Loose dove tails

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Forum topic by kdavid posted 03-15-2013 01:46 PM 1317 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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21 posts in 2985 days

03-15-2013 01:46 PM

Morning….Newbie dove tailer here…...after many attempts I still cannot achieve those snap tight joints. They are snug but the are random gaps.. Any help would be appreciated….Kirk

-- Kirk..... " Hope I die before I get old "

16 replies so far

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2889 days

#1 posted 03-15-2013 01:52 PM

If you would post photos, maybe that could help identify problem areas?

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15280 posts in 2582 days

#2 posted 03-15-2013 01:53 PM

Are you cuttin them by hand? What kind of dovetail saw? Marking knife or pencil!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View theoldfart's profile


9611 posts in 2415 days

#3 posted 03-15-2013 02:24 PM

Need to see/hear your process along w/pics. Are you cutting by hand or using tools with tails? How do you transfer your tails or pins? etc.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

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Chris P

93 posts in 2249 days

#4 posted 03-15-2013 03:01 PM

what type of wood would be helpful to know as well.

-- Chris, Long Island

View Jerbone's profile


35 posts in 1887 days

#5 posted 03-15-2013 03:10 PM

Not that mine are any good but I was trying to learn on red oak and having a hell of a time. I then switched to some thinner poplar and was able to create some passable joints after that. Also as they mentioned, I switched from marking with a pencil to a marking knife which helped out a lot.

-- Joining two of my passions, beer and woodworking,

View kdavid's profile


21 posts in 2985 days

#6 posted 03-15-2013 05:34 PM

I’m using a Veritas dovetail saw and a knife…should I use a coping saw or just chisels…Thanks again

-- Kirk..... " Hope I die before I get old "

View mikema's profile


180 posts in 2550 days

#7 posted 03-15-2013 05:43 PM

Use a pencil, and leave the pencil line when you cut. Also if you are cutting tails first, mark where you are going to cut the pins off of the tails. Reverse is true if you cut pins first. If I had to guess looking at the picture, It appears you marked both tails and pins before you cut them.

Finally, keep practicing. It is not a skill you can learn over night. You will end up making a lot of book-ends until you are comfortable with it.

-- Mike ---- Visit my woodworking blog:

View Loren's profile (online now)


10250 posts in 3611 days

#8 posted 03-15-2013 06:17 PM

I recommend starting with wider pins. You can always move
over the delicate pins when you get the method down.

I think it is much easier to follow a line straight up and
down than to follow an angled line. This is why I cut
the tails first… because all the pin cuts are straight

I mark the pins from the tails with a 2” long section of
hack saw blade sharpened to a claw profile. The offset
on each side is something like 1/24” I suppose. It’s
important to be consistent in your methods of cutting
and marking so you can control the end result. How
you stand when sawing is pretty important too.

You can always pare pins cut a little wide to fit. I’d
err on the side of making them a little wide, especially
as you master sawing perfectly straight up and down.

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2468 days

#9 posted 03-15-2013 06:32 PM

Also as a newby to dovetails (1 year on and off practice) I agree with Mike and Loren. Start big and use pencil. Do not touch the pencil line when cutting. In fact, when I’m cutting and I think I may be too far into the waste side I find that I have a perfect fit. Another idea that took me a long time to realize, do your tails first and don’t really worry about being perfect on the line, next to the line, etc. The tails are nothing more than a template for the pins. The pins you need to go slow and careful. The last thing is practice, practice, practice. Dovetails are not easy. There are some great videos on Youtube. Many, many different methods. You have to experiment with all the suggestions and pick your own. Probably a combination of several different people. Don’t think that everyone does it the same. You would be cheating yourself. Just when you think you can’t watch another Youtube video…watch another. The person doing it may be the break through you need.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View chrisstef's profile


17305 posts in 2970 days

#10 posted 03-15-2013 06:45 PM

DT noob here too. Ive been cutting them quite a bit lately with some success, some failure. Here’s a post that i saved a while back from LJ Derek Cohen. The first link on the page opened my eyes to some things i wouldnt have ever thought about.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Loren's profile (online now)


10250 posts in 3611 days

#11 posted 03-15-2013 06:52 PM

Oh yeah. When I cut the tails I flip the board and don’t
shift my stance. I use a bowsaw which is it’s own funky
thing… if the stance is the same the angles tend to
be close to uniform.

When cutting the pins I do the same thing. I hold
the saw differently of course and I probably use
a different stance. I still flip the board and keep
the same stance rather than moving around.

So, I have two stances to do the same every time,
not four.

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2348 days

#12 posted 03-15-2013 07:42 PM

Not sure which of those you cut first (tails or pins), but it looks like your tails are not square, so if tails first, I would cut them, then check every surface with a square to make sure it is square before marking the pins. Trim your tails with a chisel until you think they are just right, and square, then mark your pins from there.

And like others said, if using pencil, plan to leave your making line…if you cut into your line, you’re sure to have gaps. As you gain practice, you will know instinctively how close to get so you have little if any paring to do at the end.

I’m one who prefers knife lines myself, so in my case I will often notch a place out for my saw against the knife line on the waste side, so my saw already has a place to sit.

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

View kayakdude's profile


97 posts in 2740 days

#13 posted 03-15-2013 08:39 PM

i use a leigh jig D4 i have own it for years and used it for years if any thing my joints get to tight and you can make a box in about 10 minuts and good to go time is money so dont waste it , and alway use square bords so you dont want to use cheap pine i use mostly oak, ash, walnut or chesnut wood tulip woods also a good choice

-- kayakdude

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2325 days

#14 posted 03-15-2013 08:46 PM

There are very few projects for which dovetails are more than footnotes to the success of a piece. Fuggettabatttum! Concentrate on design and basic construction: the things that really count. Nothing detracts more than sloppy attempts at dovetails in an otherwise well executed work. It suggests that the rest of the effort ain’t up to par.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2074 days

#15 posted 03-15-2013 09:09 PM

The Five Minute Dovetail is a great way to practice and improve hand skills:

showing 1 through 15 of 16 replies

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