of the bench to get the board up higher.

You can also pull the bench out far enough to lay the pin
board on the bench top while clamping the tail board in
the vise.

I use a little piece of a hacksaw blade ground in a crescent
shape to mark pins from tails. The curve is like an animal
claw and lets you run the side of the blade against the
insides of the tails while exerting enough downward
pressure to mark the pins.


View JAAune's profile


1261 posts in 1403 days

#2 posted 11-25-2012 12:35 AM

I’d lay the pin board on the long edge on top of the bench. A right angle plywood fixture might be needed to help clamp everything in place but wooden handscrew clamps should work fine.

-- See my work at and

View bondogaposis's profile


3444 posts in 1437 days

#3 posted 11-25-2012 12:57 AM

Make temporary jig from plywood scraps to support the tail board.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View paratrooper34's profile


786 posts in 2038 days

#4 posted 11-25-2012 02:08 AM

I had to deal with the same problem when making a pretty large cabinet. The long sides are 48”, so using the bench vise was out of the question. Here is what I did:

Lay the long side flat on the bench across the length of the bench with the side you are going to mark near the end. Get a piece of 4×4 that is long enough to span the width of that board. Clamp the 4×4 on top of the board so that it is flush with the end of that board. If you are making through dovetails, simply clamp the tails board to the 4×4 and transfer your marks to the pin board. If you are making half blind dovetails, shim the tails board the appropriate amount and then make your marks. It works very well when you use this system to handle long boards.

Here is how I did mine.

-- Mike

View dakotawood's profile


189 posts in 1869 days

#5 posted 11-25-2012 10:50 PM

Thanks for the help guys! I’ll see what I can do.

-- Travis, South Dakota

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