How long did it take you ( or your students) to learn to cut gapless dovetails

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

Jacob

Pint of bass, porkpie, and packet of crisps please
Joined
7 Jul 2010
Messages
22,931
Reaction score
2,789
Location
Derbyshire
I'm not understanding why you would use dovetails on unseen work.
Because it's a very strong joint and very good value for the labour.
DTs weren't designed to be seen - there may be hundreds in a chest of drawers, most permanently out of sight, except for the drawer fronts when opened.
 

johnnyb

Established Member
Joined
13 Nov 2006
Messages
1,897
Reaction score
370
Location
Biddulph staffs
dovetails like through tenons on doors are a relic of animal glues. surely a double gallows arrangement would be far superior. yes even dovetailed if you like as long as it has a shoulder.
 

Austin Branson

Established Member
Joined
18 Jan 2013
Messages
117
Reaction score
56
Location
Ticheville, Normandy
dovetails like through tenons on doors are a relic of animal glues. surely a double gallows arrangement would be far superior. yes even dovetailed if you like as long as it has a shoulder.
Something new for me, johnnyb - could you tell me what a’double gallows’ is, please? Best wishes.
 

johnnyb

Established Member
Joined
13 Nov 2006
Messages
1,897
Reaction score
370
Location
Biddulph staffs
2 small " things" at 45 degrees across the 2 planks( at the end.) the alternative would be the wall plank thicker and a couple of bare faced through tenons in the top piece and through mortice in the thicker piece like a small cantilever.
 

tibi

Established Member
Joined
27 Nov 2020
Messages
588
Reaction score
227
Location
Slovakia
Cut yourself some short pieces of board about a foot long and make corners (don’t try to turn them into a box just practice the dovetails. The critical part is sawing a straight line where you want it to be. Being able to saw exactly to one or the other side of a knife line will let you do dovetails right from the saw. Get that right and the chisel is only needed for clearing the waste at the bottom of the tails and pins. Very fast and very satisfying.
Thank you very much for your advice. This was exactly my plan as well. I will explain what I am going to do

1. I mark out 5 different types of lines
a) straight line on the face side, straight line on the end grain
b) straight line on the face side, right angled line on the end grain
c) straight line on the face side, left angled line on the end grain
d) right angled line on the face side, straight line on the end grain
e) left angled line on the face side, straight line on the end grain

I will use a dovetail template for the angles. I also mark the waste side on each cut and I alternate the waste side.

This gives me 10 unique combinations that I need to be able to cut precisely just next to the line. I create one row of such lines, that are 30 - 400 mm deep and after I cut them with the gents saw ( I do not have a pistol grip dovetail saw), then I cut off the whole row, shoot the end grain and start again. I will continue this exercise until I get good and consistent results.

After I am good at the above mentioned exercise, I will cut my first dovetails in softwood and then in hardwood. If everything matches, then I will cut the dovetails on the wall coat rack.

I would like to learn to cut both dovetails and tenons right from the saw (and use chisels only when necessary), so my technique must become correct first.
 

Jacob

Pint of bass, porkpie, and packet of crisps please
Joined
7 Jul 2010
Messages
22,931
Reaction score
2,789
Location
Derbyshire
Thank you very much for your advice. This was exactly my plan as well. I will explain what I am going to do

1. I mark out 5 different types of lines
a) straight line on the face side, straight line on the end grain
b) straight line on the face side, right angled line on the end grain
c) straight line on the face side, left angled line on the end grain
d) right angled line on the face side, straight line on the end grain
e) left angled line on the face side, straight line on the end grain

I will use a dovetail template for the angles. I also mark the waste side on each cut and I alternate the waste side.

This gives me 10 unique combinations that I need to be able to cut precisely just next to the line. I create one row of such lines, that are 30 - 400 mm deep and after I cut them with the gents saw ( I do not have a pistol grip dovetail saw), then I cut off the whole row, shoot the end grain and start again. I will continue this exercise until I get good and consistent results.

After I am good at the above mentioned exercise, I will cut my first dovetails in softwood and then in hardwood. If everything matches, then I will cut the dovetails on the wall coat rack.

I would like to learn to cut both dovetails and tenons right from the saw (and use chisels only when necessary), so my technique must become correct first.
OK in principle but you don't want to over-think it!
I'd definitely practice freehand pin holes first. Freehand has one particular advantage over a marked line - you aren't committed to a line so you aren't tempted to go back a bit to correct a deviation. So you get a cleaner line with one cut, even if it is fractionally off a chosen angle. Small errors then get transferred by careful marking to the pinboard so the fit is good even if off a fraction. Whereas an attempt to "correct" a line may become highly visible.
 

hennebury

Established Member
Joined
26 Oct 2010
Messages
56
Reaction score
75
Location
Canada
It takes what it takes, for however long it takes!
If you are not willing to do what it takes, for however long it takes.............do something else.
 

tibi

Established Member
Joined
27 Nov 2020
Messages
588
Reaction score
227
Location
Slovakia
It takes what it takes, for however long it takes!
If you are not willing to do what it takes, for however long it takes.............do something else.
The whole question is about deciding if to use a dovetail joint on a project that I want to give as a gift in two weeks. The question can be said another way. Is it common for people to get acceptable and pleasant-looking results in a short time, or it will take months or years in that case, I would use another joint? It has nothing to do with my willingness to learn or to practice the technique.
 

furnace

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2011
Messages
109
Reaction score
59
Location
Four Elms, Kent
It has nothing to do with my willingness to learn or to practice the technique.
Given your other messages and serious approach to working, I suspect you will be fine. Good lighting, careful preparation and willingness to learn will get you to your goal before too long.
Good luck
 

tibi

Established Member
Joined
27 Nov 2020
Messages
588
Reaction score
227
Location
Slovakia
Given your other messages and serious approach to working, I suspect you will be fine. Good lighting, careful preparation and willingness to learn will get you to your goal before too long.
Good luck
I am now practising on making L-shaped dovetail template with a single dovetail as a joint between . I have already cracked the end pin twice. So now I will try to make the pinboard without any mallet persuasion. It takes just a very little blow to crack the cherry.
 

paulrbarnard

Established Member
Joined
5 Mar 2017
Messages
936
Reaction score
1,006
Location
Shepton Mallet, UK
I am now practising on making L-shaped dovetail template with a single dovetail as a joint between . I have already cracked the end pin twice. So now I will try to make the pinboard without any mallet persuasion. It takes just a very little blow to crack the cherry.
Four things to check if you continue to crack off the end pins
1. They are too thin.
2. When transferring the tails to the pins you didn’t get the marking knife right next to the tail. That results in fat pins.
3. Not sawn or parred to the line. This is more usual if going right from the saw and you have not quite cut too the line
4. Not sawn/parred vertical edges to the pins. A slight wedging causes splitting. It could be that the tails are not cut square on the tail board but that is generally the thinner cut so has less effect.
 

Adam W.

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
18 Apr 2021
Messages
2,576
Reaction score
2,770
Location
London, Jutland.
I would try both pins first and tails first, then decide what way you find best suits you and stick to it.

Despite vigorous arguments for one method over the other, they both produce the same result in the end.
 

tibi

Established Member
Joined
27 Nov 2020
Messages
588
Reaction score
227
Location
Slovakia
Thank you all. This is my 3rd attempt of pins (I am using the same tail part). End pins did not crack now, I was very careful not to use much force on fitting tail to the pin.
IMG_0080.jpg

IMG_0082.jpg


I would try it a few more times and hopefully, it will be without those gaps.
 

Jacob

Pint of bass, porkpie, and packet of crisps please
Joined
7 Jul 2010
Messages
22,931
Reaction score
2,789
Location
Derbyshire
If that was for an actual project I'd roughly divide it into 3 and have the tail and the half pins similar sized. As with a mortice - doesn't want to be more than 1/3 width of the component.
If that's just for practice I'd cut off both ends and start afresh with each new attempt.
 

tibi

Established Member
Joined
27 Nov 2020
Messages
588
Reaction score
227
Location
Slovakia
If that was for an actual project I'd roughly divide it into 3 and have the tail and the half pins similar sized. As with a mortice - doesn't want to be more than 1/3 width of the component.
If that's just for practice I'd cut off both ends and start afresh with each new attempt.
This is just a dovetail template. I need to keep the tail part, because there is the angled edge in 1:7 ratio and I cannot cut the tail off. But I will make the tail smaller (which will make pins bigger) and I will cut off the pins and start afrash the pin board.
 

Jacob

Pint of bass, porkpie, and packet of crisps please
Joined
7 Jul 2010
Messages
22,931
Reaction score
2,789
Location
Derbyshire
This is just a dovetail template. I need to keep the tail part, because there is the angled edge in 1:7 ratio and I cannot cut the tail off. But I will make the tail smaller (which will make pins bigger) and I will cut off the pins and start afrash the pin board.
Yes smaller tail or just cut the tail off and the angle stays at 1:7
Be prepared to waste a few bits of wood - it's only offcuts anyway.
 

Ttrees

Iroko loco!
Joined
18 Nov 2012
Messages
3,845
Reaction score
561
Location
In me workshop
The whole question is about deciding if to use a dovetail joint on a project that I want to give as a gift in two weeks. The question can be said another way. Is it common for people to get acceptable and pleasant-looking results in a short time, or it will take months or years in that case, I would use another joint? It has nothing to do with my willingness to learn or to practice the technique.

I'd say yes, you can get good results sooner than later, surely Cosman's students that never held a saw before are proof of that.
Since you want this, and are seemingly very eager to progress as quick as you can,
then I suggest taking a few snaps of your setup, so we can nit pick.

Whatever saw you're using, it seems to give good results, often the biggest factor,
and obviously very nessecairy should one want results straight off the saw.

Going to take a pot shot guess, and mention that if you're trying to balance any sort of
dovetail marking tool on the end of that wee piece, then you're not going to get near the same sort of registration as you would if the piece were wider.

If that's the case,
Then try having another offcut which is also shot square on the shooting board,
and use the blade of a carpenters square as a straight edge to get both flush/check for flatness by pivoting and all the other tricks Charlesworth mentions.

Secondly, I see a huge undercut, should you look up "tenting"
you would note that the procedure is for this very reason.
Derek Cohen I believe has some articles and possibly youtubes on that.

I'd also suggest you're being too aggressive with the bassline, whether thats
taking too deep of a cut, i.e
You can't expect to get a good pre bassline if you're whacking most of the bevel into the work without making some space for the waste to go first,
Duffs an edge fairly quick,
or not aiming the chisel out of the cut, which is similar.
i.e... looks you're copying the techniques done on larger work,
so don't undercut it like that for the wee sliver you're working on,
much the same as tenting mentioned above, done by hand not mallet.

That's about all I can see is the issue so far.

All the best
Tom
 
Last edited:

Trextr7monkey

Established Member
Joined
29 Sep 2020
Messages
90
Reaction score
31
Location
Cumbria
Spent nearly 20 years running school workshops with pupils from 12 -18 years old. For exam level work kids were encouraged to be creative so lots of variations on dovetails. An emphasis on marking out and taking plenty of time usually got somewhere near but rather than paring away fractions of a millimetre and messing up the kids would file down to the lines using files (which was time consuming but gave them the satisfaction of a decent fitting joint.)

About 10 years into the job we purchased a Leigh jig and suddenly there was an explosion of jobs with perfect dovetails and finger joints which to be fair was a much better use of the student’s limited time. They still made L shaped practice joints to test settings but the files stayed in the racks.
 

tibi

Established Member
Joined
27 Nov 2020
Messages
588
Reaction score
227
Location
Slovakia
I'd say yes, you can get good results sooner than later, surely Cosman's students that never held a saw before are proof of that.
Since you want this, and are seemingly very eager to progress as quick as you can,
then I suggest taking a few snaps of your setup, so we can nit pick.

Whatever saw you're using, it seems to give good results, often the biggest factor,
and obviously very nessecairy should one want results straight off the saw.

Going to take a pot shot guess, and mention that if you're trying to balance any sort of
dovetail marking tool on the end of that wee piece, then you're not going to get near the same sort of registration as you would if the piece were wider.

If that's the case,
Then try having another offcut which is also shot square on the shooting board,
and use the blade of a carpenters square as a straight edge to get both flush/check for flatness by pivoting and all the other tricks Charlesworth mentions.

Secondly, I see a huge undercut, should you look up "tenting"
you would note that the procedure is for this very reason.
Derek Cohen I believe has some articles and possibly youtubes on that.

I'd also suggest you're being too aggressive with the bassline, whether thats
taking too deep of a cut, i.e
You can't expect to get a good pre bassline if you're whacking most of the bevel into the work without making some space for the waste to go first,
Duffs an edge fairly quick,
or not aiming the chisel out of the cut, which is similar.
i.e... looks you're copying the techniques done on larger work,
so don't undercut it like that for the wee sliver you're working on,
much the same as tenting mentioned above, done by hand not mallet.

That's about all I can see is the issue so far.

All the best
Tom
Hi Tom,

Thank you for your advice. I have a small engineers square, which I can register well on this piece. However, for marking the dovetail angle, I need to make lighter passes, as sometimes I need to cut with the bevel of the knife into the work. It is not always possible to orient the bevel into the waste side. When using a chisel, I always turn the bevel into the waste side.

Unfortunatelly, google did not find anything relevant for tenting. Does this technique have another name which I can look up on google/youtube?

I am using this saw with 10 inch blade
1644843532349.png
 
Top