dovetail marking

I don't make dovetails, so this may be a dumb question, but in perusing currently posted linked sites of recent work, I noticed in looking at some really beautiful dovetail joints the still aparant marking line along the bottom of the tails. I understand a scored line is superior to a marked line where the tails are, to guide a chisel accurately. But why not mark out the angled lines first, or score them first, and then score only where you will be chiseling, so as to leave no mark when done? Or mark all the lines first and then score only where cuts will be? This has long been bugging me, since the first time I saw the method laid out in pictures, anyone have an idea on this?
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Gary DeWitt wrote:

If nothing else, the marked lines show that the DTs were made by hand rather than by machine. As for the why not only where you're going to chisel question, try making them both ways sometime. Yes, I know you don't make them, but try. The reason will be immediately apparent, 'sides, you might just decide you like cutting your own.
Dave in Fairfax
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On 25 Nov 2004 07:44:41 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Gary DeWitt) wrote:

Many of those are in routed dovetails. If there's a knife mark _and_ a pencil line to highlight it, then it's almost guaranteed.
Some years ago, one of those funny orange-skinned chaps wrote / said on telly that the way to spot an antique hand-cut dovetail was to look for the marking-out line. Since then they're one of the most faked up gewgaws around.
Originally dovetails, like all joinery, were hidden and the only place you'd see them was on the sides of a drawer. No-one looked here (actually opening the thing was a job for servants), so they weren't veneered over or hidden - and so why hide the marking line.
In the 20th century there was a development of interest in traditional hand-work. I'd date this from Gimson & the Barnsleys for dovetails, as Morris and Stickleback went right back to tenons and generally didn;t use them. Joinery could now appear on the face of a high-quality piece and I think Gimson was probably the first to do so. We now have the question of whether a deliberately visible dovetail should have the marking line or not ? IMHO, it's an affectation. If my dovetails are any good, then judge them on how they're cut, not whether I drew an arrow pointing to them.
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Andy Dingley wrote:

Agreed. It's always struck me as a flaw, not as asset. In fact, if the dovetails look good, I don't care if they were made by hnad or machine, or gnawed out by a beaver.
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On Thu, 25 Nov 2004 09:15:44 -0800, Larry Blanchard wrote:

Those would be mine...
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On 25 Nov 2004 07:44:41 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Gary DeWitt) wrote:

If you did not score the bottom of the tails first, you would not know how deep (angled lines) to make them. This score line is made by putting the pinned side flush to the tail piece or offset by so much for making blind dovetails. There just is no better way that I know to make this scored line accurately and easily. If the score is not too deeply made it can be sanded off after the glue has fully cured. I have used a pencil line in the past, but a score line is narrower and more accurate. To make good handcut dovetails accurate layout counts.
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On 25 Nov 2004 07:44:41 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Gary DeWitt) calmly ranted:

That is a very good point, Gary.
I feel that score lines on dovetails, etc. are the sign of a person who did not value their output enough to finish sanding/planing them off, whether that person is from this or any other century.
Some idiot antique dealer got it into their head (and probably a book somewhere) that ups the value of items so marked. I feel that buyers deserve what they get if they listen to him or his followers.
I've watched master dovetailer, Frank Klausz, in action several times. He ALWAYS uses a pencil and prefers IT saws.
I prefer pencil lines for marking, especially when I change my mind about the overall size of an object midstream. ;)
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I agree with LJ. I think a score line across the grain looks like crap. I prefer using a marking knife, but I'll use a pencil for that mark. You can mark the inside with a knife and it does not show. It's just the outside that's a problem.
-Steve
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:I don't make dovetails, so this may be a dumb question, but in : perusing currently posted linked sites of recent work, I noticed in : looking at some really beautiful dovetail joints the still aparant : marking line along the bottom of the tails.
On medium quality work, this is sometimes tolerated on drawer sides where the maker's technique does not require much planing of the sides, otherwise as others have said it is an affectation.
: .................................................. I understand a scored line : is superior to a marked line where the tails are, to guide a chisel : accurately.
Quite so, though sometimes the line is cut with a cutting gauge (or marking gauge adapted to cut).
: ..................But why not mark out the angled lines first, or score them : first, and then score only where you will be chiseling, so as to leave : no mark when done?
A fairly common practice among careful workers, in fact. A knife line can be made right across the inside face of the workpiece and on the outer face, a pencil line temporarily indicates the depth of the pins/sockets until the elements are sawn. It is then fairly easy to pick up a knife line marked across the edge and cut between the sawcuts.
Alternatively one can use the technique outlined on my web site - Projects - A bookcase in oak - A Strategy for the Dovetail joints. In brief this requires that the units are made slightly full in thickness, thus enabling a gauge line to be made right across the outside faces and subsequently planed off. There are other advantages to this technique.
Incidentally this technique is very suitable for drawer making where the drawer front is made to fit its opening.
Since Gimson and the Barnsleys have been mentioned, I was trained at Loughborough when Edward Barnsley was the visiting design/technique adviser. We did not show the remains of cut lines between dovetail pins.
Jeff G
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Gary DeWitt) wrote in message

Scored lines are important because you want accuracy in your cuts and your fit. A pencil line is generally wider than a scribed line, and is apt to smudging.
If you really want to avoid the look of the lines, then they are easy enough to sand them out. It's purely a matter of personal preference whether they are retained. Don't believe the posters who tell you that leaving them in is a sign of sloppy work or an affectation -- plenty of fine craftsmen leave them in (pick up a copy of FWW and look at half of the work there, or any work by Chris Becksvoort).
There's some suggestion that a scribe line can be used to "fake-up" a machine-cut joint to look like it has been handcut. If you've made a few of these joints by hand, the idea that you might be fooled by a bunch of uniformly wide pins a scribe line along the bottom is a little humorous. Even a top of the line machine dovetail jig produces joints that won't fool a person who's handcut them. Then there are some aspect to a handcut joint that a machine just cannot do: how are you going to machine cut a tail that's 1/16" wide at the top? How are you going to machine cut a compound mitered dovetail?
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On 26 Nov 2004 06:53:36 -0800, n snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Nate Perkins) wrote:

I don't recall any work by Chris Becksvoort that used visible dovetails (ie not just drawers) and had the marking-out lines visible.

People who can handcut them themselves aren't the target market for faking.

With a slotting cutter (tiny circular saw). If there was a market for this, there'd be a machine. I'd expect Thomas Moser to have one of the first.
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(Nate Perkins)

http://www.chbecksvoort.com/tbeckdiff.html from his own website (second photo from the top). Shows an applied molding on a traditional case; the scribes are right on the top surface of the case.
Not just him, either:
Lonnie Bird: FWW July/Aug 2004 p67 (Pennsylvania tall clock, sides around the clock face) Chris Gochnour: FWW Mar/Apr 2004 p36 (traditional tool chest, left on all corners) Michael Pekovich: FWW June 2004 p49 (base of chest of drawers)
In the June 2003 FWW on page 39 there's an interesting photo: a flush drawer with scribes retained, and a lipped drawer with them removed. The intent of the photo is to contrast different styles.
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On 26 Nov 2004 21:52:21 -0800, n snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Nate Perkins) wrote:

So where's the visible dovetail ? It has a marking line alright, but that's on the top of a wardrobe ! It's hardly a visible part of the piece - ever looked round the back of the pediment on a Goddard-Townsend secretary ? Rough as anything where it doesn't show.
(You've got to love the work of someone who dovetails a moulding - now that really is a nice touch, even if the client never notices)
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(Nate Perkins)

Why do you think that joint's at the top of a wardrobe? There are several pieces shown on that page, for the purpose of illustrating different details. And the wardrobe doesn't have the molding that's shown on the dovetail joint.
The photo with the scribe line and molding is from the article he wrote for the Jan 97 issue of FWW (p54). In that article he shows the method for installing the molding on the top of a dovetailed case for a five-drawer chest. Doesn't get much more visible than that.

Nope, I've never seen the back of a Goddard-Townsend secretary. Heck, I've never seen one at all outside of a photo (and I had to look that up).

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(Nate Perkins)

They have two T-G secretaries at the Rhode Island School of Design museum. It's worth the trip to see them. You have to view them from some distance though. (10-12 feet)
They did allow photography, but no flash.
They also have a Stuart painting of George Washington that you could get within 2 feet to look at.
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