Why Thin Pins

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I've always heard that dovwtail joints with very thin pins are a mark of craftsmanship. I can understand that in that it's hard to make them well. My question is: why would you want to make a joint with thin pins? The joint would be much stronger with evenly spaced pins and tails, wouldn't t it?
Ed Bailen
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Ed Bailen wrote:

To paraphrase Patrick Leach, "because you can".

Yep. But thin pins are more interesting to look at and look less like they could have been cut by some machine.
Chuck Vance
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Conan the Librarian wrote...

Perfect!
I think this is often true today, but thin pins have been around longer than machine tools.
There's another reason in blind dovetails: less end grain is shown.
Also, I don't know if there was any ancient reasoning to this effect, but thin pins, especially irregularly-spaced ones, create a less "interrupted" look in both the face and end views of the piece. Just my ha'penceworth.
Jim
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Exactly it tells the observer they are handcut, mjh
-- http://members.tripod.com/mikehide2

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Ed Bailen wrote:

You'll notice that when thin pins are used there's usually more of them and often more concentrated at the top and bottom ot the drawer. (go here for why - all one line so watch line wrap)
http://home.comcast.net/~charliebcz/DoveTailDrawer3.html
More pins, more common surface area, stronger joint.
There's often, though not always, a very good reason for doing joints a certain way. Folks have been making things out of wood for a very long time. What works well gets passed along, What doesn't gets lost.
charlie b
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wrote:

Thanks for the link, Charlie. It is a good site to bookmark.
Regards, Ed Bailen
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If you want to see some spectacular pins, check out Rob Cosman's (LN) houndstooth dovetails. :-)

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Really thin pins can't be done with a router (the neck of the router bit can only be so narrow). It means that they are hand-made.
If you are cutting by hand, thin is no harder than thick.
If you can't tell otherwise that they were hand-made, I would say "yes" that is a mark carftsmanship.

Really thin pins can't be done with a router (the neck of the router bit can only be so narrow). It means that they are hand-made.
If you are cutting by hand, thin is no harder than thick.
If you can't tell otherwise that they were hand-made, I would say "yes" that is a mark carftsmanship.

Aesthetics. Or to say "hey these are handmade"

Dunno, but for me aesthetics would be more important than naking an otherwise perfectly strong joint marginally stronger.
-Steve
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I believe that the reason most woodworkers make thin pins is to show that they were not made with a variable spacing jig, like the Leigh jig. I have heard that pitch many times.
Bob
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To me its a hallmark of craftsmanship for the thinner pins. Since the thinner pins have been around alot longer than any router or jig its obvious earlier woodworkers didn't make them to "prove" they weren't cut with a machine or jig. They did it as a way of showing abilities. Nowadays I guess that would be some folks reason for thin pins but it surely wasn't the reason for the trend in the beginning. Besides it just looks really cool to my eyes.
Jim

have
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And another thing! LOL It makes sense to me also that thinner pins were probably introduced as a way of making the joint more delicate and interesting visually.

that
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Introduced? All the really old dovetails I have ever seen had narrow pins. I think most people did it that way because that is the way they always were.
On Thu, 08 Apr 2004 20:14:15 GMT, "James D. Kountz" <jkountz@(remove this)citlink.net> wrote:>And another thing! LOL It makes sense to me also that thinner pins were

Rodney Myrvaagnes J36 Gjo/a
The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.     - Richard Dawkins, "Viruses of the Mind"
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Yes introduced. Are you saying you have never seen an 18th century or older piece with wider pins? I have seen both myself many times. And besides that by introduced I only meant, whenever it became a common practice. You know what I mean? I wasnt trying to actually "date" the technique just needed a word and "introduced" popped in my head. Forgive me.
Jim

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On Fri, 09 Apr 2004 01:47:10 GMT, "James D. Kountz" <jkountz@(remove this)citlink.net> wrote:>Yes introduced. Are you saying you have never seen an 18th century or older

Yes, I really am saying that. I am ready to be educated. I have examined a lot of old pieces in the Met, Winterthur, and the MFA Boston, and I don't remember any wide pins.
But I am getting old and dotty, and have never been infallible.
Rodney Myrvaagnes J36 Gjo/a
"If Brecht had directed 'Waiting for Godot,' he would have hung a large sign at the back of the stage reading 'He's not going to come, you know. ' " -- Terry Eagleton
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Actually it was even more then that. Developed and coming into common use during the eighteenth century it marked the end of the heavy blocky look of the Jacobean period. A look necessitated by the common use of nailed butt and M & T joints. It allowed for the more refined delicate look of the William and Mary period and the development of the various period furniture styles from then on. .
-- Mike G. snipped-for-privacy@heirloom-woods.net Heirloom Woods www.heirloom-woods.net

mark
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I think the idea of them looking more delicate is a good point. I know when I first started chopping dovetails I tended to lay them out at about a 3x1 ratio. Now they look much too blocky to me.
Somewhere along the way I started doing layout by taking a 1/8" or 1/4" chisel (depending on the size of the piece) and using that as my starting point for pin width. From there I'd pick a width that was somewhere around 4-5 times more than pin width and see how many tails that would give me (remembering that you have one more pin than tails).
Sometimes I'll even go ahead and lay them out on graph paper just to be sure I like the look. (Also, FWIW, it is much easier to do this layout in metric; 1/8"'s and 1/16"'s, etc. don't divide as easily as multiples of 10.)
I also remember reading someone recommend that you always have an odd number of tails (presumably to add interest by not having the piece broken up visually right at the midpoint line). I've never felt the need to do this religiously, but it does seem to have some merit.
Chuck Vance
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On 9 Apr 2004 05:01:00 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@swt.edu (Conan the Librarian) wrote: snip...

lesse....
10 is divisible by 1, 2 and 5. that's it.
12 (feet) are divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 16 (inches, depending on your rule) are divisible by 1, 2, 4 and 8
to me the only advantage to metric is it works better on my cheapo calculator. it's certainly not inherently "better"
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snipped-for-privacy@igetenoughspamalreadythanks.com wrote in message (Conan the Librarian)

I don't think I said it was "better", but it's easier for me. Obviously, YMMV. Anyhow, I'm talking about dovetails here, and I don't recall the last time I cut any dt's where feet came into play. Try this: Take an inch and subdivide it by millimeters. Take an inch and subdivide it by 16"'s. Which is easier to be more precise with?
Chuck Vance
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On 9 Apr 2004 16:48:59 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@swt.edu (Conan the Librarian) wrote:

well, an inch divided by 16ths is, um, lesse (fumbles with adding up the fingers on 4 hands)... ah! it's 16!
and an inch divided up by milimeters- well that's easy. everybody knows that that comes out to 25.4
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snipped-for-privacy@igetenoughspamalreadythanks.com wrote in message

That's nice, but I wasn't talking about converting an inch to millimeters, I was talking about which is *easier* to get more precise with when *laying* *out* *dovetails*. You may find it easier to divide by 16ths, 32nds, 8ths, etc., but I find it easier to divide by increments of 10.
I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree. If you like it better working with inches then do it. I was offering up a different approach that works for me.
Chuck Vance
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