I hate dovetails

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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 curve.
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?
Don
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D. J. Dorn wrote:

rabbit there helping me cut 'em...
Philski
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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.
Mike
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wrote:

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.)
--RC
If I weren't interested in gardening and Ireland, I'd automatically killfile any messages mentioning 'bush' or 'Kerry'
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I too became frustrated with the set up time of using a jig and router. With that in mind, I'm teaching myself (with a lot of help from articles etc..) to cut my own by hand. I'm finding it much more enjoyable and quite frankly, I find the hand cut joints look better than a machine made joint. YMMV. Cheers, cc
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James "Cubby" Culbertson wrote:

Ahhhh yes...
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...
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DamnYankee wrote:

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 joint.
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.
charlie b
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charlie b wrote:

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.
Peace!
DY
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40 grit in a 12 amp belt sander will get rid scribe lines in short order.
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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 process.
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 sides.
Also, consider the material used for the sides of the drawers. Basswood is extremely easy to work with hand tools.
Barry
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D. J. Dorn wrote:

A problem we hobbyists encounter all the time. Since we bounce around on projects, trying different joinery, different stock thicknesses, woods etc. , by the time we get back to repeating a technique the reacquaintance with the technique can be like starting all over. But if you use consistent 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 chopping and paring. YOU make "A" fit "B". With dovetail jigs you follow the instruct- 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 "how" with "why" will help quite a bit.
The other problem with jigs is that you're basically stuck with a single depth of cut (once you find the right one for a nice ift) - messy when 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.
http://home.comcast.net/~charliebcz/DovetailDrawer0.html
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 b
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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...
Gerry
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Gerry responds:

It's age. Things disappear. I didn't start doing this until I reached 13 or so, so it definitely is age related.
Charlie Self "When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary." Thomas Paine
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wrote:

What kind of jig are you using?
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wrote:

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 dovetail.
--
Smert' spamionam

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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 thin pins).
(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 different).
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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 -

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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"

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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!

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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. ;-)
Patriarch
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