Well, me and the dovetail jig spent about two hours getting aquainted again
so that I can do four drawers. I have the time invested once again and will
go ahead and do it this way but that's it - I've really had enough spending
three times the time setting it up as doing them. If it were straight
half-blind dovetails, it wouldn't be so bad, but no - they are rabbited
dovetails with 3/4 and 1/2" material. Between getting depths correct and
even, getting guides set so sides match fronts, etc - it's a PITA. Each
time I tell myself that I understand it and can do it again, but not having
as good a memory as I think I do, I have to start over with the learning
I don't really have a choice with a chest of drawers because of the strength
of the joint, but I'm going to learn another way. Cutting by hand isn't
really an option because chisel work hasn't been a real strong suit - gotta
use power of some sort I guess. Anyone else get frustrated with dovetails?
You know you can always just make a normal through dovetail box, and then
screw a false front onto it to form a rabbetted half-blind look - not sure
if it would take you as long to set-up and remind yourself how to do through
dovetails or not. You can plug the screw holes and it is doubtful anyone
would ever know the difference.
Take notes. Lots of notes. Keep them with the jig. (If writing the
notes down is too much of a pain, use a cassette recorder.
You might also consider how long it would take you to improve your
chisel technique compared to the time it takes learning how to set up
the jig. (But then I think hand cut dovetails are really neat and I
can afford a truly lordly disregard for time and effort.)
If I weren't interested in gardening and Ireland,
I'd automatically killfile any messages mentioning
'bush' or 'Kerry'
I too became frustrated with the set up time of using a jig and router.
in mind, I'm teaching myself (with a lot of help from articles etc..) to cut
by hand. I'm finding it much more enjoyable and quite frankly, I find the
joints look better than a machine made joint. YMMV.
In my opinion, a handcut dovetail is the most beautiful looking joint
there is - particularly if it has the faint pencil/marking gauge scribe
as seen in the antique furniture of our forefathers...
My preference is for fine joinery that you DON'T see - as is
common in chinese furniture and a mortise and tenoned triple
miter is at the top of the list - so far. The triple miter gives
a nice continuous flow of the grain around a corner - in either
direction and the M&T produces a self aligning, very strong
I'm not sure when or why visible through or half blind dovetails
became "in", they use to veneer over them so they wouldn't
show - which is kind of cheating. Somehow the Arts & Crafts
movement made the joinery a design element - showing "the
honesty" of the joinery. Greene & Greene (or is it Green &
Green), or was it Stickley, used the "joinery as a design
element" but cheated with faked through tenons etc. to
perhaps hide less than perfect joinery. A through M&T
visually doesn't leave much room for error. But if it's a
blind M&T - with a plug that looks like the end of a through
tenon the actual joint can be pretty sloppy - maybe shimmed
for fit - and still look "precise" - on the OUTSIDE.
Having said all that, handcut dovetails are interesting to
do and are very strong.
Agreed! Incidentally, one of Thomas Jefferson's slaves was Jefferson's
cabinetmaker; and the bookcases which were built depicted not only the
dovetails but the scribe marks as well...absolutely beautiful in my
opinion - but that's my preference.
Naturally that would have been taboo in the upcoming Victorian
age...which in my opinion, was the most beautiful, intricate, and
incredible wood butchering occurred. Some of the pieces of furniture
made in that time was beyond impressive.
On Sat, 23 Oct 2004 02:50:12 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@TAKEOUTmindspring.com wrote:
Try a combo method. band saws and trim (laminate trimmer) routers do
a great job of quickly removing waste, leaving only a quick chisel
swipe for cleanup. No jigs are required. The trim router is
especially good for cleaning out half-blinds. An extra 4" dual square
and a dovetail gauge, like Lee Valley's aluminum can also speed up the
When cutting tails first,, you don't have to get all that perfect with
layout, as long as they're visually appealing. Use the first side as
the pattern for the other three. Mark both fronts and backs with the
Also, consider the material used for the sides of the drawers.
Basswood is extremely easy to work with hand tools.
A problem we hobbyists encounter all the time. Since we bounce
on projects, trying different joinery, different stock thicknesses,
etc. , by the time we get back to repeating a technique the
with the technique can be like starting all over. But if you use
stock thicknesses (which I often don't ) you can save prototypes and
use them for future set ups (IF you label them AND put some reminder
notes on them AND store them together somewhere where you can
find them a year or two from now.
The problem with dovetail jigs is that they are several steps removed
from the underlying concept/method. If you hand cut dovetails YOU
do the layout of the pins or tail, marking the sockets to make the
waste area clear and distinct. Before the first saw cut is made you
can see what the dovetails will look like. YOU do the sawing and
and paring. YOU make "A" fit "B". With dovetail jigs you follow the
ions, often not understanding how they relate to the underlying joint
idea because you don't see what the final product will look like
until AFTER you've made all your cuts.
If you can understand the connection/relationship of the jig process
to the handcut method things get a lot clearer and a little, just
a little, easier next time. Having that link between "what" and
with "why" will help quite a bit.
The other problem with jigs is that you're basically stuck with a
depth of cut (once you find the right one for a nice ift) - messy
you're playing with different parts thickness for through dovetails.
Notes! Diagrams! NOTES! And a binder or something to keep them in
so you can find them later. Here's a somewhat extreme example
of that idea - for handcut dovetails incidentally. These are notes
to myself based primarily on Frank Klausz's video. If I do what I
see I end up OK.
I'm doing a coopered door cabinet. You should see all the
diagrams etc. I've done to avoid problems in the next
coopered door project. I suspect that there will be several
"notes to self" when I do the knife hinges.
You can do dovetails with other power tools. Yeung Chan's book,
Classic Jointes with Power Tools (ISBN 1-57990-279-0) by Lark Books
is $19.95 - a real deal given the price of most woodworking books.
Well worth looking for and adding to your woodworking library.
Hang in there.
Charlie, you have to be joking. There's at least two full afternoons
work for me just to find the bloody things even a few weeks later never
mind "a year or two". ;-)
I tend to put things "somewhere safe" and then...
It's age. Things disappear. I didn't start doing this until I reached 13 or so,
so it definitely is age related.
"When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not
hereditary." Thomas Paine
Hand dovetails are sawn, not chiselled. The trick to doing them is to
always do them _fast_ and "right first time" - not to faff about with
a chisel afterwards, trying vainly to adjust the fit. Then work on
getting your accuracy better, with practice. Your first batch _will_
be bad - but persevere.
If you can afford the time, make yourself a workshop cabinet with
dovetailed drawers. Get the right saw, then cut them by hand. By the
time you've built a few drawers that way, then you'll be knocking them
out in no time and you'll have lost your fear of the hand-cut
I agree with Andy. Unless you are doing a lot of work for a living, I
think it's nearly as easy to cut them by hand. And there are some
kinds of dovetails you can't do with a jig, no matter how good the jig
(for example, a compound miter dovetail, or any dovetail with very
(note: This is just the perspective of an amateur, and I only need to
make a few joints at a time. If I were a pro faced with making 50
drawers on an assembly line, my perspective would no doubt be
What do you mean by "the right saw"? I've been to the Wood Show in Ottawa
for many years straight. There's a guy who gives a terrific seminar on
making dovetails, but he also insists that you've got to buy an excellent
saw, like the one he is selling for, I don't know, $200+ (Cnd). I'll tell
you though, after twenty minutes or so, and a few zings with a good block
plane, his dovetail joint is a beautiful work of art! (Hmmm. Next month I
think I'll ask him to give me one, to keep as inspiration in my workshop.)
My own "dovetail saw" is just one of those stupid flush cutting saws that
you can swing the handle around. I think I paid $7 for it. I know it's no
good for cutting dovetails--I've tried. If everyone here tells me I've got
to spend really good coin on a hand saw, I'll accept it. But I won't accept
what a single salesman has to say without checking it out, first.
I'm also willing to practice--I don't expect results like he got; he does
hundreds, if not thousands of dovetail joints a year, and he's been doing it
for a long time. I like the idea of practicing on shop cabinetry, where the
only people allowed to criticize my work are other practicing craftsmen.
But I would like to get good enough to move the work upstairs. I like the
idea of learning to do it by hand for the same or lower price than a jig.
I'm in no particular hurry.
- Owen -
Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
I have a Craftsman dovetail saw that's over 20 years old. It was not
expensive, but I can cut perfect dovetails with it. Strange, I've
heard about a woodworker who uses a hacksaw. I tried using a hacksaw
and indeed it does do in a pinch, but a dovetail saw is the way to go.
Buying a dovetail saw will get other uses as well. It is great for
making small cuts, cutting dowels, or making a thin groove. Every
well-equipped shop should have one!
On Sat, 23 Oct 2004 16:10:17 -0400, "Owen Lawrence"
I've got one of the Craftsman ones as well, but I have the opposite of
the problem that many of the woodworkers on this group have- I've
gotten very used to Japanese pull saws, so it's tough for me to saw
with the Craftsman. I've got a nice dozuki saw on my christmas list
as a result!
If the seminar leader is using an Adria, or an Independence (Lie Nielsen),
then you can be assured that it is a really good saw. Not that there
aren't others, however.
But these two are world class. The Adria is a small custom maker in
British Columbia. LN is in New England.
Then there are the folks who feel that the Japanese pull saws are the cats'
meow. I can never quite get over the mental barrier of pull vs. push. But
then, there are quite a few mental barriers that I haven't gotten over yet.
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