Frettsaw and Dovetails?

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Forum topic by Waldschrat posted 04-08-2009 10:22 PM 1156 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 2856 days

04-08-2009 10:22 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question joining dovetails fret saw

Hello fellow Jocks! I have 2 questions for you guys:

I must admit, eventhough I consider my self a open minded person when it comes to new ideas and methods (and you can even ask my master about this if you wish) but I have always scoffed on using a fret saw to cut away waste/debris from the dovetail joint.

I first encountered it in a book (from america I think), and laughed and said;

look at these fools! they are actually sawing out the waste from the pins in that joint! ha ha! they know not what they do!” Ok that was a little exageration, but it sounds very evil does it not?

Well I just saw a youtube video from Rob Cosman, and he cut a joint in 3:40 minutes! (!) yeah, that was crazy, I thought and eventhough I still remain a little skeptish, because Icould not examine the quality of the joint personally, the time itself was impressive.

So question 1) what does he mean by cabinet quality dovetails? Is this a quicker, but perhapsnot so perfect joint?

Questioin 2) How many of you out there use a saw to cut out the waste, I have always used the chisel method (as I learned from my master, he from his and so on) so Is there something to this method? Because here in Germany it is largly unknown.

So please speak to me fellow Jocks please enlighten me!

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

8 replies so far

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 3534 days

#1 posted 04-08-2009 11:26 PM

I use a fretsaw, but I learned how to cut dovetails from Rob :). Frank Klausz has a video where he cuts dovetails in 3 minutes. He chops the waste with a chisel.

I think cabinet grade means, not so perfect joints.

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 2975 days

#2 posted 04-08-2009 11:30 PM

I also use a fretsaw but I too learned from watching Rob’s DVD.
I did try the chisel method but found that using a fretsaw was a lot faster, especially when cutting dovetails in hardwood.
I do follow up the fretsaw work with chisels and pair away the waste afterwards.

View Alan's profile


443 posts in 2824 days

#3 posted 04-09-2009 12:34 AM

cool video Mike, thanks for the link.

-- Alan, Prince George

View johnpoolesc's profile


246 posts in 2781 days

#4 posted 04-09-2009 01:50 AM

i’ve seen his joints up close and they are perfect.. i use a chisel. it was the way i was taught. i can not cut a dovetail in 3 minutes.. it takes me longer then that to decide on a layout.. then finish a cup of coffee, then mark then.. then start over.. you get the picture..

but i do not make a living from woodwork..

-- It's not a sickness, i can stop buying tools anytime.

View kiwi1969's profile


609 posts in 2862 days

#5 posted 04-09-2009 01:55 AM

Im just getting the hang of handcut dovetails after 15yrs using machines, but I don,t see the point in using a fret saw when you chop out the waste anyway, seems like an unnecessary step. Klaus doesn,t use one but he does have that strange turning saw so maybe it depends on the size of the dovetail that your making.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View Peik Löf's profile

Peik Löf

115 posts in 2793 days

#6 posted 04-09-2009 02:01 AM

That video is amazing Mike, thanks for the link :)

Now i shall hop into bed and commence the sobbing as i will never be able to do that ;P

-- My signature is awesome.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17575 posts in 3096 days

#7 posted 04-09-2009 09:05 AM

THANKS FOR THE LINK, MIKE. It’s obvious he’s done that before ;-)) For production work, I suppose that’s how they did it so make a buck where perfect wasn’t an issue. I’ve tried chisels and saws, but I haven’t cut enough of them to decide, yet.

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

View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 2856 days

#8 posted 04-09-2009 09:47 AM

Thanks guys! I love the input!

Johnpoolesc: Yeah, I know what you mean by layout (especially if you do not do it everyday, on the same size of pieces) ... but I think though, after sleeping on this (and I am not trying to shoot him down, because it was impressive the sheer speed of it all) that if he did not already have his marking devices already set up and had to figure/calculate out a classic style dovetail, it would take at least 5 minutes or so longer and if there was mitred ends, it would take at least 3 times that long.

It sounds like that this is an issue of try it out and see what works best… I think I would love to try this. I just gotta get a frett saw now! I was before thinking along the lines of KIWI1969 that it being an extra step and all, but, if it works so fast(?) well, like I said, I will have to try it! I will report back to all, as one who learned the other way to do it, and tried the the Frettsaw method after I have tried it!

I think I feel the same now as Peik Löf! ;-)

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

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