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So this Dovetailing business?...

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thetyreman

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all my first dovetails were rubbish, loads of gaps so nothing to be worried about, it just takes patience and lots of practise, and keep checking the boards are flat and dead square both ways right up until you cut them, wood can move dramatically even within the space of hours, use a shooting board to get perfectly square ends, it really does help a lot.
 

Kaizen123

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They seem good and sharp to be honest. They are new Narex things and I've been sharpening with diamond stones and then buffing with some compound. I'm quite happy with how sharp they are. Probably because they're not Uber cheap rather than my sharpening skills!
 

D_W

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I was thinking the same thing @D_W in terms of learning. If I try to get to a level where I feel I've sort of got the knack then I reckon just dovetail everything I do for a while.
The idea that they're difficult is a short term thing - you just have to work through it. The idea that they're a key part of woodworking rather than routine work is also sort of a modern supposition (aside from the fact that I guess you can get around ever having to make them if they stump you).

Just about all of hand work is a matter of repetition and a combination of incrementally solving issues while you tolerate the fact that you'll have them at first, and when you're good, you'll still have them from time to time as a matter of lapse (unless you want to spend your days with your eyes cross concentrating so hard you could snap a pin off between your lower cheeks -that's not very rewarding). All of this is part of woodworking, even gaining experience to understand what's an issue that will disappear in gluing and fitting, and what's an issue that you can repair, vs what's an issue that you can't neatly repair and then what.

I'm not a master dovtailer - not even much a maker of furniture - I realized about a decade ago that I didn't really want the dovetails to show in the first place, but I do like them as a utility joint on cases and drawers because they're easy to do (and my early ones were disastrous). It just comes together over time and it would've been a shame to get bogged down in some fiddly process where they all had to be prissy (if they are the focus of what you're making and showing, then prissy is on the menu):

There are people on the american forum who were talking about practicing sawing 15 years ago when I started woodworking, and they're still talking about practicing sawing now to make dovetails. I have no clue what they're doing. I think they're doing a lot of thinking, planning and buying and trying the next new trick (buying dovetail chisels, making tools to imitate tage frid's scraper trick, taping off dovetails, coming up with fiddly routines to try to lay things out perfect on draws that could have basic proportions set first and then the first part of the joint cut and the other half of it then marked to fit).

That's kind of all of woodworking - just do it, have standards, improve incrementally and be reasonable with yourself in terms of where they'll actually count (every single pin and tail in the pictures above is completely hidden now, but the moulding miters are pretty important). If you look not even that closely, you can see that the dovetails are not all identically sized. I probably halved the case side edge ,then halved it again and cut dovetails in each quarter dividing the quarters by eye and then sawing the tails without anything more than one or two 90 degree references.

What saw or what chisel or whatever else wouldn't make a difference at this point - they'd end up the same, and they could be marked out more neatly and evenly if that was important - but when it's not and they're hidden, why bother. You'll be heavily challenged to ever get someone to look at the back sides of the drawers on something you make.
 

Droogs

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If you can shave the hair off your arm with them, they are sharp enough.

If not you need to have a strop or two.
Now @Adam W. you know as well as I do that real sharpness doesn't just shave off the hair it takes the layer if skin holding the follicle with it as well before you feel pain. At least that's how it works with my coping saw
 

Ttrees

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Those stanley ball vices are a recipe for damaging hacksaw blades.
They are not suitable for anything woodworking related, and should you have a nice saw
the risk of damage is great.
A clamp will do the job much better for any task, and you can clamp the timber much closer to the work to stop vibrations.

Good luck
 

danst96

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Some rapid progression there @danst96
Thanks!


Thanks @danst96 that's really motivational to see your progress. Is that walnut?
I was pretty disheartened after the first one as I tend to be overconfident in my abilities and I had such pretty pictures in my mind lol.

Yes its walnut, probably should use something less expensive but it's what I had laying around and they will be drawers for a tool cabinet in the shop. They shall serve as a reminder as to my progression as a woodworker and I don't mind that.

Keep at it you will nail it. Personally I use a fret saw to clear the waste and find it quicker and easier to do rather than chiselling out but everyone has their own preferences and whatever that is that's the perfect way for them! I do think though having a small square and a marking knife makes a big difference
 

Kaizen123

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From the photo it looks like you were chiselling with it in the vice. I always chisel with the piece on the bench which supports the back of the wood.
Yes that is correct. My clamps were occupied. I've seen people clamp a block of wood square up to the line you're chiselling to help keep it flush. This seems like a good way to go right?
 

paulrbarnard

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Yes that is correct. My clamps were occupied. I've seen people clamp a block of wood square up to the line you're chiselling to help keep it flush. This seems like a good way to go right?
You might find it better to put the wood flat on the bench (sacrificial piece under it) then chisel straight down towards the bench. You don't need to clamp it at all. It will stop the chisel blowing out the back of the material, it's much easier to judge the chisel being vertical than horizontal and you are working against a solid surface so you don't get any material bounch.
 

Fitzroy

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You might find it better to put the wood flat on the bench (sacrificial piece under it) then chisel straight down towards the bench. You don't need to clamp it at all. It will stop the chisel blowing out the back of the material, it's much easier to judge the chisel being vertical than horizontal and you are working against a solid surface so you don't get any material bounch.
Paul said what I was trying to say way better! And if you care about your bench a scrap piece under is a great suggestion, must remember that when I finally build a decent workbench rather than my current ones with OSB tops!
 

Jacob

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You might find it better to put the wood flat on the bench (sacrificial piece under it) then chisel straight down towards the bench. You don't need to clamp it at all. It will stop the chisel blowing out the back of the material, it's much easier to judge the chisel being vertical than horizontal and you are working against a solid surface so you don't get any material bounch.
Spot on!
An MDF pad is good stuff for the temporary chopping surface. Then chippings get brushed off the edge and not under the workpiece etc. The best guide for the chisel is a deep gauge line. You work back towards it and finish with the chisel in the line. Or cut a V towards it and keep enlarging the V.
Chopping vertically is like morticing and you can really whack it out, which is why you don't need a coping saw - too slow and you still need the chisel to finish off anyway.
 

Kaizen123

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Paul said what I was trying to say way better! And if you care about your bench a scrap piece under is a great suggestion, must remember that when I finally build a decent workbench rather than my current ones with OSB tops!
Yes mine is not a fancy one I knocked it together with wooden bearers (was a forklift driver) and a bit of plywood.
 

D_W

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I was thinking the same thing @D_W in terms of learning. If I try to get to a level where I feel I've sort of got the knack then I reckon just dovetail everything I do for a while.
so, I have a suggestion, because I'm ultimately just a beginner who likes to figure things out.

When I started, I wanted to build things, but I didn't necessarily know what I wanted them to look like. As in, I had no design sense. I think that was more limiting than the technical skill, and I think I could be a good maker if I had to do it professionally. I think a lot of us could. I don't know if I could be very good at the "can't get if you don't ask" side where you really need to ask more than you think you do to keep a business afloat because when you look around, the only folks who are still going are those folks (aside from a few getting close to retirement).

It's easy to ignore getting an idea of what you want to see when you first get on this stuff because what you want may be no gaps in dovetails, but that happens (and if it doesn't, then maybe you just don't use dovetails or get them done another way - the result is more important than the method and the design is probably more important than the result).

that said, curating what you want to end up with is very important.

And when you start with the dovetails, everything seems hard, but if you do them for a while, you probably won't remember where or when they weren't difficult all of the sudden, but it'll happen. The lesson is remembering how hard they seemed and then suddenly at some point they didn't. And then just about everything in woodworking is like that - the first try may not be good, but there's little that you can't get good at just by being willing to put in repetition and a little bit of experiment. Fertilizing the part along the way where what you make looks good both at a distance and from 2" away (building the design sense, etc) is the fuel that will get you from A to B in each case, and tolerating that nothing is easy at first.
 

Jacob

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Yes mine is not a fancy one I knocked it together with wooden bearers (was a forklift driver) and a bit of plywood.
Needs mass for downward chopping and chiselling. Along the lines of a piece of mdf on a concrete slab, which'd probably be good even on a rickety Workmate!
 

Kaizen123

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Needs mass for downward chopping and chiselling. Along the lines of a piece of mdf on a concrete slab, which'd probably be good even on a rickety Workmate!

It is actually pretty sturdy to be honest. The bearers I used for the legs are 4x4 posts and I've put in 6 of them for an 8x4 surface. Not the prettiest or probably the safest but for a man in a shed trying to escape his children and Mrs.... It hold up just fine :D
 

Kaizen123

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Attempt #2 is already feeling alot easier and less baffling. Still a long way to go but I think I can see what you all mean now when you say it will become just common practice if you keep doing it. It feels a bit like a riddle and once you figure it out you know the answer but nobody else does.

The pine was definitely a lot harder to get the middle part of the cut flush with the chisel though it just seemed to take massive splinters out of the middle, but the rest of it was definitely easier with pine. Felt alot more forgiving.

Anyway I'm feeling good about this. Thanks a lot for all of the advice.
 

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