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Dovetails - Coping, Fret, or Conventional Saw

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Forum topic by EKG posted 03-25-2014 12:10 AM 678 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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EKG

11 posts in 306 days


03-25-2014 12:10 AM

I’m, building a workbench. The legs are 4×4 cedar. I cutting a dovetail tenon in each one. My J&S and Japanese saws are horrible. Any thoughts on using a buck saw, or, fret or coping saw to cut these?
Regards,
EKG

-- Eric G.


15 replies so far

View redSLED's profile

redSLED

687 posts in 644 days


#1 posted 03-25-2014 12:58 AM

Though theoretically one can do it, I will rule out your coping saw for you.

You could also drill out holes to the right depths and chisel out your tenons.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

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TopamaxSurvivor

15088 posts in 2427 days


#2 posted 03-25-2014 05:29 AM

Are you cutting a dovetail on cedar?

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Loren's profile

Loren

7826 posts in 2399 days


#3 posted 03-25-2014 05:37 AM

Japanese saws may be slow, but they tend to be accurate
due to the minimal set.

Your best dovetailing or tenon saw has a rip tooth pattern
and minimal set. Almost nothing off the shelf comes this
way.

I cut all but the smallest dovetails using a shop-made bow saw
with a 22” butcher-saw blade with the set nearly stoned
away and the teeth refiled to rip. It tracks unbelievably
well and I have to wax it so it doesn’t bind in the kerf -
that’s how little set there is left. You could make your own
for about $10 for the blade and using odds and ends
on hand.

A ryoba would do the job though. I like the Gyocucho ryoba
with the cane-wrapped handle…. $38 from Woodcraft these
days. I won’t vouch for any Japanese saw with a plastic
handle as I’ve used some that feel just terrible compared
to the heavier wood-handled ones.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View Purrmaster's profile

Purrmaster

832 posts in 844 days


#4 posted 03-25-2014 07:20 AM

To cut out the waste I prefer a fret saw.

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

4772 posts in 1202 days


#5 posted 03-25-2014 11:50 AM

If you are doing big dovetails for a bench i would use a large dovetail to start the cuts and finish with a mitre saw

Chop the waste with a mortis chisel or a heavy duty bench chisel

Cutting the waste with a saw on large scale work is slow

-- "Aged flatus, I heard that some one has already blown out your mortise." THE Surgeon ……………………………………. Kevin

View EKG's profile

EKG

11 posts in 306 days


#6 posted 03-26-2014 08:26 PM

Thanks oldfarrt – you gave me a whole new perspective.

-- Eric G.

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EKG

11 posts in 306 days


#7 posted 03-26-2014 11:27 PM

Hi Kevin:

I’ve tried two Japanese saws:

Carpenter’s Saw – 12” Double Edge (Ryoba) RazorSaw
Crosscut Saw w/thicker blade RazorSaw – a single edged saw)

and a Jackson & Spears 15 TPI tenon saw). I’ve read all the techniques as how to use them, and they all bind. When I start the cut again, the saws like to find a new position and not follow the scribed line.
They cut fine on a perpendicular cut, but not at an angle, like you would for a dovetail.

Apparently I don’t know how to use them properly, or, I have the wrong saws.
In each case, I scribe a line, and cut on the inside of the scribe. I do not use excessive force, and take my time.
These are new saws, and have never been used before (except for me for practice).

-- Eric G.

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theoldfart

4772 posts in 1202 days


#8 posted 03-26-2014 11:59 PM

Eric, I don’t have an answer for you. I had some of the same issues and just practiced for some time. My dovetail saw has been professionally sharpened by Matt Cianci and that improved my sawing a bit.
Try looking at some Chris Schwarz’s videos, I’ve had good luck with his techniques.
Whatever you do don’t give up, it will happen for you. I was pretty certain when I started that all I needed was good tools; learned quickly that experience and skill can make most tools work better.

-- "Aged flatus, I heard that some one has already blown out your mortise." THE Surgeon ……………………………………. Kevin

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EKG

11 posts in 306 days


#9 posted 03-27-2014 12:26 AM

Hi Kevin: I think you hit the nail on the head – practice, and practice. I read one site where the commentator said you should cut one dovetail a day, every day, until you get it right. I think I’m in full concurrence with his suggestion.

-- Eric G.

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EKG

11 posts in 306 days


#10 posted 03-27-2014 02:01 AM

TopamaxSurvivor: Yes cedar – it’s cheap & I think 4×4 legs should be robust, given my table top will be 2×4’s on end. Each leg will have a large dovetail – just an experiment.

-- Eric G.

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TopamaxSurvivor

15088 posts in 2427 days


#11 posted 03-27-2014 02:34 AM

I wonder if cedar will be strong enough to hold a dovetail joint. I might just split with the stress??

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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EKG

11 posts in 306 days


#12 posted 03-27-2014 02:49 AM

TopamaxSurvivor: You’re right – just an experiment to see if I could do 3 1/2” dovetails properly. If it doesn’t work, a hardwood will be selected for the legs. Any suggestions on a reasonably priced hardwood?
Anyways, the tabletop will be 2×4’s on end, so the depth of the tabletop will be 3 1/2”. The top will be 96” x 36”.

Thanks

-- Eric G.

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TopamaxSurvivor

15088 posts in 2427 days


#13 posted 03-27-2014 02:54 AM

Any suggestions on a reasonably priced hardwood? Find a local sawyer is my best guess.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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EKG

11 posts in 306 days


#14 posted 03-27-2014 03:09 AM

TopamaxSurvivor: Just a thought – what about glued & screwed plywood, which is is stronger than any hardwood (I think). It is glued in perpendicular sheets, which is indestructible. A glued 4×4 plywood leg would be indestructible, and carry a decent weight. High Density Fibre (HDF), or even MDF might be another option.

Some more of your good thoughts pls.

-- Eric G.

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TopamaxSurvivor

15088 posts in 2427 days


#15 posted 03-27-2014 04:32 AM

Lots of people more qualified than I to answer those questions. Check out Shipwright’s bench here: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/93097 He used plywood to make legs.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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