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  • Hand Cut Dovetails

    Well I have finally decided to purchase a Veritas dovetail saw and try cutting dovetails by hand.
    I would appreciate some advice on a couple of things.
    1) I thought I would also buy 1 or 2 dovetail chisels and wondered what are the most popular sizes and brands.
    2) I thought I would buy a book. I am considering "The Complete Dovetail" available from Lee Valley or Rob Cosman's.

    Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

    Many Thanks

  • #2

    Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

    Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

    I am a huge fan of Rob Cosman. Great guy and with a large family he needs all the support we can give him.

    Brian
    If your dreams don't scare you, you are not dreaming big enough

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    • #3

      Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

      Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

      Originally posted by Billy View Post
      1) I thought I would also buy 1 or 2 dovetail chisels and wondered what are the most popular sizes and brands.
      Well.... you will need the size that just slightly smaller than the width of your pin or tail. The width will be determined by the thickness of your materials, the angle you choose, and how many pins/tails are in the joint. Ideally a set ranging from 1/8 to 1/2 or 3/4.

      A good chisel needs to hold a good edge, not require a lifetime to flatten, and hone. For Dovetails, the side bevels should angle all the way to the back side of the blade. If the sides are squared off at all, it's not a dovetail chisel, and will require modification. A good chisel is not cheap by anyone's standards.

      Originally posted by Billy View Post
      2) I thought I would buy a book. I am considering "The Complete Dovetail" available from Lee Valley or Rob Cosman's.
      I've not read the complete dovetail, but I am quite familiar with Rob instruction.(I was watching one of his videos tonight in fact)
      All Robs videos/books tend to be loaded with useful info.

      You will also need to get a marking gauge, fret saw, bevel gauge or dovetail marker, and some other goodies that just wont come to me now...

      Comment


      • #4

        Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

        Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

        Originally posted by Billy View Post
        Well I have finally decided to purchase a Veritas dovetail saw and try cutting dovetails by hand.
        I would appreciate some advice on a couple of things.
        1) I thought I would also buy 1 or 2 dovetail chisels and wondered what are the most popular sizes and brands.
        2) I thought I would buy a book. I am considering "The Complete Dovetail" available from Lee Valley or Rob Cosman's.

        Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

        Many Thanks

        I use my trusty Marples bevel edge chisels for dovetails; I cut all dovetails for my recipe boxes and the like by hand, all of my furniture drawers too! It would be ideal to grind in a 1/4" chisel to remove the bulk of the lands on the sides for trimming but I would rather buy one of Chan's trimming chisels since the corner clean out is a paring job, not chopping.

        As for sizes, I generally use 1/4" and 1/2" chisels for chopping. I use a separate set of chisels for paring but you don't need to. Just keep your chisels sharp, don't hit them too hard and you'll be good to go with any decent chisel. A hint, if you have to really belt the chisel when you are chopping, you are doing it wrong or the chisel is dull! I have dovetailed in some very tough exotics and find this to be universally true (it must be so, I heard it from Frank Klaus on the Woodwright's Shop) (Sorry if I mis-spelled the name)

        Good Luck

        Ken in Ottawa

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        • #5

          Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

          Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

          There has been a lot of good advice already. There are decisions to be made when cutting dovetails, like pins first or tails first, how are you going to gauge the angles (if at all), are you going to chop or saw the internal waste, and what are you going to use to mark them. There are many different processes, and they can all work. I lean towards cutting pins first, chopping, and using a Peters-style marking device for angles. I have taken bits and pieces from different experts. I found one of my biggest problems was not being able to see the line really clearly when cutting. I switched from a knife to a ball-point pen to mark the lines (a' la Rob Cosman) and life got easier. I also use the Peters method (taught by Cosman) for spacing tails when I want them consistent, or for rougher work I use the Klaus system (or lack thereof ). Cosman says to cut waste with a fret saw. I chop instead (Klaus, Frid). Having a chisel with no lands on the sides is a nice thing, but as long as the space you're paring is wider than the chisel then you can angle it to allow you to pare into the corner even if the chisel has lands on the sides. I greatly prefer a butt-length chisel for chopping dovetails. Cosman says to cut the tails first, but I find marking the pins from the tails is far more miserable than marking the tails from the pins, so I do the pins first (as does Klaus, Frid, etc.).
          Some people use various jigs to help align their chisels for chopping and paring. I don't, myself.
          Some people get all bent out of shape about the angle of the tails. I've done testing and found that when I made a joint with half 1:6 and half 1:8 angles, you couldn't tell without looking for it, so I just use 1:6 for everything - hardwood or softwood - unless I'm in full-out Klaus-mode where you don't measure the angles at all.

          There are a bunch of entries in my blog about dovetailing, if you want more details about what I've typed above. My advice is always to read everything, and then take from it what works for you.
          Mike in Orangeville, ON
          http://ifonlyyouwood.blogspot.com/

          SPCHT

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          • #6

            Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

            Re: Hand Cut Dovetails

            Many thanks for all the replies. Very helpful.

            Gil

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