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Thread: Dovetail guru influence question

  1. #1
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    Dovetail guru influence question

    I know this wonít apply to those of you who learned in person through family, job, etc,. For those of you who learned from the internet & one of the many gurus, which one did you follow? How has your practice evolved since?

    with my health woes, I get to watch a lot more woodworking than I get to do. The good (and bad) if that is Iíve seen a lot of variations on how to cut dovetails - Charlesworth, Schwarz, Roy, Sellers, et al. I read Kirby on advice of a member here. Iíve played with a lot of the methods. Thereís a lot of little nuances. An upcoming project will require a lot of dovetails (Monticello bookcases). Iím thinking of trying the full on Cosman 2.0 on the DTC Iím working on now. All that exposition to say that Iím curious of us internet learners if you stuck with the original method or evolved?

  2. #2
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    Roy Underhill, then Paul Sellers...then adjusted to match me limited skills...
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  3. #3
    I learned this craft entirely from the Internet. Your method will ultimately be some hybrid of multiple techniques. I am partial to many of the techniques Derek Cohen (he has is own site) and Mike Pekovich (Fine Woodworking) talk about.

    I ended up using a bandsaw and a jig for the tails, hand cutting the pins, and using a trim router to get flat bottomed pins, and paring the rest.

    I suggest also that you will get wonderful tutelage right here. Just start a thread titled "Hand cut dovetails, how am I doing?" and post your pictures and questions. You'll get 10 great teachers giving you advice; you'll be smart enough to figure out what's right and relevant for yourself.

    Dovetailing joints are like drywall joints. You have to practice and keep practicing. You'll probably get great by the end of your project, then not have to do it again for a few months, and then will have to practice again to get your legs back.
    Last edited by Prashun Patel; 09-16-2022 at 6:57 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    I learned this craft entirely from the Internet. Your method will ultimately be some hybrid of multiple techniques. I am partial to many of the techniques Derek Cohen (he has is own site) and Mike Pekovich (Fine Woodworking) talk about.

    Ö

    I suggest also that you will get wonderful tutelage right here. Just start a thread titled "Hand cut dovetails, how am I doing?" and post your pictures and questions. You'll get 10 great teachers giving you advice; you'll be smart enough to figure out what's right and relevant for yourself.

    Dovetailing joints are like drywall joints. You have to practice and keep practicing. You'll probably get great by the end of your project, then not have to do it again for a few months, and then will have to practice again to get your legs back.
    Most Likely will post as I go along. Like most of my woodworking, it started with CS (though I also watched a bunch of Roy). There was a couple of tips from Sellers that really made my sawing tick. Of all things dovetailing, the one thing that Iíve never found comfort with is removing the waste. Ive tried chisel and fret saw and I always struggle for some unknown reason with both/either.

  5. #5
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    Ian Kirby's book is the best resource available. He starts with the basics and gradually advances. I know of no other quality, small, concise book on the subject.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rainey View Post
    Ian Kirby's book is the best resource available. He starts with the basics and gradually advances. I know of no other quality, small, concise book on the subject.
    Being a visual learner, I liked t(e book but I wish there was a video detailing his method in a walk-through.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    ... Dovetailing joints are like drywall joints. You have to practice and keep practicing. You'll probably get great by the end of your project, then not have to do it again for a few months, and then will have to practice again to get your legs back.
    This!

    A useful tip I picked up somewhere was mark your tails/pins then warm up in the waste before you cut to your lines. The transfer your marks for the pins/tails and practice the new angle in the waste before cutting those to the lines. Yes, it takes a little extra time, but you'll be able to make corrections and get a feel for the angles you need to hold to match before it counts, (and it make clearing the waste a little easier.) Of course you skip this step after your first dozen or so of the day.

  8. #8
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    Christian Becksvoortís video by Fine Woodworking. There is no verbal explanation but just watching his process really helped me.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7qDWkbyZEZQ

  9. #9
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    Kind of an echo of something from above. On my projects my tendency is to cut the dovetails that won't show first and work my way toward the ones on the show side.

    Derek Cohen's website is at > http://www.inthewoodshop.com < a lot of good information there.

    Here is a box project of mine where my experience with making dovetails was explained > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?259750

    One major item learned since was how shop workers centuries ago would cut the sides of tails and pins beyond the baseline to make clearing the waste easier. One of the common problems with baseline gaps is the corners at the base of the pins not being fully removed. Cutting beyond the baseline meant workers getting paid by the piece could get work finished quicker.

    Another practice that helped me get better was to cut a 1X4 in to two foot lengths and practice joining them together with dovetails. Then the joint would be cut off and done again. On each joint my errors would scrutinized for what could be done to improve the joint.

    Here is a shot of some of my recent dovetails, dang it has been over a year:

    d Paring Proud from Pins.jpg

    My tendency is to cut my pins & tails proud and then either shape them for their look or to trim them flush.

    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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    Hi Tony

    I donít think that there is one dovetailer guru who does it all the best. If you are able to recognise what is, or what is not, good technique, then you will borrow this-and-that from several. For example, I learned a lot from the early Rob Cosman (before his silly aids which aim to reduce the hand-involved work). I also learned from David Charlesworth, who was not a great handtool dovetailer, but was a great exponent of efficiency and precision.

    Today I would immodestly say that I can hold my work up with good guys - which basically means that I get a decent fit 99% of the time off the saw and need minimal adjustments.

    Break down dovetailing to determine what is needed.

    For a start, the tools are important, but it is the hand and eye that dominate. How you hold a Western backsaw, and how you start a cut with either a Western or Eastern saw is also capable of making or breaking the result. How you stand relative to the work, sawing at a comfortable height Ö again all important. But none of these are as vital as the next item Ö

    The most important factor in good dovetailing is (1) your sense of aesthetic and (2) accurate and clear marking. There are some who eschew marking gauges or templates and say just saw by eye. Personally, I think that this macho stance is all posturing and the resultant work looks like crap. Jim Krenov taught about positioning of dovetails, both for strength and looks. It does not take longer to mark all carefully, and the result is going to live with you a long time. But it is not enough to mark aesthetically - you need to be able to see the marks and cut to them. Many years ago now, as my eyes began to age, I developed the blue tape method to transfer tails to pins. I am a supporter of handwork, and the tape does not reduce handwork. It just aids the eyes. I have developed a number of other methods, and even work-holding fixtures, but they are all geared towards transferring marks and marking. This area is make-or-break for accurate fits.

    There are techniques for sawing, both the diagonals and the horizontals, using dovetail saws and fret/coping saws. Sawing and chopping waste need to be seen to be integrated acts. For example, creating a chisel wall at the baseline, then sawing out the waste from the tail socket, and these together, in that order, facilitate chopping out the waste to the baseline Ö and not over it. I have many articles/pictorials on this on my website. There are recent articles I wrote in the last two editions of Quercus magazine.

    Here is some bedtime reading: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furnitu...ovetails3.html

    http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furnitu...hBlueTape.html

    http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furnitu...feeTable2.html

    http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furnitu...ickisDead.html

    http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furnitu...ilsinWood.html

    http://www.inthewoodshop.com/ShopMad...ngChisel2.html

    Plus, the recent-ish set of articles on the ďUnderbench CabinetĒ was a journey through case dovetail joinery, and then building drawers Scroll down this page: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furniture/index.html

    There are also articles on my website for making drawers with bow fronts, which necessitate compound dovetails. Example: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furnitu...tWeekend9.html

    I hope that this helps.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  11. #11
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    I found the Paul Sellers videos very helpful. He has plenty of free ones, and after you’ve made a few things his paid site has lots more useful content.

    The basics aren’t that complicated though. Once you’ve already watched a few videos and made one or two test joints, the best thing is just to make lots of dovetails.

    I recommend getting some poplar (or other inexpensive hardwood) and make lots of little caddies or storage trays for around the house and shop. If they don’t come out perfect you’ll be fine and you’ll get better with every box.

    DE6C0A08-6217-4332-8E74-C26AF25AD084.jpg

    Another handy idea! A box sized to fit the rectangular 1 quart solvent cans. I have one that fits about 5 or 6 and it is really convenient to grab the whole box and take it out for a project, rather than deciding ahead I’d time exactly what I need.
    Last edited by Ben Ellenberger; 09-16-2022 at 9:59 PM.

  12. #12
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    Besides, one can hear from a dozen "Gurus" about the "proper way" to cut and fit Dovetails....and..each one will be different....the task is to take a few gems from each way, and come up with a way that works for you...

    And, remember...to always mark the waste, and saw on the waste side of a line....one can always pare away a little bit for fit....rather a bit hard to ADD some...
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  13. #13
    (as if more needs to be said) Don't be tempted to practice on cheap wood that bears no semblance to the project wood you'll ultimately work with. That is, don't practice on pine or 2x4's if you intend to make a case in white oak. You'll feel the species differences in wood compression, splintering, and hardness most acutely when you chisel.

  14. #14
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    I read somewhere, most probably FWW that the first thing you should do when you walk into the workshop is cut a dovetail for practise. And here is another exponent which I rather like, quick with no waffle he just gets on with it.

    Chris

    Everything I like is either illegal, immoral or fattening

  15. #15
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    Hi Chris

    I like John Bullar a lot, but his approach here is not to be recommended for someone starting out as he gets quite casual about the work, which may be fine for someone very experienced. What really stands out is that his work here is sub-standard. Yes, I know it looks good, but I took a couple of screen shots to illustrate my points.

    He advocates chopping once before the line and then the second chop on the line. I say do not do this, as it will push the base line back. In the actual case, he not only pushes the baseline back, but he chisels in a way that repairs would be difficult ...



    These videos are presented to disguise the gaps at the baseline, which must eventuate from the errors above. That does not fill me with confidence ...



    I have made a few videos, but one really needs to be desperate or have low entertainment standards, or insomnia, to watch them. If you are all of the above, here is one on the fitted parts to show you what I mean by disclosure ...




    Regards from Perth

    Derek

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