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Jacob

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Some rapid progression there @danst96

I think this demo shows what @Jacob is describing:


Fair warning, he makes it look ridiculously easy. It'll be interesting to see if Frank Klausz generates the same level of discussion as Paul Seller's...
Brilliant vid from Klausz. I'm sort of getting there but not quite as snappy!
He does pins first but I reckon most trad workers did sockets first - because you can do two sides clamped together in one op and speed things up. You can see it on old drawers where the little variations on one side match the other side exactly.
PS he does it sideways but easier turned facing the bench I think. And if you are doing a lot have a high stool - lot of leaning forwards etc gets uncomfortable, back ache etc, sitting down and you can be at it all day, perhaps.
Another thing is to set the gauge line slightly over so the ends stick through by half a mm or so, then plane them flush after the glue is dry, for a perfect appearance.
 
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Droogs

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Or the Draper - less than £10 and hardpoint. All you need really. Good for beginner because it will be sharp and straight.
If you want to splash out Spear & Jackson £30 new, or similar price old on ebay.
I'll but heads with you on this one Jacob. I first bought the draper version and threw it in the bin 2 days later. It is pants by far the worst saw I have ever bought. The blade is so thick and heavy the thing feels like your using a sythe and the set so wide (and laser hardened so you cant change it) that your guiding an ox plow.
The cheapies from Lidl feel like you are using Gyokucho saw in comparison.
 

Jacob

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I'll but heads with you on this one Jacob. I first bought the draper version and threw it in the bin 2 days later. It is pants by far the worst saw I have ever bought. The blade is so thick and heavy the thing feels like your using a sythe and the set so wide (and laser hardened so you cant change it) that your guiding an ox plow.
The cheapies from Lidl feel like you are using Gyokucho saw in comparison.
I had the Draper version years ago and it was perfect but blunt. Sent it back and the next one was too. They gave up and sent me 2 hard-point hand saws as compensation, which were top notch.
But I've seen Draper DT saws since and they were good, they'd obviously sorted it. Not thick and heavy at all - blade much the same as an old Spear & Jackson but hard-point. Not like your description at all but who knows what they might sell you tomorrow!
 

Just4Fun

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I just searched for Draper dovetail saw. They are 10 TPI with 2mm kerf. I want a dovetail saw and these are cheap but I will pass. I want something finer on both counts. Currently I use a tenon saw but hanker after a dedicated dovetail saw.
 

Jacob

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I just searched for Draper dovetail saw. They are 10 TPI with 2mm kerf. I want a dovetail saw and these are cheap but I will pass. I want something finer on both counts. Currently I use a tenon saw but hanker after a dedicated dovetail saw.
OK forget Draper! The ones I saw were as fine as a normal S&J, they must have abandoned the spec.
n.b. there's no particular virtue in a fine kerf itself, but you do want fine teeth 15 - 20 tpi, and very little set, for a clean edged and straight cut in thin stuff.
 

Devmeister

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Good job so far. Tails are a dark secret of pro wood workers. Oh they are so hard you must be a master…….Nope they are not hard. Caution: watch out for tool venders and hucksters selling the latest gizmos….you don’t need them.

I learned years ago from two masters. Jim Kingshot and Christian Becksvort. See YouTube vid called just another dovetailing video.

Your chisels should be good ones and Razer sharp. I love vintage Marples and boxwood handle Sorbbey. Both English. See eBay to find. Some of Japanese ones are also good. A sharp chisel makes a very distinct sound which you learn as music!

Get the basics down. Learn to sharpen chisels. Get some good water stones or the diamond plates. Either ones work. I use the Norton stones. Learn to saw straight and TO the line. Not into it. A saw kerf has width so know where to waste your kerf! Practice sawing to the line. MDF is fine for this. Remember a bevel chisel is a wedge. So understand it will move when you first begin a chop. Light taps help. Once you open up the cut you can get more aggressive and resort to parring.

Part of the joint cut by chisels is end grain. The glue strength of end grain is non existent so if you have to cheat by undercutting this feature, that is OK. We will forgive you.

In the chippendale drawers from the 18th century I have examined, there was no layout perfection. In fact the angles were different on both sides of the same tail feature! In other words, the master just went at by eye with a hand saw!

A dovetail joint is a joint with two parts. A pin board and a tail board. Easy! One must track the other. So it does not matter which one you cut first.

Where things get hairy is the second board. A good tail joint is a light interference fit. A sliding fit leads to gaps. A tight interference fit leads to broken features.

key here is marking out. Forget rulers, digital calipers and all those other fancy tools. You need a good single bevel marking out knife. I also use a chip carving knife for this. A bit of chalk helps to see or find the cut lines. They should be fine, tight and track the features of the first board.

Now have a go at the second board with your dovetail saw. I use a lie Nielsen which is a copy of an English dovetail saw. Use your chisels also.

wasting your kerf and keeping your mark out lines is critical here! Don’t be afraid to cut inboard and finish with a chisel parring operation if needed.

Don’t keep test fitting your work. The wood fibers will compress and throw you off. Do a light test fit. Mark one board with pencil or charcoal along one edge. When you do a partial test fit, the color rubs off and tells you where you need a light parting off.

lightly spread some white glue on your long grain features and send the joint home.

when you first start, mark out your waste features. At first it’s a bit confusing and you might cut out the wrong feature. Been there done that!

The traditional half lap is not harder but doable. Kingshot had a video on this. Excellent! Also keep in mind that on traditional high end work, the tails were known as pin tails. The gap is barely wide enough to get a dovetail saw in there and wiggle it about a bit.

So it’s about control….your control. Your in charge! Your not at the restrictive mercy of CNC machines, router jigs and all the other fancy kit. The more you give in to that kit, the less control you have. Stick with the basics and the old timers. Your first drawer will be fire wood. Your third drawer may show you actually may have it down. Your 10th drawer will get you the label of skilled beginner. Your 100th drawer will be sloppy as your chasing the truck to get the job out! Lol

keep at it and enjoy what your doing. Oh yah, until you get the muscle memory down, stay away from grainy wood like walnut, figured wood etc. even pine can be a pain. Chisels will follow the path of least resistance meaning they track the grain instead of going where their told. Aspen and poplar are good woods. Basswood is good. Real mahogany is awesome if you can find it. African mahogany is not mahogany at all. It’s hard and it’s grain is more difficult to work. White oak is awsome but quatersawn grain is a bit different to dovetail that flat grain. Not harder just different.

Goid Luck and have Fun!!!!!!!!
 

Devmeister

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OK forget Draper! The ones I saw were as fine as a normal S&J, they must have abandoned the spec.
n.b. there's no particular virtue in a fine kerf itself, but you do want fine teeth 15 - 20 tpi, and very little set, for a clean edged and straight cut in thin stuff.
OMG A 2mm kerf! OMG A tennon saw? Use a metal hacksaw until you can get a dovetail saw.

A dovetail saw has two differences of note. First it has the shape of a tennon saw but it’s cut as a rip saw. Second, the saw set is set very fine for better control and to improve surface finish. A fine set means it cannot clear chips from the kerf as well as other saws but in a dovetail operation that is rarely an issue.

Some dovetail saws have variable tooth pitch. I have never seen this to be an advantage.

In time some ho so far as to sharpen and even make their own DT saws. The Lie Nielsen saw is pricy but it’s based on the independence DT saw which was a copy of an old English saw. Mine is an independence saw which I got prior to LN buying them.

what’s great about eBay UK is that you can find lots of the older English stuff. The English had this stuff down. In the US we have to work harder. LN had been a great help here.
 

Devmeister

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As to getting the hang of dovetails, just actually do them. If you make a case and you might screw it together but you're not in a hurry, dovetail the case. At some point, it becomes point and shoot unless you only do it infrequently and need to have some sort of special method.

If the sawing seems hard, do some work with hand tools when you don't need to (cutting boards, etc) and dovetail sawing will become sort of reflexive.
Agreed! But keep in mind you cannot dovetail everything. Fake wood should not be dovetailed. Plam, melamine, MDF, chip board etc.;

Also bear in mind if your case is based on rail and stile panels. Here your going to have short grain in the tails. Not good! I like the machine cut lock mitre here.

what makes a dovetail so strong is the long grain in the tail feature.
 

pgrbff

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And don't bother fiddling about with a coping saw. If you get the chiselling right the waste will drop or push out. Or you could cut the sides of the pinhole down to the line and then one or two more cuts short of the line, through the waste, then easier to knock out after chiselling.
The saw cuts need to be fractionally over the line by as little as possible, so you don't have to clean out the corners.
I think it might be easier for a beginner to pare off to a line rather than chop all the way through. Especially if it is a difficult timber.
 

Jacob

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Klausz again. Full of interesting details and different ways, different saws etc. I think I'm on a bit of a learning curve!
He's very fast, which is of course very traditional. But also means you have enough leeway to do it slower and more perfectly for show.
I'm going to watch Paul Sellers next.

 

Devmeister

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I'm in the shed today finally learning to dovetail or at least trying to teach myself the extreme basics of it.

I've done the tail piece I think... Took 2 attempts because the first piece I blew out the back face of the wood with the chisel. There must be a technique to avoid this right? This is legitimately my first time really picking up the chisels for anything other than planing a bit of here and there. Any advice on this? I ask because I almost did the same on the second piece but got away with just a chip.

Going to do the pin piece now. The pin piece definitely seems a lot less intimidating as I'm just doing one dovetail in the middle of a 100mm width piece of wood. No idea what the wood is but I'm starting to think it's mdf. It was an old babies cot I've taken apart.

Is there any wisdom people could give on how to tell if the cut is actually straight? I've not got the eyes for that. Do you not really know until you try to fit it in?

Thanks.

I've gone to far into the cut on the back right hand side... Any point in continuing or do I start again?
Brilliant vid from Klausz. I'm sort of getting there but not quite as snappy!
He does pins first but I reckon most trad workers did sockets first - because you can do two sides clamped together in one op and speed things up. You can see it on old drawers where the little variations on one side match the other side exactly.
PS he does it sideways but easier turned facing the bench I think. And if you are doing a lot have a high stool - lot of leaning forwards etc gets uncomfortable, back ache etc, sitting down and you can be at it all day, perhaps.
Another thing is to set the gauge line slightly over so the ends stick through by half a mm or so, then plane them flush after the glue is dry, for a perfect appearance.
He does pins first as it suits him better. He cuts them by eye and can saw straight down quickly. But marking out the tail board is harder.
 

Just4Fun

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OMG A tennon saw? Use a metal hacksaw until you can get a dovetail saw.
I have used the tenon saw for years - decades - and I can cut accurate dovetails with it. Usually they fit straight off the saw.

A dovetail saw has two differences of note. First it has the shape of a tennon saw but it’s cut as a rip saw. Second, the saw set is set very fine for better control and to improve surface finish.
I have filed the tenon saw teeth for rip cuts, so that is not my issue. I have sort of reduced the set, but less set, a higher tooth count and a finer finish would be nice - that is why I want a dovetail saw.

what’s great about eBay UK is that you can find lots of the older English stuff.
That would be nice. Over here there are plenty of flea markets and some local auction sites but I have never even seen a dovetail saw for sale. Nor do I know anyone who owns one.
 

Devmeister

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Brilliant vid from Klausz. I'm sort of getting there but not quite as snappy!
He does pins first but I reckon most trad workers did sockets first - because you can do two sides clamped together in one op and speed things up. You can see it on old drawers where the little variations on one side match the other side exactly.
PS he does it sideways but easier turned facing the bench I think. And if you are doing a lot have a high stool - lot of leaning forwards etc gets uncomfortable, back ache etc, sitting down and you can be at it all day, perhaps.
Another thing is to set the gauge line slightly over so the ends stick through by half a mm or so, then plane them flush after the glue is dry, for a perfect appearance.
I have the most respect for klusze and love his music. But I like Becksvort approach better. YouTube Just another dovetailing video. One key take away from frank is “inside of tree/outside of drawer”. This grain orientation allows the joint to tighten as the wood dries and shrinks
 

Just4Fun

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n.b. there's no particular virtue in a fine kerf itself
I tried a zona saw with an extremely narrow kerf and really liked that feature. The saw itself though was just too flimsy for me and I soon abandoned it. I want something between that and my tenon saw.
 

Devmeister

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I have used the tenon saw for years - decades - and I can cut accurate dovetails with it. Usually they fit straight off the saw.


I have filed the tenon saw teeth for rip cuts, so that is not my issue. I have sort of reduced the set, but less set, a higher tooth count and a finer finish would be nice - that is why I want a dovetail saw.


That would be nice. Over here there are plenty of flea markets and some local auction sites but I have never even seen a dovetail saw for sale. Nor do I know anyone who owns one.
I am in the states. Finding the good stuff is one step above impossible so I opted for new.

Frank Klauze used a bow saw. I started with a coping saw and hacksaw. I have tip tennon and cross tennon saws. It can be done if you master the control. Some like Japanese saws. After years of doing this my muscle memory likes the English saw which cuts on the push. I don’t like to cut on the pull. But there are no fast rules here.
 

Devmeister

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LOL… Didn’t have the boss wondering why your not running the job on the CNC router!

He had me run 25 feet of molding on a point to point CNC router. Took 30 min to run one stick. I could have run twice the foot count in half the time on the Wynig molder.

But what if your matching a molding on old furniture? You need less than ten feet. By the time you program the CNC or god help you, grind knives for the shaper or molder etc. I can have the job done with wooden bodied hollow and round planes.
 

Devmeister

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I tried a zona saw with an extremely narrow kerf and really liked that feature. The saw itself though was just too flimsy for me and I soon abandoned it. I want something between that and my tenon saw.
Agreed. The English saw has a narrow kerf but it’s got a brass backbone. The flexi nature of Japanese saws is uncomfortable even when they cut on the pull.
 

Jacob

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What about Klausz's way with a cabinet scraper hammered in to complete a saw cut in a blind socket? Is that a goer or is he just being clever?
 

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