Handcut Dovetails

Alright, So I am now teaching myself how to handcut dovetails. One problem though, I am having a hard time cleaning up the bottom of the cuts on both the pins and the tails. The procedure I have been using is to cut down using a japanese pull saw, then remove as much of the waste as possible using a coping saw, then chisel out the remainder with a bench chisel. I am getting a decent amount of junk at the bottom that I can't then get to cut flush with my shoulder lines. Like the fibers aren't cutting as much as bending over or something.
Any thoughts? Is this simply a practice problem? My only other guess was that maybe my chisels aren't sharp enough, so I sharpened the hell out of them, and still the same problem. Alright, thanks and I look forward to the advice
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You didn't say what wood you're using but I'm guessing pine? Try cherry or even poplar.
Also didn't mention if or how you're making the "stop line" for the bottom of the pins and tails. A pencil line will show you where to stop your cut but won't sever the grain where you'll chisel to later when getting out the waste in the sockets. A marking gauge with a round, pointed pin will tear the grain rather than severing it so you've got the same problem as the pencil line. A double beveled knife will sever the grain but leave you a "V" and you have to figure out if "the stop line" is on the waste side, in the middle of the groove or on the non-waste side of the groove. A single bevel knifed line will sever the grain AND give one vertical face. If your straight edge is on the non waste side and the flat bevel is against the straight edge the vertical face of the groove will be your finish line. OR - you can plonk out some bucks for the Tite-Mark marking gauge or the Veritas semi- equivalent. Both have single bevel wheels with the flat side on the non-waste side.
This is sort of what you want. | | | / |/ ----+ +-- Waste Side --> |/
Here's some on marking http://home.comcast.net/~charliebcz/DovetailDrawer4.html
Also sounds like you're trying to chop out the waste straight down, square to the face of the stock. Chop at an angle then pair and you shouldn't get the crushing and bending you're experiencing.
This'll illustrate things http://home.comcast.net/~charliebcz/DovetailDrawer9A.html
The bottom of the sockets don't have to be nice and flat and square to the face since end grain gluing doesn't buy you anything and just makes tuning the fit harder.
hope this helps
charlie b
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I prefer using a marking gauge for the depth, it severs the fibers and leaves a nice crisp line. The method that works best for me is to start removing the waste with a chisel about 1/16" in FRONT of the scribed depth line slightly tilting the chisel away from the waste. Once one half the thickness is removed, I take the chisel right on the scribed line and pare with one good hit straight down with a mallet. Then the board is flipped and this method repeated. It will leave a small v shaped groove in the endgrain to hold glue and make fitting easier. I can't stress this enough- be sure your chisels are sharp and the backs are lapped flat. Keep at it, once you've mastered hand cutting, i doubt you'll go back. --dave

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I am working with some oak scraps I have, after finding that the fir was basically useless for working with. I have a japanese style double layout marker thing, with single bevel knives I use for both mortise and dovetail applications, so I think thats ok.
Seems based on the remarks that chopping out more than straight down for the first trims is a good idea, and that I might need to simply work more on my chisel sharpening skills.
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I have found that the softer the wood, the sharper the chisel needs to be. The sharper the chisel, the better off any cut. If you can't dry shave your arm... keep working om your edge......
I still lend out my chisels with one caveate...... "if you drop it, don't try to catch it...".

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Jim Warman wrote:

That's a hard thing to do, isn't it? Watching an edge you babied to gleaming more-than-razor sharpness go thocking off the base of your drill press, and having to fight the urge to do something about it.
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Silvan responds:

It's a one time thing, though. I caught a razor I dropped while in the Marines. I have never since reached for anything falling if it even might have a sharp edge. That lesson has so far lasted more than 45 years.
Charlie Self "One of the common denominators I have found is that expectations rise above that which is expected." George W. Bush
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On 16 Jan 2005 09:20:43 GMT, the inscrutable snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) spake:

Ouch! What was the damage? Not your WRITING hand, I'm guessing. ;)
I'm usually quick on my feet, so I keep a foot up to guide the sharp edge away from the floor. I also have a tendency to stop heavy things and have come away with a bruised foot more than once. But I've received no gashes or breaks yet. (Knock on my head.)
-- Life's a Frisbee: When you die, your soul goes up on the roof. ---- http://diversify.com Comprehensive Website Development
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On 13 Jan 2005 21:16:52 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com calmly ranted:

That's precisely what's happening. Your chisels need to be sharp enough to split atoms if you want to eliminate tearout when you cut the dovies out. To test sharpness, hold the chisel between thumb and forefinger of one hand so the point it down. _Rest_it_ (no force) on your other thumbnail and move it on your nail in a scraping direction. Until it digs in and gives you a scraped shaving, it isn't sharp. I had no idea what sharp was until I read about that test and it improved my sharpening threefold.
For dovies, I recommend the Frank Klausz "Dovetailing a Drawer" video or DVD.
CAVEAT: If you buy it from Amazon, you should be cautioned about the vendor named "iqbookbubba". I've been trying every few days for nearly THREE WEEKS to get a shipping confirmation from this arsewipe, all to no avail. (If there is one thing I won't tolerate in a vendor it's non-communication.) Amazon says, in effect "wait until it doesn't get to you after a month, then we can ask him what happened." Grrrrr!
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In addition to all of the above, there is a rather nice illustrated article in this month's Popular Woodworking magazine (Feb 2005, issue #146). May still be at your favorite newstand.     j4
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote in

I think you may be right about your chisels...the really need to be sharp for paring out tails....try sneaking up on the shoulder lines a little at a time, a few light cuts are better than one big chop...There is a web site dedicated to handcut dovetails...it seems to have a great many links...
http://home.nj.rr.com/afoust/dovetails.html
I found it to be a great help while I was (still am..:>) learning about dovetails...
hope this helps...
DCH
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote in
...

Try angling the chisel inwards by a couple of degrees, so that you make the bottoms slightly concave.
Tearout during the waste chop is invisible, and a little usually happens on the last chop of the waste anyway. Not a big deal. Remember that part of the joint is hidden, and that face contributes very little to the overall strength of the joint.
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