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Dovetails and chisels

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Forum topic by Joel_B posted 04-05-2015 07:53 PM 983 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Joel_B

294 posts in 843 days


04-05-2015 07:53 PM

I tried cutting my first dovetails yesterday and they didn’t come out so good oh well I need more practice. I made myself a jig like David Barron’s and used a Japanese razor saw. I have two Narex chisels, 1-1/4 and 1/2 inch. It seems I need a smaller chisel like 1/4 inch. the Narex chisels are pretty good for the price but this time I am thinking of getting Ashley Iles. One thing I have noticed in watching dovetail videos is they always make the pins really small. What is the reason for this? It’s one reason requiring a smaller chisel.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA


6 replies so far

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bondogaposis

4024 posts in 1813 days


#1 posted 04-05-2015 08:47 PM

One reason for making the pins small is that if they are smaller than 1/4” then that tells you they weren’t made w/ a router. It is a way to show off hand cut. They are known as London pins because that was a style adopted there a few centuries ago, when all dovetails were hand cut. Yes, having a small chisel is needed to clean out around the tails. They also make dovetail chisels for this or right and left hand skews work as well.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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iminmyshop

258 posts in 1455 days


#2 posted 04-05-2015 09:05 PM

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Thin dovetails look really cool. That’s it. They are also harder to make. Reaching in to a very tight space makes it more difficult to get the perfectly clean walls that you need. So practice on big fat chunky dovetails before cutting thinner ones. In fact, it would be better to practice cutting wide, chunky box joints before cutting thin, sleek box joints then moving on to dovetails. And be patient. And kind to yourself. They take time.
Best of luck. And have fun.

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jdh122

879 posts in 2279 days


#3 posted 04-05-2015 10:00 PM

The reason is all about the looks. Frank Klausz, dovetail ninja and teacher, makes pins only slightly smaller than the tails. He trained in eastern Europe and sees the small-pin style as being English…

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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Joel_B

294 posts in 843 days


#4 posted 04-06-2015 02:12 AM

So i gave it another try today, made sure my 1/2 inch Narex chisel was good and sharp and used a piece of poplar.
I was pretty happy how it turned out for my second try. The hardest part by far was chopping and paring the pins.
The fit was a bit tight so I had to tune it some. Here is a picture and also the jig I made.
My thoughts are to get a 1/4 inch Matsumura Dovetail chisel. Also the Robert Larson coping saw I am using is a lot of work so I am wondering if a fret saw or just a better blade would help.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

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rwe2156

2190 posts in 942 days


#5 posted 04-06-2015 01:24 PM



I tried cutting my first dovetails yesterday and they didn t come out so good oh well I need more practice. I made myself a jig like David Barron s and used a Japanese razor saw. I have two Narex chisels, 1-1/4 and 1/2 inch. It seems I need a smaller chisel like 1/4 inch. the Narex chisels are pretty good for the price but this time I am thinking of getting Ashley Iles. One thing I have noticed in watching dovetail videos is they always make the pins really small. What is the reason for this? It s one reason requiring a smaller chisel.

- Joel_B

I could be wrong, but I think the main reason for the narrow tails was an indicator of “fine” woodworking, as opposed to the ones cranked out by the apprentices for dressers, etc. IOW it is just a “classier” type of DT.

The side bevel height is most important for dovetails, and most chisels fail because you can’t get into the corners without a lot of angling and paring, which increase the chances of error.

Just wondering do you have the premium Narex chisels or the regular set? The Ashley Iles chisels have a low side bevel height. I think Blue Spruce is the lowest. Fine WW’ing did a pretty good review on chisels you can look up the specs on the chart.

Looks like you’re off to a good start, tho.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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BinghamtonEd

2281 posts in 1831 days


#6 posted 04-06-2015 02:07 PM

I don’t have a left/right skew chisel (would like to buy or make one eventually), and I don’t cut tiny pins. My smallest chisel is a 1/8 marples. Since I’m far from a dovetailing expert, I let the workpiece size, and my chisel sizes, dictate the size of my dovetails. I want to make sure the pins/tails don’t look too big for the piece, but at the same time, I want to be able to clean out the waste with the chisels I have. So, my smallest pin will be just over 1/8. That lets me clean out the tails with damaging their edges. Also, sometimes I will use a sharp exacto knife, when needed, to clean little pieces out the corners, instead of a chisel.

I think the slight remnant of the scribe line on the board faces works as the tell-tale sign of the joint being hand-cut.

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

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