Am I the only one who finds this annoying.... ?

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Forum topic by Benvolio posted 06-23-2013 02:12 PM 1967 views 0 times favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 2129 days

06-23-2013 02:12 PM

The current mainstream hand cut dovetail method seems to use a cutting guage to establish the depth of the pins…. but this invariably leaves a horrible looking score line down the final joint.

Like this, for example, from FWW…

This is especially prominent on the big ass DT joints in bench end vices.

Maybe I’m just being snobbish, but my eyes struggle to look past the marking line to appreciate the rest of the joint.

I mean, there are zillions of ways to cut dovetails – and even if you don’t know any other methods, two strokes with a smoothing plane would have it sorted….

So am I being unreasonable? Does anyone else get all emotional about this? Or do you think it enhances the look of the joint??

rant over.

-- Ben, England.

36 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


5086 posts in 2549 days

#1 posted 06-23-2013 02:13 PM

It doesn’t bother me. I definitely don’t get emotional about it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3775 days

#2 posted 06-23-2013 02:17 PM

Leaving scibe lines for dove tails has almost been a standard for at least 200 years. If doesn’t bother me ether.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2133 days

#3 posted 06-23-2013 02:20 PM

I have heard that the score line is like a signature to show everyone that the dovetail was hand cut. I guess when people see that, they are supposed to recognize that the joint was hand cut. Of course, the only people who know that are furniture designers and woodworkers, so the score line most likely means nothing to 99% of the population.

For the record, I also think it looks bad. It’s like masking off trim while you are painting and then leaving the tape there forever. Or leaving pencil marks on your work. I’m with you, I think it looks bad and I don’t really understand why people leave it there.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View bandit571's profile


21736 posts in 2881 days

#4 posted 06-23-2013 02:20 PM

Ah yes, the scoring mark. Look at a Thomas Sheraton drawer side, you will see the same marks. Unless one intends to leave a drawer open (ouch, my knee cap!) it remains inside the case. Old masters did not care about the inside unless it was going to show, they did not even sand the case’s backs. It was one less thing to do before the client paid for the item, and got it out of the shop. The old “Time = Cash” thing. Don’t worry about it.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 2129 days

#5 posted 06-23-2013 02:23 PM

Surely, this looks better?

More like an organic piece of art – like the wood YEARNS to be that shape. Like the joint was always meant to be… adding the score line would be like ruining the mystique of the artisan revealing seeing the man behind the curtain.

Perhaps as woodwoorkers we’re guilty of seeing pieces in terms of projects that bespeak the craftsman, rather than in terms of works of art that bespeak the wood??

-- Ben, England.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2853 days

#6 posted 06-23-2013 02:26 PM

Depends on the piece. On a tool chest a nice deep score line is going to aid construction. On a chest of carefuly crafted drawers, the line just looks off. You can of course be more gentle with your scribe and just give the barest hint of a line, you can rub that over with chalk to make it more visible to the eye (your chisels will find it just fine. This will be erased when you fit the drawer.

If it bothers you, fix it.

The dovetail in my picture is a tool-chest, which will get painted anyway…so why bother making the line not show?

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

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15693 posts in 2816 days

#7 posted 06-23-2013 02:27 PM

It’s your struggle, so it’s not unreasonable. I make such marks, and if they smooth away during fitting, fine. If not, also fine. I kinda like a hint of them showing vs. dragging heavy-handed canyons for marks that can’t be removed. To me, that shows a finer touch.

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

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3065 days

#8 posted 06-23-2013 02:33 PM

I would say that if it’s going to be on something like a box where it will be exposed then the mark should not be there. If it’s on a drawer where the dovetails are hidden then it’s up to the craftsman to decide. My mother collected and sold antiques and most of them had the mark.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View johnstoneb's profile


3054 posts in 2371 days

#9 posted 06-23-2013 03:47 PM

+1 a1jim marking guages for dovetails have been mainstream since dovetails came into being.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2559 days

#10 posted 06-23-2013 04:17 PM

Aside from the purpose it serves, it’s a high fashion woodworking affectation that shouts, “Look at my fine hand work,” instead of an artifact of production furniture manufacture when all dovetails were hand cut.

-- 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 MrFid's profile


886 posts in 2102 days

#11 posted 06-23-2013 06:43 PM

Although I understand tradition, craftsmanship, etc, they have always secretly bothered me in my work as well. It’s hard for me to admit that even to myself, but I think they do bother me slightly. I got over it because pictures like that in FWW convinced me that they were supposed to be there. Chalk up another brainwashed dovertailer. I tend to leave them there, but I do cut shallower with the gauge than I used to in order to leave a fainter line (happened without me even thinking about it). Thanks for bringing me one more thing to agonize over! :)

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3846 days

#12 posted 06-23-2013 06:49 PM

I prefer to cut the pins and tails a little shy and plane the
long grain down to flush. This approach often obliterates
the gauge lines.

I don’t do it because the lines bother me though.

On drawers, leaving the lines is common. On exterior
fine case joints I think it better if they are planed off.

For that matter, the dovetail is a rather busy, workmanlike
joint. If you want refinement in your case joinery,
investigate doweling.

View MrDan's profile


208 posts in 3486 days

#13 posted 06-23-2013 06:53 PM

I’m with MrFid. I think I got “talked into” accepting them by seeing them everywhere in highly respected magazines and books. I don’t like them, but over time I’ve come to accept the scribe lines.

View ChuckV's profile


3178 posts in 3725 days

#14 posted 06-23-2013 07:22 PM

Some people even put the lines back if they get planed away during clean-up. To each his own.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View NiteWalker's profile


2738 posts in 2775 days

#15 posted 06-23-2013 08:00 PM

I think it’s an eyesore and would never leave the line like that, just to “prove a craftsman has been there”.
Would you have your car freshly painted and then have fingerprints added just to “prove a craftsman has been there”?

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

showing 1 through 15 of 36 replies

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