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Thread: Chisel Sizes Most Frequently Used for Dovetails?

  1. #1
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    Chisel Sizes Most Frequently Used for Dovetails?

    What size chisels do you find yourself mostly using when dovetailing (and I guess in general bench use)?

    I'm not looking to acquire a complete "set" of sizes at this time, just the ones I need, as I need them. But need something to start with. I have a 3/4" and 1/2" so far.

  2. #2
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    What do you want to build? Sketch out the joint and get a chisel that fits into the pin slots. Or design the pins around your smallest chisel and get chopping.

  3. #3
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    I use a 1/4" and 1/2" more than the rest of the sizes for all types of work (including dovetails) Erich. The next most used would be a 3/4". I use the 1/4" for groove, dado and mortise chopping/cleanout as well as dovetail corner work. I use a 1/2" chisel for general chopping/paring/cleanout quite often as that size offers a good combination of ease of chopping and width of cut (progress made). I do use an 1/8" size for close corner work when I encounter tight corners. That does not come up often, but often enough that I am glad that I added that size after filling out the more used sizes. I like the way the Ashley Ilses chisels feel in my hands and they seem to hold up to work as well as anything else I have used, plus they are easy to sharpen. I just acquired a couple of the round back style (also AI) from Tools For Working Wood and my initial try out on scrap went well. They are sharpened at a 25* bevel and I intend to use them for paring and probably will not use a mallet on them.
    Last edited by David Eisenhauer; 05-29-2020 at 1:33 PM.
    David

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    I like really small pins so I have a 3/16" and / or a 1/4" for that task. I have a couple of 3/8" bevel chisels for clean out but, a nice fishtail would take care of both those chisels in one. If possible I like the chisel to run the full width of the tail. That said, I like variable dovetails as opposed to the riveted look of machine cut DT's so I often find I just grab a 3/8" and use it on all the variable widths I have along a run. As you can tell, this is a personal choice so it is hard to give a "go get a 1, 2, 3" type answer.
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
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  5. #5
    I probably use my 1" the most, then probably 3/4 or 1/2.

    I have a 1/8" that has come in pretty handy on a lot of occasions also.

    But I also have a chisel problem, I probably have about 30 different chisels.


    Quote Originally Posted by Erich Weidner View Post
    What size chisels do you find yourself mostly using when dovetailing (and I guess in general bench use)?

    I'm not looking to acquire a complete "set" of sizes at this time, just the ones I need, as I need them. But need something to start with. I have a 3/4" and 1/2" so far.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by David Eisenhauer View Post
    I use a 1/4" and 1/2" more than the rest of the sizes for all types of work (including dovetails) Erich. The next most used would be a 3/4". I use the 1/4" for groove, dado and mortise chopping/cleanout as well as dovetail corner work. I use a 1/2" chisel for general chopping/paring/cleanout quite often as that size offers a good combination of ease of chopping and width of cut (progress made). I do use an 1/8" size for close corner work when I encounter tight corners. That does not come up often, but often enough that I am glad that I added that size after filling out the more used sizes. I like the way the Ashley Ilses chisels feel in my hands and they seem to hold up to work as well as anything else I have used, plus they are easy to sharpen. I just acquired a couple of the round back style (also AI) from Tools For Working Wood and my initial try out on scrap went well. They are sharpened at a 25* bevel and I intend to use them for paring and probably will not use a mallet on them.
    +1 on what David said. The AI chisels come closer to the balance and feel of pre-war tang chisels than any other current production chisel I've found. As to size, it all depends on how big your work is and how you work. If I could only have four bench chisels they would be 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", and 1". If I could add a fifth it would be a 8mm.

    ken

  7. #7
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    As to size, it all depends on how big your work is and how you work.
    My dovetails are usually marked by first setting a divider to a hair more than the width of a chisel. Which chisel depends on the material and what is being made.

    Sometimes it is a !/4" chisel. Sometimes it is a 1-1/2" chisel.

    But I also have a chisel problem, I probably have about 30 different chisels.
    That isn't a problem. There are likely more than that in one of my chisel drawers:

    Bench Chisels.jpg

    Those are my main users. This image is from nine years ago. Many chisels have been added since then.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
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  8. #8
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    My AI 3/8" round back DT chisel gets the most work - probably because it fits the aesthetic I like in dovetails. Also the Narex 1/4" skewed paring chisels get a good work out.
    If it wasn't for the "last minute", nothing would ever get done.

  9. #9
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    Erich, If you want to get fancy you might also want to get a couple of gouges to make some 'lovetails' > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?135061

    This cabinet and its twin have 52 dovetails each. Fine Woodworking magazine had an article about using different designs and shapes in joinery. This was inspired by that article. Before that a practice piece was done > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?95360

    Rosewood handle & Lovetails.jpg

    My wife sure liked them on the cabinet in the washroom.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  10. #10
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    Nice lovetails Jim!

    Erich, the chisels you use most in dovetails will reflect the size you make. Keep in mind that the joint is made of tails and pins. Some make the tails wide and some make them variable widths. The pins are generally spaced wider, which translates to wider baselines to pare out.

    I tend to make slim dovetails for drawer sides (approximately 6-7mm thick). I think that they look more elegant. One can debate whether this is so, but that is not the topic here (could make a good one). The baselines of these slim tails general requires 1/8, 3/16, or 1/4” chisels.

    For cases (approximately 20-22mm thick) this will change in two ways: firstly, the apex will be less pointy and generally 2-3 mm wider. Secondly, the baselines will be wider - 1/4 and 3/8” chisels.

    Paring baselines begins with a fretsaw cut about 1mm above the baseline. This is not a lot to pare or chop away, but a wide chisel is not advised at this point since it will require more downforce. Intend to use 1/2 and 3/4” chisels here. It depends on how hard the wood is. I always undercut the baseline before starting, which means that there is no distortion if the baseline when walking the chisel.

    Don’t forget that socket corners (pins) need to be cleared, and pointy tails will reduce the area between pins. A fishtail chisel is the efficient way to remove to waste. I have a few and the ones I use are 1/4” wide. I do not see the need to go wider as it is only the corner one is clearing out.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  11. #11
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    I might mention that I do have a full set of the blue plastic handled Marples/Irwin chisels and a couple of Lee Valley plastic handled butt chisels. So in a pinch I do have some other sizes to work with. The LV & Marples nowadays get used mostly for abusive tasks or loaning to friends who tend to bring them back bedecked with chips.

    I made my 1st (and only) dovetail piece of furniture with the blue plastic handled monsters, but then I ended up on a near decade hiatus from hand tool woodworking.

    I have already ordered a BS fishtail 1/4" chisel (it is still in the queue, haven't received it yet). Sounds like I maybe should pick up a good 1/8" and 1/4" chisel to compliment the 1/2" & 3/4" I already have.

    I still have no idea if I like my Veritas or LN better. I don't really like the look or smell of the Veritas torrified wood, but that is a minor consideration. The handles are pretty different, but not used either enough to feel like I'm anywhere closer to deciding.

    I have a BS 1-1/2" pairing chisel, I keep using it for things I shouldn't (light tapping to deepen a knife line for sawing), so that probably tells me I should add a wide chisel to the collection... but which one? Bevel edged? Firmer? Longer handle, shorter one? I know there is no one right answer... but I obsess over things.

    PS. I dusted off my never used 2" framing chisel and de-rusted it but it was too big and heavy for making the knife lines deeper.
    Last edited by Erich Weidner; 05-29-2020 at 11:38 PM.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Neil Gaskin View Post
    I probably use my 1" the most, then probably 3/4 or 1/2.

    I have a 1/8" that has come in pretty handy on a lot of occasions also.

    But I also have a chisel problem, I probably have about 30 different chisels.
    As Jim said, that's not a problem. You are just getting started .

    ken

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Erich Weidner View Post
    I might mention that I do have a full set of the blue plastic handled Marples/Irwin chisels and a couple of Lee Valley plastic handled butt chisels. So in a pinch I do have some other sizes to work with. The LV & Marples nowadays get used mostly for abusive tasks or loaning to friends who tend to bring them back bedecked with chips.

    I made my 1st (and only) dovetail piece of furniture with the blue plastic handled monsters, but then I ended up on a near decade hiatus from hand tool woodworking.

    I have already ordered a BS fishtail 1/4" chisel (it is still in the queue, haven't received it yet). Sounds like I maybe should pick up a good 1/8" and 1/4" chisel to compliment the 1/2" & 3/4" I already have.

    I still have no idea if I like my Veritas or LN better. I don't really like the look or smell of the Veritas torrified wood, but that is a minor consideration. The handles are pretty different, but not used either enough to feel like I'm anywhere closer to deciding.

    I have a BS 1-1/2" pairing chisel, I keep using it for things I shouldn't (light tapping to deepen a knife line for sawing), so that probably tells me I should add a wide chisel to the collection... but which one? Bevel edged? Firmer? Longer handle, shorter one? I know there is no one right answer... but I obsess over things.

    PS. I dusted off my never used 2" framing chisel and de-rusted it but it was too big and heavy for making the knife lines deeper.
    Erich,

    If I understand your post, one of the things you want a larger chisel for is to deepen your knife line. I assume you are talking about cross grain so as to make a "V" cut to help make a first class saw cut. There are better ways. First after marking with your marking gauge just deepen the mark freehand with your knife. There is no need to use a square to deepen the cut, with a light hand the knife will follow the mark. Once the mark is deepened with your knife use your chisel to make the "V" cross grain. I usually use a 3/8" pattern makers chisel but any size will work as long as it is long enough.

    A photo of making the "V":


    paringChiselB.jpg

    ken
    Attached Images Attached Images

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken hatch View Post
    Erich,

    If I understand your post, one of the things you want a larger chisel for is to deepen your knife line.
    ken
    Yes, that is what I was using it for. I'll have to give the "V" method a try.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erich Weidner View Post
    Yes, that is what I was using it for. I'll have to give the "V" method a try.
    Another method to make a saw wall is to use your marking knife:

    Making Saw Wall.jpg

    Notice the thumb is against the blade, the blade is bevel down and the material is being removed from the waste side of the cut.

    This is fairly easy on narrow pieces.

    Depending on circumstances a chisel might be the preferred tool.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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