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Houndstooth dovetail tutorial at last!

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Anonymous

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Hi all

here follows a tutorial on how to cut houndstooth dovetails - clearly the very nature of a tutorial leads to a long post, but this long? :shock:

I recently posted
https://www.ukworkshop.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4711
my first houndstooth but had no WIP pictures for people who requested them. The test was preparation for the box shown here-complete with WIP pictures.

In my opinion, the most important considerations (in order) are:
Accurate stock preparation – no planer marks and very square ends
Marking out
Accurately cutting to the line

I used some maple that a friend gave me as an offcut and some mahogany I got from the old lab benches in my lab at work.

First off, I needed to resaw the wood


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This is the mahogany as received - straight from the lab bench :wink:


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After resawing, I thicknessed all pieces before hand planing to final dimensions


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The hand planing is very important on faces and edges as we need to remove all marks from the machining operations to ensure an accurate joint. Rob Cosman says that this is essential and who am I to argue with him? :D


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When planed, look at the boards and choose and mark the outside faces with a pencil.

The ends need to be absolutely square and a shooting board is the best method to achieve this. My board is designed to clamp in the bench vice and to clamp the workpiece and thus allows me to plane using both hands which I find more accurate and much easier


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Gratuitous image to show the tools needed for the job :roll: – missing the coping saw because I completely forgot :shock:


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Set the marking gauge to the thickness of the pin board (sides of box in this project) and run it all around each end of the tail boards


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Next, set the gauge to about 2/3 of the thickness of the pin board and run it across the faces of the tail boards as shown below. Also run it across the end grain on the pin boards.


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Set the gauge to the thickness of the tail board and then run it across the faces of the pin boards to set the baseline for the pins

Make a mark about 6mm in from the edges of the ends of the tail boards and then set the dividers to a third of the gap between these two marks. This is achieved by ‘walking’ the divider across the board without making marks and repeating this until the final point is on the second 6mm mark. When the dividers are set properly, make some marks in the end grain as shown below


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Now set the dividers to half the distance between two of these marks to allow marks for the smaller tails to be made half-way between the main tails


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Mark out the DTs using a ratio of 1:8 for hard wood – indicating the waste. I used a 0.3mm propelling pencil to mark mine (Rob Cosman uses a ball point pen). Mark the tops perpendicular to these lines (I also marked the rear but this is not really necessary – but I always do)


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Mount the tail board in the vice with the lines vertical and make the first set of cuts. It is pretty important to cut with the aim of splitting the line with the kerf. I like to use a cheap mirror behind the board to ensure that the cut is accurate at the rear and I don't cut beyond the scribed line


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Swivel the board in the vice and cut to the second set of lines


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Use a coping saw with a very fine blade to remove the majority of the waste from the tails


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Chop out the remaining waste using a VERY sharp chisel. Take SMALL cuts and pare back until the chisel blade sits nicely in the scribed line


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It is often useful to support the chisel with a block of wood cut with two faces exactly perpendicular to each other – this ensures the chisel is held absolutely vertical


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When fully cleaned up the tail boards should look something like this


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Mark up all boards (I used A, B, C, D) to indicate which joints will mate. Clamp the tail boards to the pin boards using some sort of 90 degree jig – I used a cheap clamp from Axminster


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Use a very sharp knife with a thin blade to scribe the pins on the end grain of the pin boards


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Clearly mark the waste as it is really easy to cut out the wrong bits!! Extend the scribed lines down the faces of the boards and cut to the waste side of the scribed lines with the kerf touching the line


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Remove waste using the coping saw again


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Cut under the half pins to facilitate removal with a chisel


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Chop out remaining waste with very sharp chisels - paring down towards the scribed line and taking very thin cuts


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Use a small chisel to cut a small chamfer on the inner edges of the tails to aid assembly


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Now it is all ready to assemble (with fingers firmly crossed)


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No test fits. Rob Cosman reckons that dovetails only fit properly the first time, so keep checking that your cuts are against the lines – pare any excess wood away using a nice sharp chisel.
Now, smear glue on the long grain pieces and fit the joints together.

Belt the joint home using a STEEL hammer against a piece of waste wood held to the tail board as this will provide ‘feedback’ that you don’t get with a mallet and you will know when the joint is fully home.

Here is one I made earlier :wink: Just needs final sanding and some finish (once I have decided on the design of the top :roll: :roll: )


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Pete W

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Nice job, Tony (the box, the dovetails and the how-to, all three).

PS: Did you have a plan for putting a bottom on that box? :)
 
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Anonymous

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Pete W":2qn3azaw said:
Nice job, Tony (the box, the dovetails and the how-to, all three).

PS: Did you have a plan for putting a bottom on that box? :)
TA Pete

It already has a maple bottom - I cut a rebate around the inside at top and bottom :wink:

My problem is the top :roll: I have posted another thread about this problem :wink:
 

tim

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Well done Tony - great work and really helpful How to photos and directions.

How long do you reckon that took and was there anything that you were doing differently in the last set from the first that you learned as you went on?

Cheers

T
 

Gill

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Lovely tutorial, Tony. I do like those dovetails and it's been great reading about it, even if I'll probably never get round to trying out that technique myself.

Just one thing - where I come from, those coping saws are called fret saws. Not all fret saws bear logos such as Rexon, De Walt or Hegner and rely on mains electric :p :D .

Gill
 

Adam

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Spot on.

Just one thing though, could you make the postage stamp sized images bigger? (not on this post now its on here but generally) It'll have regligible effect on bandwidthdownload time and means you don't have to click "every" image just to see whats behind it?

Adam
 

Philly

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Superb Job Tony!
Well done! Will we see you on the Lie-Nielsen stand this November instead of Rob Cosman? :lol:
looking forward to seeing the completed box,
cheers
Philly :D
 

Aragorn

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Tony this is excellent work. Fine DTs. The WIP pics and tutorial are first rate too.
You are a very brave man to apply glue to this joint without a dry fit IMO!
Hope you are happy with the results!
 

Mcluma

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Tony

You'r the man :p

Nice work, I probably wouldn't have the patience (I know i don't have it) to do so, I have a dedicated router and a jig ready set up, which isn't of course making such a nice display corners as your beautiful handcrafted ones

McLuma
 
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Tim

The initial marking, cutting and chisel work took about 5 hours (with lots of breaks for photos). Prep for stock was about 30 minutes.

I was all ready to go with the glue and then I panicked - what if......

I spent ages looking at the joints, agonising and paring little bits off all over the place before finally thinking 'what the hell!!' and gluing up.

Well, this only my second attempt :?

Surprising the difference it makes to stress levels when you are making something rather than just practicing :oops:

Only things I learnt from the first job was to mark the tails with a saw kerf width gap across the board. On the first attempt, the lines met at the top. Also, this time I made sure that my smallest chisel would fit the base of the short tails 8)
 

Shady

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Very, very impressive, mate.

The only part I'm slightly unclear on is the 'cutting a chamfer on the inside' bit near the end (sorry, picture not quite as clear as the others) - are you talking about easing the edge to aid in 'sliding' it all together? (When I first read it, I thought that maybe this was Krenov's 'paring' the sides ever so slightly concave to 'tension' the dovetail - but I don't think it is...)

How long a road/hard was it/ is it, to get to the point where you are 'confident' in your ability to make that cut with the saw? agonising years, or just getting stuck in and really concentrating?
 
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Adam

the small images are 120*102, main ones 640*480, how big do you make them?

Aragorn

My wife and kids really like the box and are impressed with my 'skills' - that's enough for me :D

I just can't believe the joints fiitted together so well :oops:
I really like the box loads too, and I've loved the look of those DTs since I first saw them years ago.

Shady

The bit you refer to is simply cutting a small chamfer on the edges of the tails to allow the joint to start coming together and to allow glue to build up around the base of the tails as it is scraped down during assembly. I cut at 45 degrees and took about 1mm width and 1mm depth. Careful not to go to the ends of the tails though :shock:

As far as making them goes, I have cut a few DTs by hand over the years (not that many now that I think about it) but this was my second attempt at houndstooth, first was posted early this week.

After watching Rob Cosman's video twice and buying a new saw :roll: , I just took my time and concentrated :wink: They are easier than they appear.
 

gidon

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Tony
Thank you for an excellent post - great shots and superb effort. I've seen RC demonstrate a couple of times but I think I might get his DVDs to refresh my memory - did you find then good?
Cheers
Gidon
 

Waka

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Tony

Fantastic job, I can see why the family are pleased.

Now; if only I could
 

devonwoody

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Thank you Tony for your time and effort on above posting.

Some of the tips I am going to have to take on board. (hope the wife doesn't miss her mirror)

What happened to the guide lines that you scored across the timber?
Can't see them on finished article?

I note that you are right handed and your vice is attached to the right hand end of bench. I remember over 55 years ago our woodwork teacher stating that right handed people were to choose benches with a vice at left hand end. What do other woodworkers prefer?

Wondering if I have got enough ink in my printer to print your tutorial out, all those pics.
Thanks again.
 

Scott

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Very nice work Tony and an excellent tutorial
 
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devonwoody":n1ep08fq said:
I note that you are right handed and your vice is attached to the right hand end of bench. I remember over 55 years ago our woodwork teacher stating that right handed people were to choose benches with a vice at left hand end. What do other woodworkers prefer?


Thanks again.
Odd. I need the vice on the right as I am right handed and so when cutting wood in the vice, it sticks out to the right of the bench

I do have a vice at the left too though :wink:

Alf, fun with a dial up ? :D
 
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