Dovetail question...

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Forum topic by DKV posted 02-08-2014 05:49 AM 1273 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3940 posts in 2498 days

02-08-2014 05:49 AM

As I do more and more dovetails with my new dovetail guide I have found it is pretty difficult to get into the tight spots of the tail board to clean out waste. The steep bevel sides of my chisels damage the side of the tails. I have been looking at buying a dovetail chisel but the decent ones are pretty expensive and I’m not sure if a 1/8” or 1/4” chisel would work best. I certainly don’t want to buy a whole set.

Also, I have seen videos where folks have made their own dovetail chisel using either a 1/8” or 1/4” beater/old chisel by grinding the side bevels down to almost nonexistant. I would like to know what you handtool folks use to get into the corners of your dovetails without damaging the sides/walls.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

11 replies so far

View JAAune's profile


1797 posts in 2310 days

#1 posted 02-08-2014 05:52 AM

Consider a skew chisel with strongly beveled edges. I made a couple for myself with some w1 tool steel and hardened them but haven’t gotten around to making handles yet.

-- See my work at and

View Rich42198's profile


2 posts in 1659 days

#2 posted 02-08-2014 05:59 AM

I use a sharp marking knife. It gives me more control over a long-handle tool. I have dovetail chisels and still prefer the marking knife for close detail work and cleanup.

View Andre's profile


1827 posts in 1800 days

#3 posted 02-08-2014 06:28 AM

LV sells a set of detail chisels, starts at 1/16” gets you into anything, I also have a small hand made knife/chisel with a pointed 3/4” flat bottom polished blade.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

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3940 posts in 2498 days

#4 posted 02-08-2014 06:40 AM

Something like these?

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2440 days

#5 posted 02-08-2014 01:39 PM

Is that end view of a finger joint or a dovetail joint?

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

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2252 posts in 2440 days

#6 posted 02-08-2014 03:16 PM

Alright I see it now,it is of the tail side.,I tried hand cut dovetail but I failed miserably,in my case a decent dovetail bit and a good jig will be the best way.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View mahdee's profile


3883 posts in 1761 days

#7 posted 02-08-2014 04:19 PM

I am in the process of making this box. The dovetails came out ok. Have a 1/4 chisel that have the sides beveled to zero, worked good with these little joints. Also made the knives from an old hand saw; probably can get 30 or more knives out of it. The knives work great for cleaning the corners out.


View waho6o9's profile


8187 posts in 2571 days

#8 posted 02-08-2014 04:24 PM

Looks like a comfortable and effective knife mrjinx007, thanks for the post.

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2498 days

#9 posted 02-08-2014 06:12 PM

I’d like to thank everyone that contributed. Thanks…

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15341 posts in 2612 days

#10 posted 02-08-2014 10:11 PM

It’s all about finding a quality bevel-edged chisel. Note the ‘thick’ sides (lands, I may have heard them referred to once) on this one:

The SW reissues are good, but err on the side of thick as well:

The 1” Everlasting has it right:

Happy hunting.

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

View Texcaster's profile


1281 posts in 1668 days

#11 posted 02-08-2014 11:42 PM

Flea market chisels ground right & left skew. Carving skews, bevel both sides, really only suited for carving.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

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