HAND DOVETAILING

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Can anyone advise where to find instructions / books on how to setup and cut dovetails by hand? Thank You
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Fine Woodworking has had numerous articles over the past 25 years. Check out the on-line index. Dave

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The April 2004 issue of Fine Woodworking has a nice little tutorial on hand cutting dovetails in the Heirloom Tool Chest project starting on page 36.
Tim
Dave W wrote:

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I used:-
'The Complete Dovetail - Handmade Furniture's Signature Joint' by Ian Kirby. I'm happy with my cutting although my spacing sometimes annoys me afterwards. I use an Akeda jig from time to time for speed but the handmade joints still give a thrill when they turn out right.
The book is $14.95 and from Linden Publishing
Regards
Paul
On Mon, 23 Feb 2004 17:25:16 GMT, "JOSEPH SHEA, JR."

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I like "Dovetail a Drawer by Frank Klausz" (Amazon listing). I got it from my local library if you want a cheaper route.
Mike

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I use the following for handmade through dovetails: 1) Dovetail saw 2) Chisel Set (1/4" to 1") 3) Coping Saw 4) Right angle 5) Light pencil 6) Right angles 1:6(9.46 degrees), 1:7(8.13 degrees) or 1:8(7.12 degrees) - these can be home made 7) Flat bastard file, mill file and triangular mill file. 8) Wood Vise.
I started with making the angle templates, 1:6 means a right triangle with a one unit (inch) base and 6 unit (inch) adjacent. Steeper angles are to fragile (say 1:5) to be practical. Use 1:6 angle for softwoods and 1:8 for harder woods. My templates were just right triangle cut-outs. They were the most flexible and I used them with the right triangle.
Without going any further I can tell you these are a bitch to get good at, and time consuming. Blind mitered ones are even more fun. You will really appreciate modern technology after a few of these.
There are also considerations such as grain direction, pre-milling (if your smart) and pin width. I strongly suggest you use a good quarter-sawn selection clean at the joint. I plane and joint to 1/64th both sides of stock (pin and socket side). Done poorly, these may crack or twist if stress is misjudged, or have gaps and fit loosely.
I'll respond to this thread if your interested in more but a book is better and working through a few with an experienced craftsman is the best.
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So you saw most of the waste out of your dovetails before chiseling? I've known other folks who use that technique, but I've never really seen any advantage in it.

If you don't mind me asking, what do you use all of these files for? I can't think of any part of the process that would call for *any* file.
And you don't use a marking knife at any point in the process? I always transfer the marks from tails to pins with a knife.

I "splurged" for the Lee Valley dovetail marking gages. I think they cost $10 for a set of two. And IIRC, they are 1:6 and 1:8.

Actually, they take an initial investment in time (like anything else worth doing), but they really come down to properly thicknessing and squaring your stock, careful marking and being able to saw to a line.

I have to admit that I haven't made any blind mitered dt's, but I have to wonder what is the point of them, and how does a machine do them better than by hand (how does a machine do them at all)?

Absolutely, and as a result, I aim for getting all my stock *exactly* the same thickness and jointed perfectly square. I can't say I always get there, as I do it all by hand, but that's my goal. Anything less is asking for trouble, IMHO.

I'm sure there are plenty of folks who don't have the advantage of having a craftsman work them through dt's, so feel free. I am fairly proficient myself, but I only got that way from reading a lot, trial and error and *practice*.
Oh, and a good dovetail saw helps.
Chuck Vance Just say (tmPL) Did I mention *practice*?
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A file is good for straightening a tail or pin that isn't square. You can flaten a whole plane of the tail or pin at once. I've seen Scott Phillips use a file to loosen a tight fit. It can be quicker than paring with a chisel. I typically just fix it with a chisel though.
A flat bastard or mill file is useful for smoothing endgrain. It is also useful for putting the bevel on a through tenon (as on a craftsman chair arm).

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I guess I just learned to do it with a chisel, so I never thought about using a file for it. Maybe I'll give it a try next time I need just a bit of touching up.

I use a plane on endgrain when I'm prepping the boards for dovetailing. Or do you mean for cleaning up after assembly if you cut them so that the pins are slightly proud of the surface?
I cut mine that way and come back with a crank-neck chisel for final cleanup. That way I can rest the flat of the chisel on the work and take little slices until I get the pins flush. It leaves a really pretty surface. (Hint: use some blue painters masking tape to protect the areas around the pins when you do this. If you use a light touch, you nick the tape rather than the wood.)
Chuck Vance
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I don't use a file to level the tail and pin ends. In my earlier post, I jumped from the subject of dovetails to m&t just to mention another use for the files. It has not been natural for me to consider the use of files in woodworking, but Frank Klaus does use a rasp in dressing the sides of a tenon to make them fit.
Most of the time I use a plane (often my apron plane) to clean up endgrain. However, I have a difficult time planing the end grain on a 1 1/4" square end (like on the end of a chair post). The file is useful in the cosmetic clean up of end grain and chamfering through tenons. It leaves a crisp edge (as does a nicely chiseled chamfer). The file is easier for me to control.
It also goes a long way towards creating the polished end required to make end grain pop out as a finish is applied. Someone posted some photos recently showing endgrain and how a polished surface really made it pop out. I had never consciously put it together what is required to really produce that effect.
OBTW, the folks in Waco are talking about a two week class where the Brazos rocker will be built. They had one made out of tiger maple at the Houston Woodworking Show. It was spectacular. The finishes on their display pieces were remarkable at this year's show. Their finishes always have been good, but I could see a remarkable difference.
The use of a crank-neck chisel is a good tip that I had never considered. I guess another purchase is coming , sigh. . . . .

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Lowell Holmes wrote:

Yeah, I tend to use a small file for touching up tenons, and I use a cabinetmakers rasp some in curved work, but I have a whole bunch of files that basically sit unused.

Fair enough.

Do you not have luck using a plane for that effect? I have found that (on a good day) I can get an endgrain surface that looks almost burnished. Of course for boxes that are assembled, that's when I use the crankneck chisel.

Did you find out what they're using? BTW, one of SWMBO's co-workers is getting into woodworking and he heard that I did a bit, so he asked for advice on tools. I went into this long digression about not knowing what to advise him until I learned more about what type of work he would do, yadda, yadda.
It turns out he had already registered to take a course at Homestead Heritage. So it sounds like he has some galootish tendencies, and I have no doubt that the fine folks in Waco will simply reinforce that. :-)

You say that like it's a bad thing. :-) I think I got mine from Garrett Wade. It's a "short-bladed" 1/2" crank-neck chisel by Taylor, and cost about $40. I assume you could also look for old crank-necks.
Some folks are making cheaper versions with skews and such, but they look to me like specialty tools with limited usefulness. The Taylor chisel works great for cleaning up plugs, dt's, cleaning the bottom of dados, etc.
Chuck Vance
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Brazos
Houston
pieces
good,
I didn't ask because they were busy when I was there, but I will ask them. They have used blo finishes a lot in the past. The rocking chair instructions said to sand to 220, I suspect they went further with these pieces.

They give you a list of recommended hand tools at the first course. The list can be purchased for not much money (compared to setting up a power shop). I wouldn't do without my power tools, but if I had taken their class first, I wouldn't have as many as I do. He will also be instructed in proper sharpening techniques.
Tell him to stay away from their pastries in the deli. :-) They typically have a lemonade and pastry break towards the middle of the afternoon.

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Do they use oil or waterstones or Scary Sharp?
As for the power and handtool thing -- I'm assuming they dimension all the stock they use for their projects with power tools and then do joinery with handtools. Is that about right?

I'll be sure and pass that info on. :-)
Chuck Vance
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for infrequently used specialty chisels like that here's what I have been doing:
get the carbon steel blade, wood handle chisels from harbor freight. hey, some of them have even turned out to have laminated blades...
via hacksaw, torch, grinder, anvil and vise, adjust the configuration to suit.
works for me....
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I'm not much of a metalworker. :-) What I *have* done is take some new Stanley 1/4" chisels and put a skew on them. I just used SS for that. Having a pair of left/right skews has been handy, especially for dovetailing.
I use them for cleaning out little crumbs between the tails and pins, and for getting that last little bit in the corners that can keep dovetails from closing up properly.
Chuck Vance
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Yes, I've used chisels you could shave with and in some woods have gotten spliting at the ends and excessive burring. I am aware of people who swear by it.

The flat bastard file takes more wood off and sometimes I need that, especially if your going to saw out waste. The triangular fill gets at the base of the pins and the mill file is for final smoothing.

I score the wood with the chisels - where I need to. It's riskier but I've become accustomed to it and works fine.

If I happen to see these in the store I'll get them. I an electrical engineer (my real job) and liked figuring the angles versus stress for varying wood densities. You could make a real science of this.

With the above tools, playing hit/miss and many hours in my basement I came to the conclusion these just weren't like dado' or mortise/tenon. I would have loved to work with someone at first, i'm sure they would have save me much time. Some of the books I read just recommended power tools for dovetails.

The point of those is to get the strong joint while hiding it. I have seen them in some cabinet plans. I thought they might sell a router bit for that, but I haven't checked yet. This is where a good sharp chisel comes in handy.

I always felt if you were at 1/32 or less end to end after letting it sit overnight you were doing well. Again, I like quarter sawn stock that looks good at the yard (yea right!). I bought a planer/jointer just to prep the wood, my schedule won't allow for hand planing or jointing. Maybe some day I will.

yep - practice (lotsa)
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fabbl wrote:

"Smoothing" as in smoothing the insides of the pins or the ends after glueup?

Ah, that reminds me of Frid's techniwue of using a plane iron to score his dt's. I don't know that I'd have the balls to try it. :-) A marking knife seems plenty adequate.

Some already have. :-) FWIW, here's a link to the Lee Valley dt marking thingies: http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.asp?page2586&category=1,42936&ccurrency=2&SID Handy little buggers.

Actually, I think getting good m&t joints is harder than dt's. But that might just be me.

Yeah, I almost gave up on them before I even started. But I was lucky enough to run across some galootish types who helped steer me in the right direction.

I make it fit into my schedule on individual projects. Since it's a hobby first and foremost, SWMBO is (reasonably) understanding (sometimes) when I tell her (often) that I won't have this project done in just a couple of days (weeks) because first I have to thickness, surface, rip and joint the wood. :-) For me, it's all part of the process.

>

I hope that folks who haven't tried them realize that dt's aren't some sort of mystical, master Zen-woodworker sort of process. If you can square up a piece of wood, transfer some marks accurately, saw to a line, and have reasonable chisel skills, you can make fine dovetails.
But many hobbyist woodworkers don't bother to acquire some or all of those basic skills, and thus the need for practice.
Chuck Vance
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Lie Nielson is selling a video Hand-cut Dovetails With Rob Cosmon. He tells you how to prepare the saw and the stock. After viewing this video, you should be well on your way.
If you don't care to prepare a saw properly, they will sell you saw ready to go. :-)

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"JOSEPH SHEA, JR." wrote:

Try these. They're free I'm afraid. <BSEG> Thanks Alan, Jeff and CharlieB. http://home.nj.rr.com/afoust/dovetails.html and Jeff Gorman's page, http://www.amgron.clara.net/dovetails/dovetailindex.htm or Charlie B's page, http://home.comcast.net/~charliebcz/DovetailDrawer0.html
Dave in Fairfax
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A public library comes to mind
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Mike G.
snipped-for-privacy@heirloom-woods.net
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