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Thread: Dovetails

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael J Evans View Post
    Jim, Do you think I could be getting the rounding because I start the saw off, dead level? What I mean is I hold the spine straight up and down till I get my square line started and then tilt the saw once that square line has been established.
    That does explain why the top of the tail isn't sharp. One part of using the saw that took me a long time to learn is using the horns. The heel of your hand can press down on the lower horn to make the saw just kiss the wood as it is starting to cut.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael J Evans View Post
    The most frustrating part to me about this all is the chisel work. I think I cut a good tail/s, get all excited that its going to turn out good, saw pins, spend all that time chiseling and then crappy fit.
    This was another part of the dovetail joint that took me time to learn. Which ever you do first, be it pins or tails, make sure they are as good as you can get them before marking the mate. Then no more paring on the first piece, only on the mate. Make sure the base line is clean before marking the second piece.

    If your pins come up loose, you are likely sawing too close to the line. For me, the sides of sawing the tails is likely to be more off than the verticals when sawing the pins. That is why my tails are cut first. They can be squared up and then cutting the pins is easy. Do the hard part first.

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

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    Make your cuts a bit off the line, into the waste area. Then use a chisel to pare back to the line.

    After you get good at sawing you will be able to get a good fit off the saw. There's a bunch of "hints" that I could give you but it's difficult to teach remotely. Take a look at one of my tutorials here, here, here, and here.

    Mike
    I made some of my best dovetails while Mike was standing nearby telling me what to do .

    Certainly it is an acquired skill like many things in our craft. The things that come more easily to us, we tend to take for granted. Somewhere on this forum there is a guy who does great dovetails who cannot figure out how I get a good veneer cut off the bandsaw. Don't ledt struggles with one aspect of the craft take away from the things you can do well. Check out Mike's tutorials and set aside a few chunks of time to practice on blanks that you make up for that purpose. I can get through them but, there's a lot of things I like doing a lot better .
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
    one Hans Wegner, the money is very well spent." - Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen

  3. #18
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    May 2015
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    Hey Michael - I cut my first DT's about 2 years ago after reading a lot, watching videos and paying attention to what Jim, Derek, Mike and all the unnamed others have posted about cutting them. All of the advice is good - try out everything and keep what works for you and leave the rest. Blue tape or no blue tape. Pins first or tails first. Leave the lines or cut the lines. Pencil or knife. Technique and process can be learned cheaply just by trying - cut, fit, repeat. Tools on the other hand are different because of the ducats involved. I started with a cheap pull saw and my old construction chisels. Then a Veritas dovetail saw, and finally a Bad Axe hybrid that I love. Narex chisels came first, then a couple of Ashley Isles. A used shoulder plane, then another and finally the Veritas medium plane. And through out this process, I didn't add any tools until I knew, by making dovetails, what it was that I wanted to compliment the way I make them. I absolutely love using the Narex skewed paring chisels. But at the beginning I had no idea about them. So practice, practice, practice. Make lots of cuts because muscle memory is your friend. And it's fun - if I have nothing else to do I might just cut DT's for the hell of it. Being able to press them together "off the saw" is pretty cool.

    Enjoy.
    If it wasn't for the "last minute", nothing would ever get done.

  4. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
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    271
    Put the Doug Fir aside. Go get some cheap poplar at the BORG. DF is difficult to work because the spring growth is so much harder- stiffer- stringyer than the summer growth.

  5. #20
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    Mar 2019
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    I cut my first dovetails in March at the Homestead Heritage school in Waco, Texas, which uses the Paul Sellers method. No wonder, because he actually moved there and taught classes for a while.

    Start with sharp tools. We practiced for a half day just sawing to the line, the number one rule was leave the line. Right up to the line, but not on it, nor over it. We must have sawed 50 boards. We were taught to make a knife wall on any cut, including a saw cut, so the saw or chisel does not jump out. Then chisel out the rest. We did not use fret saws. We practiced in 1/2" pine, and once we got it (like Day 2), we moved on to Cherry. The pins were transcribed from the tails, using a sharp knife held at an angle for precision.

    We had a class of 8 and all of us were complete idiots, and by Day 2 we were cutting pretty good dovetails. No fret saw, no blue tape. Just a saw, a knife, 2 chisels, and a sharp .5mm pencil.

    When I got back, I watched a video by Paul Sellers, and it reinforced what we learned.

    You might want to consider an in person class or check out a couple of Paul Sellers' videos.
    Regards,

    Tom

  6. #21
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    May 2017
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Fross View Post
    What turned my dovetails around was taking a dovetail class with Rob Cosman.
    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas McCurnin View Post
    You might want to consider an in person class or check out a couple of Paul Sellers' videos.
    Great advice, and it worked for me! My first attempt at dovetails was a disaster. My second, third, and fourth attempts were just as bad, and I was confident it wasn't the tools, it was my poor technique. I watched hours of videos, but still couldn't make even a mediocre dovetail joint. All I succeeded in doing was turning sections of maple and walnut into useless smaller chunks of wood as I cut off the hideous bits and started over.

    I was about to give up on hand-cut dovetails and then I attended a one-week dovetailing course taught by David Charlesworth in his shop. Money well spent! I was fortunate to be his only student for the week, so I had dedicated one-on-one instruction. I still made plenty of mistakes along the way, but the critique and correction was immediate and effective.

    I still have a long way to go before I can whip out dovetails as quickly and accurate as others here, but I am confident with my new skills. If you can arrange to attend a course in your area, you will likely not be disappointed.

  7. #22
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    New England area
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    Mark the second half of the joint with a very fine scratch awl and leave the mark but no more when you saw out that half of the joint. Knifing too deeply will leave a mark the saw falls into and can leave the joint cut too lean. You can compensate for this by jogging the tail board slightly past the end of the pin board when marking out, but that's not a refinement you should attempt when starting out. Deeply knifed lines or deep awl marks are no better and in some ways worse than fat pencil marks.

    Tails first is typically easier to learn, but I don't want to start that debate. Mark tails with a fine, hard pencil and saw to the pencil marks all the way around leaving the marks. If you see the marks on one face of the board, but they're gone on the other, or there's white space between the pencil marks and sawn edges on the other side, then you haven't sawn square to the face and you'll end up with a poorly fitting joint and a construction that will go up with twist. It's fine to saw the tails in from both sides at first (pins too for that matter), whatever it takes to see the marks you're sawing to. Get some well made joints under your belt before you start worrying about speed and all the rest.

    The ultimate test is four boards dovetailed together that sit perfectly flat on a very flat surface. They can fit well, but still have enough twist to make for a long day if you're building drawers or something that has to fit inside something else.
    Last edited by Charles Guest; 06-05-2020 at 6:52 AM.

  8. #23
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    Apr 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Engel View Post
    The key is accurate marking and sawing.
    I was told to practice, so I did.... I took a board and marked a series of lines down the board. Start at 1/4" or so apart, get a feel for it and maybe you want them further apart, or, more likely, closer together.... Next, practice sawing three ways.


    1. To the left of the line, directly next to the line.
    2. To the right of the line, directly next to the line.
    3. Split the line.


    This is skill is required to cut to your marked lines and is essential to being able to cut your nice dovetails.

  9. #24
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    May 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Fross View Post
    All good advice. Everyone learns differently. What turned my dovetails around was taking a dovetail class with Rob Cosman. He has a very scientific approach which registered with me. I’m sure he has a lot of videos on YouTube which shows his methods. Just a suggestion if you have not already seen them.

    Michael
    Yep - same here. Getting back into woodworking - it's been a number of years. If he comes close to your town - jump on it. Unfortunately I moved to a town he doesn't frequent often if at all. YT is the next best thing. Just finished reading Derek's post. You can't go wrong with that.
    With skill and tool we put our trust and when that won't do then power we must.

  10. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Pitonyak View Post
    I was told to practice, so I did.... I took a board and marked a series of lines down the board. Start at 1/4" or so apart, get a feel for it and maybe you want them further apart, or, more likely, closer together.... Next, practice sawing three ways.


    1. To the left of the line, directly next to the line.
    2. To the right of the line, directly next to the line.
    3. Split the line.


    This is skill is required to cut to your marked lines and is essential to being able to cut your nice dovetails.
    Just to add on to your excellent advice - a very good woodworker once told me that every type of athlete will warm up before competing, but for some reason the thought never crosses most woodworkers' minds. So upon starting out the day in the shop when working with hand tools, he recommended a quick 5 minute warm up sawing exercise doing pretty much what you describe, just to get your muscle memory and coordination into the game. Both the novice and the most experienced master woodworker will benefit from a warm up.
    Edwin

  11. #26
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    Aug 2012
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    Michael you are getting lots of good advice. Doug fir and some pines can be difficult to learn with. Hard woods will teach you more. I have found this to be true, a finer toothed saw is better for soft wood in general. The coarser the teeth the more it tears at the start of the cut. The saw you are using will work better in hardwood. As for YT videos, almost all of them are made using hardwood pins and pine tails. The pine is compressive and will conform if cut a little tight for show purposes. Practice on hardwood if you can with cleaner cuts you will be able to see your lines before and after the cut. 24 tails are not many to have cut, thatís 1 dresser drawer. Donít get discouraged and learn how to fix some of those loose tails along the way. You will improve with practice.

  12. #27
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    May 2015
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    NW Indiana
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    And here's why you should practice and pay attention:

    20200605_165405.jpg 20200605_165420.jpg 20200605_165438.jpg

    Yep - that's the front of the drawer for one of the tables I'm making. I hunted thru 100's ( maybe thousands) of BF for 2 pieces that matched and had fleck that built up to the top center of the drawer. And then I put scribe lines on one. Someone let the Dumb-ass loose in my shop again! Oh well - the #4 is fun too.
    If it wasn't for the "last minute", nothing would ever get done.

  13. #28
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    Sep 2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Carey View Post
    And here's why you should practice and pay attention:

    20200605_165405.jpg 20200605_165420.jpg 20200605_165438.jpg

    Yep - that's the front of the drawer for one of the tables I'm making. I hunted thru 100's ( maybe thousands) of BF for 2 pieces that matched and had fleck that built up to the top center of the drawer. And then I put scribe lines on one. Someone let the Dumb-ass loose in my shop again! Oh well - the #4 is fun too.
    Bill, the dovetail seems to be a zen practice in visual-spatial relationships, with a drop of personal introspection thrown in. Kind of like golf or pool. I hope you got a good solid belly laugh when you saw that gauge line on the outside of the drawer front!

  14. #29
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  15. #30
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    Austin Texas
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    Nice design element Bill.
    David

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