through dovetails long or short?

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Forum topic by 12strings posted 07-24-2014 04:45 PM 867 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 1889 days

07-24-2014 04:45 PM

When you set your marking guage (or other method for determining the length of your tails and pins) for through dovetails, which of the following do you do?

a. Try to make them exactly right to minimize cleanup planing when you are done.

b. Make them slightly too long on purpose and plane off the end grain to make them level.

c. Make them slightly too short on purpose, so you can plane the drawer side down a little and avoid having to plane end grain.

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

10 replies so far

View JayT's profile


4903 posts in 1716 days

#1 posted 07-24-2014 04:51 PM


-- Pay heed all who enter: Beware of "the Phog" Rock Chalk, Jayhawk

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 2576 days

#2 posted 07-24-2014 05:09 PM

I’ve only practiced hand cutting dovetails a little, but if I recall correctly Marc Adams and other instructors at a woodworking event recommended cutting the pins and tails a little long and flushing them up later.

Marc Adams has a nice “Dovetail Refresher” video; about halfway through he talks about scribing the lines a little deeper than the thickness of each piece of wood.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View Loren's profile


8389 posts in 3153 days

#3 posted 07-24-2014 05:15 PM


View exelectrician's profile


2327 posts in 1932 days

#4 posted 07-24-2014 05:15 PM


-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View jdh122's profile


885 posts in 2322 days

#5 posted 07-24-2014 05:22 PM

I usually do B, but it can be a lot of work to plane that end grain down, especially on big piece like a blanket chest. It’s really easy to have little pieces break off in the joint, but a super sharp blade, skewed, will do it. I dream of doing A and having it work.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View timbertailor's profile


1592 posts in 929 days

#6 posted 07-24-2014 06:13 PM


- exelectrician

Ditto. A little proud.

-- Brad, Texas,

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13826 posts in 2123 days

#7 posted 07-24-2014 11:33 PM

A. Why intentionally cut something wrong?

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

18049 posts in 2072 days

#8 posted 07-25-2014 12:32 AM


if they are long intentionally, its not wrong, its a process.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View sweetwilliam's profile


3 posts in 907 days

#9 posted 07-25-2014 12:25 PM

B. But only slightly. Rather work on a little end grain than a whole panel.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2281 posts in 1874 days

#10 posted 07-25-2014 02:03 PM

B. I set my gauge to the thickness of the stock plus a little, maybe a dollar bill folded in half.

If you’re Canadian, though, the loonie will leave a lot of planing to do.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

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