Making better dovetails

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Benchwayze

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Alf":3sz6nler said:
After all the criticism levelled at Rob Cosman's dovetails (a guy I think is terrific, by the way), perhaps we should see some examples from the forum members!! :shock:
Come now, Derek, that's a tad disingenuous. Either that or I think you should know someone was using your name on Sawmill Creek... :wink: Anyway, nice compilation of tips and tricks, Derek. Cheers.

To help, or start, some along the way, here are a few strategies for producing tight dovetails that I have found useful. The idea here is to add your own and build up as many useful tips as possible.
fwiw, rather than a full on jig with clamping down and so forth, to aid my total inability to judge whether a chisel is truly plumb or not, I use a wee block of hardwood, squared up and held against the back of the chisel. e.g. Doesn't get in the way like even the smallest square tends to, but reassures me I'm not making a total Horlicks of the thing.

Like the rest block thingy, but how on earth do you resist using it as a handy sanding device? I just know I'd give into temptation (Yes, a weak and untidy bench user, I know. Learn better habits. You're right) BB's favourite tip* for holding the work is the old mitre clamp trick. Fiddly to set up for most things I reckon, but worth it for wider stuff.

And from both those pics you can see I'm easily resisting the urge to show-off my dovetails. Should have had a coupla closer tails at the corners, I know. But heavens, that old pine was a terror and I was glad to see the back of it. :lol:

Cheers, Alf

*See? Told you. He beat me to the post though; I had to find the pic.

Derek,
When you are chopping with the mallet and chisel do you stand at the end of the workpiece or at the side? :?:

John :)
 

Calpol

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Aim to make your saw cuts as close to the knife line as possible. The tighter your sawing, the less need for paring, and the less chance of errors creeping in. To achieve such close tolerances, use a chisel to chamfer a fence for your saw.

chiselingfence.jpg

I'll need to try that one, at college we were told to make a wee vee right along the cut which I found a bit faffish... Hopefully get to practise my dovetails before long and I'm definately trying this tip!

Thanks Derek Cohen of Perth, Oz :D
 

The Bear

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Leading on from an earlier comment, what is the difference between a fret saw, a piercing/jewellers saw and a coping saw?
 

Benchwayze

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A fretsaw (the one with the long frame) is normally used to cut fretwork, in wood.

A piercing saw is used to work metal such as brass, silver etc. in the same way. (Hence jeweller's saw').

A coping saw was originally used to 'cope' complicated mouldings, as an alternative to scribed and mitred joints. The coping saw didn't need such a long frame; and the blades are usually stouter of coiurse.

That's what I was always told!
HTH

John :)
 

o_LuCaS_o

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Hi!

I have a question about the technique you use to chop the waste from the pin board. Because of the tapering of the pins, the chopping line (space) on one side is lesser than on the other. What do you do, to avoid gauging the pins sides when chopping in from the wider side of the waste? Do you skew the chisel or maybe chop only the width of the narrow side and then pare the remain? This is not obvious for me and I haven't found this explained in any tutorial I've read till now.

Regards!
Lukasz
 

gloswood

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Hi there
some great tutorials and great pictures i don't quite understand the problems with rob cosmans approach,
i've used it and it worked for me, and having seen him demonstrate it a few years ago at westonbirt the finished job
looked good. But what i have found lately is a nifty little dovetail marker from "davidbarronfurniture.co.uk" which
makes the job so simple but still maintains the use of all the tradional hand skills, and gives you the freedom to
set out the joints however you want them, just thought i would post this as i thought any thing that makes the job
a bit easier is at least worth a look, any one else got any thoughts on this one
all the best Mart
 

Benchwayze

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o_LuCaS_o":3mkn22qk said:
Hi!

I have a question about the technique you use to chop the waste from the pin board. Because of the tapering of the pins, the chopping line (space) on one side is lesser than on the other. What do you do, to avoid gauging the pins sides when chopping in from the wider side of the waste? Do you skew the chisel or maybe chop only the width of the narrow side and then pare the remain? This is not obvious for me and I haven't found this explained in any tutorial I've read till now.

Regards!
Lukasz

Lucasz...

If I understand your problem:
Work from each side towards the middle of the pin-board.
Use a chisel which is not so wide that it damages the narrower side of the socket. First remove most of the waste with the mallet and chisel, but don't go right to the line until you are ready to make the final cuts. Finish off back to the line, then put the mallet aside.
Slope the chisel so you pare downwards at the proper angle to cut clean to the sides of the pins. (Some people do this with the tail-board in the vice, and work horizontally.) I pare downwards on a chopping board, so I know the chisel is vertical.
If you've sawn correctly, you shouldn't need to pare the sides of the pins. The joint should fit from the saw.
HTH
J
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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Is it only 2 years since that thread started? Time flies. Many of those tips were for those starting out.

About a year ago I developed a technique that I still consider to be fantastic. I now rarely have to do any fine tuning and joints go together essentially as sawn. The secret to accurate sawing (for me) is accurate marking out. Working with dark timbers it is difficult to see lines on end grain. Yes, I know the tip on using chalk, but lines close up and marks disappear. All problems went when I scored the lines over blue tape ...

HalfblindDovetailsinJarrah_html_1b83051.jpg


Article: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furniture/ ... arrah.html

If you have a stack of drawers to do, use a (power) router or drill to facilitate splitting out the waste. This really speeds up waste removal ..

TheLastDovetail_html_m52022931.jpg


TheLastDovetail_html_427a244.jpg


Article: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furniture/ ... etail.html

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

GazPal

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Hi Derek, I'm sincerely not sold on the use of masking tape for marking layout lines on darker timbers, as one snag from a saw tooth can readily "erase" one's endeavours. One drawback with layout applique such as this is it can peel off, or introduce inaccurate delineation between waste and wanted elements. Another is the time taken to trim tape precisely without encountering potential problems with adhesion. IMHO it's a good theory, but one that - in the long term - adds too much time and too many steps, whilst running the risk of adding inaccuracies into the dovetailing process.

The simplest solution - when kniving-in layout lines in darker timbers - involves simply dusting (Padding) the area with powdered chalk/talc immediately AFTER marking out as the residual powder settles firmly within the cut lines. No amount of disturbance will erase settled-in chalk/talc dust and the finesse and speed with which this can be done can be quite surprising. It's a wipe on, wipe off technique :wink:
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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Hi Gary

The blue tape method only requires a sharp marking knife. Light pressure slices the tape. Peel away the unwanted section, and you are left with a clean line to saw against. It is that easy. The proof of the pudding ....

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

GazPal

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Hi Gary

The blue tape method only requires a sharp marking knife. Light pressure slices the tape. Peel away the unwanted section, and you are left with a clean line to saw against. It is that easy. The proof of the pudding ....

Regards from Perth

Derek


I totally understand concept and method and ease of setting up (Kudos to you Derek for highlighting this option for others), but this means of masking sincerely can prove problematical. Especially so if/when low tack tape is used or a less than ideally sharp edge is used to cut-in directly on the layout lines. It can also add quite some time to the overall process.

It's honestly far easier to make a chalk/talc filled powder ball - using lint free cotton - and simply dust the layout lines to highlight them immediately before cutting. Keep the powder puff in an airtight container and it'll be quite some time before it needs re-charging. Dusting-in literally takes a matter of seconds and is an age old method for carrying out such marking out operations. :wink:
 
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