My first hand-cut dovetails
#11
  
Hey all,

I've been woodworking (as a hobby) for about 14 years and finally decided to tackle hand-cut dovetails. I told myself before I did these that I would post pictures no matter the outcome. These look ok-ish from a distance, but there's certainly still a lot for me to learn and practice.

The wood is cherry. It's 3/4" thick and 3-3/4" wide. I did tails first. The dovetails are mostly hammered together without tuning. I had one of the half pin faces that I shaved down a little with a chisel to fix an angled saw cut; I did this to prevent splitting the board when joining the two pieces.

Things I noticed or need to work on:
1. Straight saw cuts. This is the biggest issue and harder than I expected. None of the pin cuts were exactly straight up and down, and the tail cuts were all at slightly different angles (most obvious on the center tail). And worse, I noticed that some of my tails are essentially tapered (in the wrong axis) due to the saw not being perfectly perpendicular to the board during the cut. If it looked like I was following the line on the front and top of the board, it didn't necessarily mean I was following the line on the other side.
2. One of the middle pins is much wider than the other. That's because one of my first cuts between the tails was so bad that I moved the saw over 1/8" to try again.
3. My marking gauge height needs to increase a tiny bit. I tried to make it match the board thickness, but the end grain on both the tails and pins are slightly below the surface of the other board.
4. The chisel I was using seemed to dull quickly when paring out the waste (bulk was removed first with a coping saw). I put the bevel at 20 degrees. This was just an old chisel that I picked up for cheap and beveled the sides of so it'd fit between the tails. I have a few old Japanese chisels on the way that will hopefully do better (got them off ebay, they'll need to be refurbished a bit).
5. The (cheap) dovetail angle gauge that I got leaves something to be desired. I think (but haven't verified) that the angles on either side of the gauge don't exactly match. And marking the edges of the tail board was challenging due to the small area for registration. I could probably just use a bevel gauge instead.

It would seem that the remedy to all of this is simply practice, practice, practice. Tips/pointers welcome.

Thanks,
Tyler


Attached Files Image(s)
   
   
   
Reply
#12
  Re: My first hand-cut dovetails by OneStaple (Hey all, I've bee...)
Tyler,

Not bad for a first attempt! Did you cut tails or pins first (I am a tail first guy). There are some pretty good you tube instructions out there (and they make it look so easy!).


Here is a really simple jig for roughing out the tails using your band saw. It is a simple template that is cut at the angle of the tails and rides along the BS fence. The tail board sits along the edge of the template (glue a strip of sandpaper along the edge to keep the tail board from moving/shifting while cutting). Cut one angle first and then just flip the tail board over to cut the (perfectly symmetrical) opposing tail angle.
This tail board looks a little weird because it was for a Bombe chest with slanted/curved drawer fronts so the tail board is also at a slant – but the technique works for square drawers

   
Reply
#13
  Re: RE: My first hand-cut dovetails by Don_M (Tyler, Not bad fo...)
First try? I'd rate it 7.5 to 8 out of 10.

I'd comment on these two points:

2) Don't change the way you set the gauge (slightly less than the thickness of the stock)! Why? A. When you plane the surfaces flush with the endgrains, you remove all the machine marks or gauge lines too. B. The distances between endgrains are the final lengths/ widths of your stock. When you plane the surfaces rather than the endgrains which some people do, you do not alter any dimensions. This can be critical in the case of tight fitting drawers. Almost forgot this ---- C. Clamping is a lot easier when the endgrains are below the surface. There're other advantages, but three should be more than enough to make my point.

3) Hone your chisels at 25, not 20, and 35 for chopping. I don't pare......I chop, after coping. Paring is reserved for final fitting. I get the job done in half the time or less.

Simon
Reply
#14
  Re: RE: My first hand-cut dovetails by Handplanesandmore (First try? I'd rate ...)
+1 with Simon on the rating.  Perfectly acceptable.  Also,  agree with him on the bevel angle.    If that was to be an exposed dovetail,  a few thin shims or some sawdust glued in a few gaps and it would be perfect.
Reply
#15
  Re: My first hand-cut dovetails by OneStaple (Hey all, I've bee...)
Looks like you are off to a great start!

It may be useful to actually glue this practice joint together and then plane it smooth. You will be amazed how much better these joints will look, and will give you some insight into how much latitude you actually have in terms of tolerance on the interference fit between the pins and tails.
Reply
#16
  Re: RE: My first hand-cut dovetails by Philip1231 (Looks like you are o...)
(01-23-2021, 09:56 AM)Philip1231 Wrote: Looks like you are off to a great start!  

It may be useful to actually glue this practice joint together and then plane it smooth. You will be amazed how much better these joints will look, and will give you some insight into how much latitude you actually have in terms of tolerance on the interference fit between the pins and tails.
Words from someone who knows the dovetail business. Cool 

Simon
Reply
#17
  Re: My first hand-cut dovetails by OneStaple (Hey all, I've bee...)
Don_M Wrote:Did you cut tails or pins first (I am a tail first guy).
<snip>
Here is a really simple jig for roughing out the tails using your band saw. It is a simple template that is cut at the angle of the tails and rides along the BS fence.
I did tails first. I like the looks of that jig/approach, and it'd certainly help with straight cuts. Of course, I'd need to get a fence for one of my bandsaws to make that work. Haha. I think for now, I want to take the time to learn the fully hand tool method.

Handplanesandmore Wrote:2) Don't change the way you set the gauge (slightly less than the thickness of the stock)! Why? A. When you plane the surfaces flush with the endgrains, you remove all the machine marks or gauge lines too. B. The distances between endgrains are the final lengths/ widths of your stock. When you plane the surfaces rather than the endgrains which some people do, you do not alter any dimensions. This can be critical in the case of tight fitting drawers. Almost forgot this ---- C. Clamping is a lot easier when the endgrains are below the surface. There're other advantages, but three should be more than enough to make my point.

3) Hone your chisels at 25, not 20, and 35 for chopping. I don't pare......I chop, after coping. Paring is reserved for final fitting. I get the job done in half the time or less.
The reasoning for letting the end grain be slightly below the surface makes sense. I feel like most instructions that I've seen have it slightly proud of the surface, I assume because it's a much smaller surface area to make true (although you have to plane end grain). Would you change your approach for the marking gauge with half-blind dovetails? I plan to work on those after I've gotten a bit more comfortable with regular dovetails.

Thanks for the advice on the bevel angles. I swear I saw 20 degrees recommended somewhere. 25 would add strength to the tip, especially for a lower hardness western chisel.

Philip1231 Wrote:It may be useful to actually glue this practice joint together and then plane it smooth. You will be amazed how much better these joints will look, and will give you some insight into how much latitude you actually have in terms of tolerance on the interference fit between the pins and tails.
That sounds like a great idea. I'll do so and report back.

One last question. It seems like most people do half pins on the outside edges, but I can't find a strong reason to do half pins vs half tails. Any real reason? I could see half pins on half-blind dovetails at the front of the drawer being useful and more aesthetically pleasing (perhaps). I know a drawer bottom groove would have to be lined up so as not to show too. But is there any other reason for one or the other?

Thanks for the encouragement! Much more practice in my future. I'm thinking of making a tool cabinet for the garage with about 18 drawers and may use that to practice a whole lot of dovetails (regular and HB).

Thanks,
Tyler
Reply
#18
  Re: RE: My first hand-cut dovetails by OneStaple ([quote=Don_M]Did you...)
(01-23-2021, 07:56 PM)OneStaple Wrote: The reasoning for letting the end grain be slightly below the surface makes sense. I feel like most instructions that I've seen have it slightly proud of the surface, I assume because it's a much smaller surface area to make true (although you have to plane end grain). Would you change your approach for the marking gauge with half-blind dovetails? I plan to work on those after I've gotten a bit more comfortable with regular dovetails.


One last question. It seems like most people do half pins on the outside edges, but I can't find a strong reason to do half pins vs half tails. Any real reason? I could see half pins on half-blind dovetails at the front of the drawer being useful and more aesthetically pleasing (perhaps).
Tyler

In the order of your questions -

1) Marking gauges for half-blind dovetails are not set based on the thickness of the stock, but on the depth of the tail socket and on the length of the tails. So my earlier gauge setting comment goes for the through dovetails only.

2) You're right. So far as I'm aware, there's no particular technical reason for choosing half pins vs half tails. Their looks are different -- for a bookcase, the edges are like columns, the other horizontal beams.

- it's a much smaller surface area to make true (although you have to plane end grain).

Because of endgrain, you've to be more careful or blowout will happen. If the gauge is set only slightly less, there isn't really a lot to shave. But why not try different gauge settings, and decide for yourself which suits you better. Each has some pros and cons. Eg if the engrains are proud, and you have a very slight gap, you could hammer the end to cover the gap. All will work in the end.

Next thing to learn after you practice enough is how to cover your tracks if you screw up. Some mistakes are fatal but many can be fixed. No matter what you do to fix a mistake, please, please do not use sawdust mixed with glue. Only video content producers (aka youtubers) will promote that kind of fix.

Hope this helps,

Simon
Reply
#19
  Re: My first hand-cut dovetails by OneStaple (Hey all, I've bee...)
Handplanesandmore Wrote:Because of endgrain, you've to be more careful or blowout will happen. If the gauge is set only slightly less, there isn't really a lot to shave. But why not try different gauge settings, and decide for yourself which suits you better. Each has some pros and cons. Eg if the engrains are proud, and you have a very slight gap, you could hammer the end to cover the gap. All will work in the end.

Next thing to learn after you practice enough is how to cover your tracks if you screw up. Some mistakes are fatal but many can be fixed. No matter what you do to fix a mistake, please, please do not use sawdust mixed with glue. Only video content producers (aka youtubers) will promote that kind of fix.

Ok, I glued together the dovetails and cleaned them up a bit (pictures below, wiped down with mineral spirits). Doing so makes them look a bit better, but obviously doesn't fix/cover everything.

Questions/comments:
1. I figured out that my dovetail marking gauge is way off. Basically, the part that is used for angles is skewed sideways by a few degrees. And when marking lines for tails, you use one side of the gauge to mark the line on one side of the board and the other side to mark the same line on the other side of the board. So, while I'm sure my cutting wasn't straight, it was also made to look much worse by non-matching angles. I need to get/use something better.
2. The glue filled some of the gaps between the pins and tails, but not all. I've tried the mix-glue-with-sawdust approach in the past and never been impressed with the outcome. So, for gaps that are too big just to let glue fill but too small for a sliver of wood, what do you do?
3. You'll notice in the pictures that the endgrain of the tails shows a few marks. One was from a saw kerf that jumped (whoops). The others are pin holes from a divider that I used to mark out the distances of the tails. If the end grain was proud of the surface, I'm sure I could remove some of this. Do you use a different approach besides dividers to do the initial marking if you leave the end grain slightly below the surface?
4. You'll notice that I cut just a couple inches containing the dovetails off of the boards. I plan on going down the length of the boards repeating this process as practice.

Thanks,
Tyler


Attached Files Image(s)
   
   
Reply
#20
  Re: My first hand-cut dovetails by OneStaple (Hey all, I've bee...)
The finished product looks really good.  I have seen furniture pieces with worse dove tails than that.  You should be more or less happy with those.  Not knocking you for trying to get them better though.  That's the name of the game right.
Reply


Forum Jump:


Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.