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So this Dovetailing business?...

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Devmeister

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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?
Both! He did this for a living so it’s about saving time. I use sharp chisels and pare my way to the end.

I like the sharp neat corners of the socket you get with hand tools. No machine will get you that.

once you have your initial saw kerf, you have a guide to help you pare down by nibbling away the stock.
 

Jacob

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......

I like the sharp neat corners of the socket you get with hand tools. ......
Not so easy with pine - I find myself having to work very carefully to knife or gauge cut lines but the sides of the sockets break out and look messy. They end up out of sight so that's OK.
 

Just4Fun

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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?
I do that and find it works well. Best to do it in stages though - start near the face of the piece and work in to the full depth of the socket in 2 or 3 bites.
 

Cabinetman

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I remember Mike G now gone member of this parish used a cut off square butter knife (Bone handled type) to do that with instead of the cabinet scraper, The more I think about it I’m sure it would work well. Ian
 

Jacob

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I do that and find it works well. Best to do it in stages though - start near the face of the piece and work in to the full depth of the socket in 2 or 3 bites.
Right I'll give it a go.
Just checked my 2 old S&J DT saws - they both have 0.4mm thick plate and 21 t.p.i. which is as good as you get I imagine. Difficult to sharpen - can't see the teeth so have to black felt tip first and rely on the shiny filed teeth for reference, and just do same stroke from end to end one way and then the other. Not perfectly even but seem to cut OK
 

Devmeister

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Not so easy with pine - I find myself having to work very carefully to knife or gauge cut lines but the sides of the sockets break out and look messy. They end up out of sight so that's OK.
Pine is a soft wood but modern pine is fourth or fifth generation these days. That means wide jouvenile growth rings and softer more fiberous sap wood. In the states, Townsend was a decifle of chippendale and his work was walnut and pine (often not always). Chippendale used Cuban mahogany and oak or sycamore.

when working modern pine, you need super sharp tools and take your time. I personally hate the stuff esp the knots and it’s questionable stability. Pattern grade surgar pine is a joy to work with. Alaskan yellow cedar is awsome!!!! It’s growth rings are insane tight, machines like plastic and offers total control with hand tools. Aspen and poplar are good choices for cheap drawer linings. Bubinga esp figured is a nightmare!
 

Adam W.

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If you can cut spruce endgrain cleanly, you can pretty much cut anything, which is why it's such a good wood to practice on.

It's a crumbly nightmare and demands sharp tools and good technique, oak is a doddle compared to it.
 

Nelly111s

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I know @Peter Sefton has given a lot of info earlier in this thread, but here’s another resource from Chris Tribe, which I found very useful.


There’s also a pdf for those who like to read rather than watch

 
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Kaizen123

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Great to have such a healthy load of tips here. I have a couple questions if I can.

So first or all I'm gonna jump into this saw debate. I have a Presch dovetailsaw (what it was listed as on Amazon) and it seems very thick for a decent fine cut. It's also got teeth more like a normal jobsite saw and not fine at all so it feels like it's impossible to get a good cut started. It also feels clunky and the handle off to the side thing is not my favourite. I know its for changing over sides when you need it but it just doesn't feel good to use for accurate fine cutting at all. Other than that it's alright but not fit for begginers dovetailing perhaps. I am definitely going to get myself the Suizan 265mm Kataba. £25 and the blade is a lot thinner and finer than the Presch me thinks.

The next thing is my dovetail marker (also Amazon). I am looking at dovetails people have done and it looks like there is a much bigger angle on them. You can make them any size you want right? 1:8 being the most common for hardwood in England? Anyway. I'm wondering now if I'm using it correctly. Am I supposed to use both the 'inside' and 'outside' markers for one joint? I am a bit confuddled with it. Just because of the angles I have seen on other dovetails look a lot more noticeable than mine.

So am I even using the marker correctly?
 

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Kaizen123

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If you can cut spruce endgrain cleanly, you can pretty much cut anything, which is why it's such a good wood to practice on.

It's a crumbly nightmare and demands sharp tools and good technique, oak is a doddle compared to it.
I've still got my Christmas tree!! Might try it :D
 

Jacob

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Great to have such a healthy load of tips here. I have a couple questions if I can.

So first or all I'm gonna jump into this saw debate. I have a Presch dovetailsaw (what it was listed as on Amazon) and it seems very thick for a decent fine cut. It's also got teeth more like a normal jobsite saw and not fine at all so it feels like it's impossible to get a good cut started. It also feels clunky and the handle off to the side thing is not my favourite. I know its for changing over sides when you need it but it just doesn't feel good to use for accurate fine cutting at all. Other than that it's alright but not fit for begginers dovetailing perhaps. I am definitely going to get myself the Suizan 265mm Kataba. £25 and the blade is a lot thinner and finer than the Presch me thinks.

The next thing is my dovetail marker (also Amazon). I am looking at dovetails people have done and it looks like there is a much bigger angle on them. You can make them any size you want right? 1:8 being the most common for hardwood in England? Anyway. I'm wondering now if I'm using it correctly. Am I supposed to use both the 'inside' and 'outside' markers for one joint? I am a bit confuddled with it. Just because of the angles I have seen on other dovetails look a lot more noticeable than mine.

So am I even using the marker correctly?
Yes saw looks crape!
Sliding bevel works just as well as a marker, but you can do them freehand if you don't mind a bit of variation! Those "correct" ratios (1/8, 1/6) are just a guide - in the real world they vary from near zero to near 45º.
 

Ttrees

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Sliding bevel works just as well as a marker, but you can do them freehand eventually. Those "correct" ratios (1/8, 1/6) are just a guide - in the real world they vary from near zero to near 45º.
Yea, I never clocked it that things are relative to proportion.
Cosman pointed that out well in the video underneath, as many of the boxes he makes the sides are chunkier than many folks make them.
Clipped to the part I was on about
 

paulrbarnard

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Great to have such a healthy load of tips here. I have a couple questions if I can.

So first or all I'm gonna jump into this saw debate. I have a Presch dovetailsaw (what it was listed as on Amazon) and it seems very thick for a decent fine cut. It's also got teeth more like a normal jobsite saw and not fine at all so it feels like it's impossible to get a good cut started. It also feels clunky and the handle off to the side thing is not my favourite. I know its for changing over sides when you need it but it just doesn't feel good to use for accurate fine cutting at all. Other than that it's alright but not fit for begginers dovetailing perhaps. I am definitely going to get myself the Suizan 265mm Kataba. £25 and the blade is a lot thinner and finer than the Presch me thinks.

The next thing is my dovetail marker (also Amazon). I am looking at dovetails people have done and it looks like there is a much bigger angle on them. You can make them any size you want right? 1:8 being the most common for hardwood in England? Anyway. I'm wondering now if I'm using it correctly. Am I supposed to use both the 'inside' and 'outside' markers for one joint? I am a bit confuddled with it. Just because of the angles I have seen on other dovetails look a lot more noticeable than mine.

So am I even using the marker correctly?
The saw does look horrendous. To be able to make an accurate and straight cut you need to be able to control the saw. My preference is a pistol grip western saw. What you will find is after cutting a number of dovetails you develope a muscle memory and can repeatedly cut at the same angle each time. I cut my tails first and cut all the same sides of a row of tails then twist my wrist to get the other angle and cut the other sides. I find the pistol grip to be much better for a repeated registration in the hand. But many people prefer the round gents saw type handle and that's fine too.

For the marking out I think you are having some struggles. The angles are important but not critical. The difference is generally for hardwood vs softwood. A typical hardwood tail will be 1 in 7 and a typical softwood tail would be 1 in 6. That said as long as the tail is not too extreme pretty much any angle will work that gives an ecstatic that you are happy, 1 in 8 is a good option that will work with everything. There is no need to have exactly the same angle on both sides of the tail. If I'm doing a "fancy" joint where the joint is a part of the design look then I will lay them out accurately to get even spacing using dividers and a dovetail marker to get consistent angles.
Here is an example where the joint is an integral part of the design so these were laid out accurately
IMG_2501.jpeg

If I'm just making a box to hold some tools then I only mark the depth I need to cut (the thickness of the pin board) using a marking gauge. Then pencil a line across the tops of the tails, on the width of the board, with a square so that I have a guide to cutting straight. I don't mark down the side of the tail at all and simply angle the saw to what feels right then cut down to the gauge line.

I might be wrong but I think you are placing your dovetail gauge on the wood and drawing both edges of a tail directly from the gauge without moving it. The dovetail gauge is realy just a specialised square and you should use it in the same way. Slide it up to the point where you want to mark the angle then move it to the next place. I mark all one angle first then go back and mark the other side of the tails using the oppoisite angle on the gauge. After that you don't use it again. The pins are marked directly from the tails after the tails are cut. With the exception of the gauge line for depth I use a pencil to mark out the tails. The pins are traced from the tails using a knife.

Just a comment, one that might get some debate, is that cutting the tails first lets you saw the less critical angled cut first. If you don't cut the angle consistently on each tail it doesn't matter. As long as the cut is at right angles to the board it is fine. When you cut the pins you have the marking knife line to show you exactly what angle you need to cut across the board to match the tails it will fit with and the saw cut is simply perpendicular to the top of the board. Cutting with a saw perpendicular to a board edge is much easier than trying to cut to a desired angle. Grab yourself a board and use a square to scribe a few lines accross the edge of the board then use your dove tail gauge to continue a few of the lines down the board like you are marking tails. Then use the square to mark a few of them at 90 degrees like you would do for pins. Have at them with your saw and I think you will find that you will be able to cut more accurately to the 90 degree lines than the angled lines. For me that is the main reason for Tails first. Tails first is also a litte easir to deal with when marking the pins from the tails compared to the tails from the pins. You will find that some people will angle the board in a vice so that the tail cut lines are straight up and down and may be something you want to try but for me it is an extra step i don't use.

Edit: Corrected my softwood tail angle. My dyslexia for the better of me and i looked at my guge upside down. I use 1:6 not 1:9 :)
 
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Cooper

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Lots of good advice above but life is too short for me to read all of it. My advice, as someone who taught children wood work a long time ago, is that practice surprisingly makes make perfect.
The other more useful but dishonest is that if you are making a piece with a lot of pins and tails and you are not entirely sure of your skills, cut the pins and tails a bit long. Then if it all goes together nicely, but still there are a few gaps, you have a bit of extra wood that you can "rivet" with a few judicious taps.
This may have been suggested above already.
Good luck and keep up the good work
Martin
 

thetyreman

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looking at that saw, first thing I'd do is replace it, look up vintage dovetail saw on ebay and it'll come up with loads of them, spear and jackson spearior are good, that's the one I use, make sure it's not a hardpoint saw then you can easily sharpen it and learn how to do it, another skill that shouldn't be avoided. I like 14-16 tpi for dovetails, 20 tpi is a bit too fine and much harder to sharpen.
 
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thetyreman

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If you can cut spruce endgrain cleanly, you can pretty much cut anything, which is why it's such a good wood to practice on.

It's a crumbly nightmare and demands sharp tools and good technique, oak is a doddle compared to it.
+1 that's why I like using spruce and also pines, if you can do it in that species it'll work with anything.
 
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