Dovetail / chiselling technique

Ok, so i'm trying to follow tage frid's instructions for cutting through dovetails (for the umpteenth time). Not having great success. Some questions:
1) He says to cut a slight "V" at the scribed line. What does this mean? In the pictures he looks like he is making a straight cut across the scribed line. Is the "V" what he means by undercutting as it shows in one picture more like a ">" pointing to the opposite end of the board rather than a "V" pointing to the flip side?
2) My first chiselling "into" or "torwards" the scribed line slices off clean, but every piece I try to chisel out after that (below the first) ends up not gettting cleanly cut off at the inside edge between the tails; it turns into a jagged mess actually, looking more smashed and torn then cut. (The chisels are scary sharp, btw.) What am I doing wrong in that the area between the tails is so rough?
3) Is pine ok for practicing?
Cheers!
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Long answer short - Don't use pine to practice on. Use a hardwood and then see if you're having a problem.
Place the chisel on the waste side of the scribed line (about 1/32" from it) at a slight angle (handle away from waste side) and make a cut, now turn the chisel 180 and at a slight angle (handle towards the waste side) make a V notch. Now make a cut at the scribed line (on the waste side) leaving the line and with the angle of the handle of the chisel towards the waste side so you will start to make a very slight V cut from this side. The V, (undercutting) when done needs only to be ~1/64" deep. Repeat on the other side.
Making the V serves a dual purpose. One - to cut the grain cleaner (at an angle) and second, to allow some room for glue.
Bob S.

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Duke wrote:

I won't touch the rest of those because my own dovetails suck. For this one, I can assure you that pine makes *wretched* practice wood for this sort of thing. You end up with a ragged mess because the fibers are soft and squishy, and they wad up instead of cutting cleanly. I suppose it's because the fibers under the ones you're cutting are unable to provide much support, so you have to smush a bunch of them together to get enough resistance to make your Scary Sharp(tm) edge do its thing.
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Yup, I second that.
My first attempts at cutting dovetails were in pine. I figured it would be the simpliest to work with becuase it was so soft. I had exactly the same results that Silvan did.
It's amazing how hard it feels when you get whacked on the head with a 2x4, though :-)
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Roy Smith wrote:

I guess because your head is blunt, and it contacts a large number of fibers simultaneously. Or something.
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On Thu, 05 Feb 2004 01:36:20 -0500, Silvan

having a fair number of bald relatives, I keep waiting for the number of fibers on the top of my head to decrease. hasn't happened yet, though. if I shaved my head do you think the 2x4 would hurt less?
    Bridger
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Bridger wrote:

No. Consider shaving the 2x4!
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I believe that poplar is a great wood for practicing hand cut dovetails.
Bob McBreen
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Basswood works well, too.
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A lot of Frnak Klausz and a little Tage Freid and a smidge of Ian Kirby for you. The next page gets into the "V" thing and the following page goes into rock and slice paring method, with a semi-useful GIF animation of the method on the next page
http://home.comcast.net/~charliebcz/DovetailDrawer9.html
Note than with the Klausz chopping method you take just a little out of one side then chop down from the other side in increments 'til you chop through. By taking just a little off the first side the wood is supported well when chopping through on the other side.
Glenn-Drakes Tite-Mark is a great marking gauge and then some. Single bevel wheel cuts one face square to the face of the board and one face sloping on the cut side. The square face starts you out square rather than in the middle of a V. Here's some info about it
http://home.comcast.net/~charliebcz/MTprimer10b.html
I'm still practicing on making through dovetails in 2 inch (8/4) stock for my bench apron. Mental block continues.
charlie b
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brought forth from the murky depths:

Yeah, every single process on a $100+ chunk of wood will getcha punchin' buttonholes in yer skivvies every time.
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It sounds like you are trying to chisel through the wood. Take lighter cuts with chisel.
I learned on pine. There's nothing wrong with pine.
If you can lay your hands on the Tage Frid video for making dovetails, most of your questions will be answered. Taunton press sells it. It doesn't cost much.
I learned to scribe the dovetails with a tri-square and a utility knife. It defines the edges of the wood better. I learned to make dovetails at the woodworking school, Homestead Heritage in Waco, Tx.
Tage is cutting s slight bevel in the wood on the waste side of the line. The cut stops at the line. The resulting depression looks like this. _ _ l/ The bevel wall is vertical on the good side and angled on the waste side.

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I learned on pine too, and I'd have to disagree here. :-) Once I tried chopping dt's in harder wood, they started looking a lot nicer. My first set in maple looked so cool that I immediately ran in from the shop to show SWMBO.
For some reason, she wasn't all that impressed.
Personally, I'd recommend poplar as a good wood for a beginner.

I use the same principle, but scribe the baselines with my little Veritas rolling wheel gage. It severs the wood at the baseline and you can actually feel the chisel lock in to the tiny groove it creates.

Yep. That's the way I do it too. Once you have the scribe mark to define the baseline, it's just a matter of creating that tiny bevel/groove without having your chisel get pushed beyond the baseline. I give it a tiny tap, reverse it and go at an angle towards the baseline to lift a small chip. This gives you all the clearance you need for the bevel.
From there it's just a matter of deepening your cut by going vertically, reversing the chisel and removing a wedge of material. I go a bit short of halfway through, flip the board and proceed from that side. This way the waste is still supported until you finally cut through. That helps avoid crushing the area below the baseline. (I also undercut the joint slightly from both sides.)
It is actually not as complicated as it sounds, and you can get a nice rhythm going when you're cutting a few sets.
Chuck Vance
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Just for discussion -

I think we all have experienced this. I sometimes think we are little boys and when we accomplish something we have been trying to do - we feel compelled to run and show it to someone important to us. That would be parents when we are young and later SWMBO.
SWMBO actually gave me an un-soliciitated compliment on a pencil post bed I made for one of my daughters and I was suprised at how good I felt about it. I think I will try to be more attentive to her projects and make sure she understands how proud I am of what she does. :-) Of course, we've been doing this for 34 years now. And that is a gloat. <G>

I have the same wheel gage, but for some reason, it is not a tool that I am comfortable with. I fully respect the principles involved, but it doesn't fit me, and that doesn't mean anything at all in the grand scheme of things. One of the caveats of the tri-square and marking knife is that your wood only has to be square length wise. The ends do not have to be square, but in practice I make them square. You can even accommodate a bit of irregularity on one edge with proper marking techniques.
If you mark one intersection between a face and an edge as your chosen index and place your square always on either that face or edge, a fine line can be scribed around the piece, and that line will meet exactly at each edge-face intersection. If you have ever drawn a line around a 2X4, you know how difficult it can be to make the last face-edge intersection meet exactly. Then if you are going to cut on this line, you don't know which one to use.
Having said all this, if I were going to dovetail some wide boards together, like in a chest, I would use your technique, making the ends exactly square and then marking the line around it with a marking gage.
In passing, I have a depth gage made by General that is a small T shaped device that has a small rule and head like on a t-square. It will measure angles as well as depth. It's model number is *General 444*. I find this tool to be very handy when checking the squarness of my tails after I cut them The small scale will fit into the tails and show any irregularities that exist. I think I bought this tool at an Ace hardware that has a display of General tools. It is an inexpensive tool.
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Yeah, we say that we woodwork for ourselves but I imagine most of us would admit that we wouldn't get the satisfaction we do without someone else seeing the end-product.

Congrats. SWMBO and I have a much shorter amount of time together, so I can only hope we make that many years. The first time she asked me if I had really made such-and-such, I reacted like you.
And I still sometimes step back from a project and just look at it and think to myself, "You made that?" :-)

Yes, and marking from the ends is not so forgiving. DAMHIKT.

This is good advice for any woodworking process, whether cutting a board to length, laying out dt's, m&t's, etc.

I'll have to check it out. I currently use my little Starrett double-square for those sorts of operations. (Heck, I use my double-square for almost everything. It's the one tool that's almost always on my bench.)
Chuck Vance
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Duke, pine is fine for practicing cutting dovetails. Being soft it is tougher to get a clean edge, but can be done. When you can cut dovetails cleanly with pine, hardwoods become easier to do. Place the chisel on the scribed line with the bevel towards the waste, push chisel down, or lightly tap with a mallet.The cut should be 1/16" deep or so. Then place chisel bevel up and tap lightly towards first cut. This will give you a slight V that lifts out easily. Now you have a clean cut to place your chisel vertically. Chop down first, then use a narrower chisel to chop horozontal. Continue this until you are about halfway to two thirds thru, turn over and repeat until dovetail is chopped thru. When you are chopping vertically , hold chisel slightly out of plumb with the handle leaning towards waste.
Duke I believe the main problem your having is chopping too deep on first pass. Try the method desribed above with the 1/16" deep first cut.
mike
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A far simpler way is to use a jewelers saw; slip it down in the saw kerf turn and cut the pin or tail waste out close to the line. All that's left is light paring. Not to mention it's very fast vs chisels the whole way. I use a jewelers saw because the blade is very thin and very tight which allow me to turn it even in the tightest saw kerf without marking the edge of the pin or tail. Only time I find this does not work is when the wood is over 1-1/2" thick then I move up to a very taught bow saw with the finest blade I can get.

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