I am new to the dovetailing game and I need some advice. I recently was
given a Leigh D4 as a graduation gift and am attempting to make some
boxes. The boxes will have 4 sides only (i.e. no bottom or top) and
will be used as modular storage in my new apartment. I will be using
through dovetails to join them.
According to the Leigh manual, the maximum thickness of the pin board
is 1" but the stock I have is 5/4". What dovetail/straight bit
combination do I need to join these thick pieces? I'd rather not plane
it down as I like the look of the very thick walls.
Interesting thet the D4 marketing literature say "Through dovetails
1/8" to 1-1/4" thick" with no mention of a limitation.
Reading the D4 documentation it actually shows a limit for the tail
board as 1" with info for up to 1 1/4" for pins [Table 15-6 page 134].
To go thicker than 1" on the tails you will have to use some method
other than the Leigh D4. Here are some ideas. I think if it were at all
possible to do it with the jig they would tell you how.
1. Use the D4 to cut the pins then use them to layout the tails and cut
them by hand.
2. Do the whole thing by hand.
3. You could do them with 5/4 on the long sides and 4/4 on the short
sides if you are building rectangular boxes or even if you aren't.
Symetrical is more common but not a requirement. You could even mix it
up more and build some smaller boxes too, with thinner pieces to add
some character to the whole set of boxes.
4. You could get real creative and have all 4 sides step down, bevel
down or taper down on one side or symetricially to 1" in the last few
inches at each end. If they had a square 1/4" step on the outside, this
would provide some nice locations to kind of lock in the boxes as they
stack in certain configurations.
Are you sure your material will still be greater than 1" after planing
Can you get by with half blind dovetails? The look will be
different but the joint will be plenty strong..
OR - box/finger joints? You can get spiral upcut or down
cut bits that will cut 1 1'4".
You are mixing two different measurement terms. 5/4 is a lumberman's term
used to denote the thickness of unsurfaced lumber. 5/4 stock after finishing
both surfaces is typically 1inch thick. Isn't that what you need as the
maximum for your D4 jig? Maybe you should get out your ruler and actually
measure the thickness of your stock before deciding that you have a problem.
If it's been surfaced on both sides and it measures 1 1/4 inches thick, then
it was likely 6/4 lumber in it's rough state. If it measures 1 inch after
surfacing both sides, then it was likely 5/4 thick in it's rough dimension.
Ok, now tell us how thick your stock really is by measuring it. Don't use
lumberman's terms, but actual dimensions.
< email@example.com> wrote in message
It's definitely 5/4. I measured it. I went with the thick stock because
I'm copying a piece that I saw in a furniture store. You're right, I'm
sure it's overkill from a structural standpoint but I like the way it
So what exactly would I need to cut these by hand? From what I have
gathered, I need a dovetail saw, some sort of guide and a nice set of
chisels. I have none of the above. Recommendations?
Thanks for the help,
The first thing you're going to need is practice and a cheap
hardwood, NOT pine, to practice on. 1X4 Poplar should do the
trick. Since you don't have handtools apparently, you probably
don't have an appropriate bench with a decent vise to hold the
wood. Perhaps the place to start is: What handtools DO you
have. The second question is how much money and time are you
interested in spending on learning to use neander methods of doing
things. The third question is: what are the antique stores like
in your area, and 4th, WHERE are you?
To answer your question, You'll need a marking guage, a dovetail
saw preferebly, a tenon saw otherwise, a marking knife (pencils
really won't do) and a straightedge, a vise attached to something
SOLID, a set of chisels (Sears, Marples or better) - NOT Buck or
Benchtop, possibly a coping saw = matter of taste. And a
sharpening system of some sort. You may have some of these
already. You may want to check Jeff Gorman's site:
Charlie B's as well:
That should give you an idea of what's going on with doing it by
hand as well as with neandering.
Dave in Fairfax
FWIW, I did this project for the first time a long long time ago using
3/4 lumber (phillippian mahogany and piranha pine) and standard 1/2"
drawer dovetails. This combination has help without exception for 30
years of rough usage. This boxes 1'x 1' and 1'x 3' have supported my
weight on numerous occasions, and I can assure you I dynamic weight
puts more stress on the unit than any number of stationary books, even
if stacked to the ceiling. For these reasons, my most recent effort
used 1/2 piranha pine. These 1/2 inchers have support books five feet
high for almost a decade. All in all, I would think use 5/4 lumber is
overspecing, expecially if it is hardwood.
Gotta agree with Cubby. I was given a DT/FJ jig for my router,
and I haven't used it yet. Routers are too noisy and the jig
seems like a real pain to set up. A DT saw and a marking gauge
are fast and don't care how thick the wood is. A #71 and some
planes take care of the rest of the things that I'd use a router
for. Mine haven't been touched in years.
Dave in Fairfax
Unless you practice, practice, practice, that is... :)
It'll come if you do that. I was taught in HS shop by the "trick" that
everyday we came to class we had cut one before doing anything else.
The neat thing is all other usages of similar skills come along at the
I'd like to add that "warming up" a less frequently used hand skill on
some poplar or basswood is a technique that not many take advantage of.
Musicians, athletes, public speakers... they all do it, why not
I put warming up right up there with making step-by-step test boards for
And if you're going to cut them by hand this may be helpful
Though it describes how to make a dovetailed drawer the
dovetail parts are applicable.
If you're going to do them by hand be aware that some
of the "dovetail" saws have a limited depth of cut. In
my case, while doing the joinery for the apron of my
"real" workbench, I had to get a tenon saw since the parts
were close to 3 inches thick
You can also cut them on a bandsaw. The tailes
are fairly easy -the pins require a means of
tilting the stock.
Try hand cutting - it's fun. MAKE SURE YOUR MARK
THE WASTE SIDE!
I had luck with a real low-tech means of tiling the stock when doing
my bench: milled a 1/2 inch scrap of stock and carpet taped it so that
the inside edge was 4" from the other edge of my workpiece, so what
was resting on my BS table was one edge of the wokpiece, with this
scrap raising the other edge of the workpiece. Result: a 1:8 slope.
Then move the scrap to 4 inches from the other edge to get the other
side of the pin. Much simpler than the jigs I have seen for
dovetailing, and with very thick and not very wide stock, I was not
worried about lack of support under the cut.
But that is not sufficient. The next step is to cut out the part you
marked. DAMHIKT!! I saved my piece with X's clearly marked on the
"pushtails" I left. I plan to mount it over my bench as a reminder
that a supposedly foolproof method is no match for a superior caliber
of fool! ;-)
P.S. I enjoy your web site. Nice job. Well written and designed.
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