So this Dovetailing business?...

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D_W

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Did they use them in the good old days? Do they turn up in old tool collections or catalogues?

I'd imagine if someone wanted to make one of these as a marking gauge back then, they'd have been made out of scrap because they will get marked up and dinged. As hard as it is to even find little used tools, I wouldn't be surprised if you wouldn't find much as far as marking templates or gadgets.

Also wouldn't be surprised if a tails first cutter never marked anything other than square, and on common work, not even that, dividing the space by eye and controlling the angle by feel on the tail cut (or even the pins).

Few at this point will cut often enough to do that in a way that looks aesthetically perfect or close enough to not be obvious.
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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I'd imagine if someone wanted to make one of these as a marking gauge back then, they'd have been made out of scrap because they will get marked up and dinged. As hard as it is to even find little used tools, I wouldn't be surprised if you wouldn't find much as far as marking templates or gadgets.

Also wouldn't be surprised if a tails first cutter never marked anything other than square, and on common work, not even that, dividing the space by eye and controlling the angle by feel on the tail cut (or even the pins).

Few at this point will cut often enough to do that in a way that looks aesthetically perfect or close enough to not be obvious.

I imagine, David, that 100 years ago, those churning out furniture dovetailed by eye. No templates. However, those who wanted to pay attention to details, and charged more for this, used their sliding bevels to lay out the tails or pins (whichever way they chose to start).

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

Jacob

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Skip to around the 8:00 minute mark to see the dovetails on the drawer of a John Towsend desk:


So-called "London pattern" aren't particularly difficult.
The simple trick is to start the second cut in the kerf of the first. Can't go wrong.
The very thin chisel craft knife is more or less essential for marking from pinhole to pinboard
Just cleaning up a drawer side here. These are freehand. The bottom half pin is smaller so that the tail covers the end of the slot in the front board. Next a bevel to be taken off to the gauge line.
I quite like the slightly irregular look but if I wanted perfection I might mark them out with dividers, but still cut freehand.

IMG_4561.JPG
 
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D_W

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@Jacob those a very nice for being done in pine

pine likes to be done tight - or rather, if you're going to cheat on things being a little tight, pine will compress and make the job look nice even when it's quick.
 

Jacob

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I like pine but its a PITA.
You have to have very precise deeply cut lines to work to, and a fine DT saw - mine's an old standard pattern 8" S&J 21 point
 
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Adam W.

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So-called "London pattern" aren't particularly difficult.
The simple trick is to start the second cut in the kerf of the first. Can't go wrong.
The very thin chisel craft knife is more or less essential for marking from pinhole to pinboard
Just cleaning up a drawer side here. These are freehand. The bottom half pin is smaller so that the tail covers the end of the slot in the front board. Next a bevel to be taken off to the gauge line.
I quite like the slightly irregular look but if I wanted perfection I might mark them out with dividers, but still cut freehand.

View attachment 127541
They look excellent.
 

D_W

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I like pine but its a PITA.
You have to have very precise deeply cut lines to work to, and a fine DT saw - mine's an old standard pattern 8" S&J 21 point

I'd encourage anyone who wants to do dovetails to use a sharp saw (it doesn't have to be terribly fine, there's always a back side to the cut) and mind how marked lines move in softwood if not careful.

A fine knife should always be at hand, but I"m a little biased because they are about the easiest thing for a toolmaker to make - any scrap tool steel is a better marking knife than you can buy in half an hour.

I do like the way pine compresses, though, as long as the pine isn't the hard earlywood ring and crumbly latewood variety (white pine here isn't that, though - yellow pine here can at times be a chisel destroyer - and if chisels are marginal, it's extreme).
 

Droogs

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Scot's Pine is like that, esp the old growth stuff. I was given some boards milled from an old fortress gate many years ago and broke the edge off 2 Jsph Marples 1/2" registered chisels. Turned out the pine was over a 800 years old and had about 20 rings to the inch, slow grown or what. Ended up using a morticer in the end to make the holes. It would ring with every hit, amazingly good stuff and smelled fantastic when you planed it.
 

Jacob

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Scot's Pine is like that, esp the old growth stuff. I was given some boards milled from an old fortress gate many years ago and broke the edge off 2 Jsph Marples 1/2" registered chisels. Turned out the pine was over a 800 years old and had about 20 rings to the inch, slow grown or what. Ended up using a morticer in the end to make the holes. It would ring with every hit, amazingly good stuff and smelled fantastic when you planed it.
I've planed and turned stuff which was 150+ years old and it's amazing how fresh it can seem. Wouldn't know it was old sometimes.
 

Just4Fun

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At the other extreme a couple of months ago I cut some dovetails in some pine panels that are about 2 years old. Horrible stuff to work and I noticed today that the wood has shrunk noticably; the end of the pins is significantly proud of the side of the tails. Luckily it was just a temporary job so it doesn't really matter.
 

Jacob

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At the other extreme a couple of months ago I cut some dovetails in some pine panels that are about 2 years old. Horrible stuff to work and I noticed today that the wood has shrunk noticably; the end of the pins is significantly proud of the side of the tails. Luckily it was just a temporary job so it doesn't really matter.
Can't blame the wood for drying out.
Pine isn't too bad for movement as far as I know, except after gluing with water based glue - may take some time to dry right out and shrink back.
Just PVA glued up some pine drawer bottoms but will leave them as long as possible before planing and finishing.
 
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D_W

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I've planed and turned stuff which was 150+ years old and it's amazing how fresh it can seem. Wouldn't know it was old sometimes.

hard to tell from one wood to the next. douglas fir and yellow pine can end up being powdery between the rings and then the rings can be hard and brittle.

Rosewood on the other hand can end up being really brittle and splintery, or it can end up losing (especially cocobolo and bois de rose) the oiliness of the wood over many decades and be just divine to work when it's older.
 

Devmeister

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I wonder if chippendale used a dovetail template?
Nooooopr!!!!!
My dad bought a few chests from an antique dealer in Chicago. My ex/Grilfteind was stupid and did not think much of them. I found one destroyed by weather out by the barn and all I could salvage was the brass.

Chipoendale eventually used craftsmen in his employ to do much of the work as business was good. Townsend was a decifle of chippendale and worked in the states. The designs were similar but chippendale used. Mahogany with oak often the secondary. Townsend used walnut with eastern white pine as the secondary.

In the drawers I have examined, it appears the tails were done pins first by eye. The same approach used by Frank Kluauz. The angles were close but different. Frank was taught to be fast. Chris Becksvort was taught the German way of tails first. Kingshot did high end work including commissions to the crown.

often Kingshot would mark out a quick 1in 7 on a board and set a sliding bevel. Later he used a clear plastic gage he made.

There is an overwhelming school of thought in commission work these days toward cutting the socket necks narrow. Often towards 1/8 in. While not a true London tail, it’s a statement of hand cut tails. The1/8 in being based on the smallest standard chisel in use.

Becksvort could care less as his customer base knows better. His work is primarily cherry based shaker reproductions. He often used a LN gage.

Lie Nielsen has been at it for 35 plus years. His tools are straight forward and built for craftsmen. He avoids fancy updates and embellishments like you see in Veritas and Bridgecity. Becksvort shares this basic mentality as do I.

So the focus is on basic high quality and functional work. Straightforward joinery with locally sourced timber.
 

Adam W.

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I'm going to throw my hat in the ring by saying that a gauge or square was not used for cutting dovetails by joiners in the past.

My reasoning:

They knew how to cut square.
If they could skip a step to make the job more efficient, they would.
Why would they bother to mark out the dovetails angles and square when all they needed was a gauge line to work down to and one part acts as a templet for the other ?

And crucially, if you couldn't cut square you wouldn't get a job as a joiner and you'd be sweeping the floor instead.
 
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Devmeister

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hard to tell from one wood to the next. douglas fir and yellow pine can end up being powdery between the rings and then the rings can be hard and brittle.

Rosewood on the other hand can end up being really brittle and splintery, or it can end up losing (especially cocobolo and bois de rose) the oiliness of the wood over many decades and be just divine to work when it's older.

Rosewoods and boxwood for that matter have a strange property. Theor stability improves with age. That is why many older rulers were made from boxwood. Infills often used rosewood as well. What many don’t know is that impinga or African Blackwood is not ebony but rather a rose wood. Clarinets are made from Blackwood,
 

Jacob

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.......

In the drawers I have examined, it appears the tails were done pins first by eye.
Me too. And done in pairs for each drawer - it's easy to cut two sides together but more than that gets fiddly aligning them and you need a coarser saw than 20tpi
........

There is an overwhelming school of thought in commission work these days toward cutting the socket necks narrow. Often towards 1/8 in. While not a true London tail, it’s a statement of hand cut tails. The1/8 in being based on the smallest standard chisel in use.
I wonder where the term "London" tail or pattern came from? I assume it is recent but stand to be corrected.
I've been doing it on drawers without actually giving it much though except that they look trim. I've also used steeper angles than the supposedly "correct" ones, just for a change
....

So the focus is on basic high quality and functional work. Straightforward joinery with locally sourced timber.
Sounds good!
 
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