Cutting out dovetails with a coping saw - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 04:09 AM Thread Starter
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Cutting out dovetails with a coping saw

I feel like an idiot asking such a basic question but... how do you use a coping saw on dovetails (or box joints, etc)?

I have looked over the Internet and searched the forums and couldn't find quite what I was looking for.

My understanding is that you saw out the bottom of the tails with a coping saw. The idea being to cut from the inside out. But... how do you insert the coping saw blade?

What I've been doing is using the drill press to drill a coping saw blade sized hole in the middle of the waste. Then I stick the coping saw blade in there and assemble the saw. And saw out the bottom of the waste.

I'm pretty sure that's wrong. For one thing, the drill hole leaves a rounded out area at the bottom of the waste. This means that the bottom of the cut is not flat and I have a very hard time making the bottom perfectly flat with chisels. And in the process of trying to straighten the bottom out with chisels I often take out too much material.

I had the same problem with box joints.
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post #2 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 04:44 AM
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Normally the pins and the tails sides are cut out with a dove tail saw and the coping saw or a fret saw is inserted in this cut and then used to cut the waste away at the bottom of the joint.

If you leave to much of the waste in place and then set the chisel on your cut line the very shape of the chisel and the resistance of the waste will force the chisel backward and you will be cutting the joint to deep.

Try setting the chisel just of the line in the waste and strike it and observe just how much the chisel moves backward.

Heres a link to a thread I did early this year on dove tails if you find any thing that you can use then by all means do so. Billy


http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f11/h...ew-guys-35853/
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post #3 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 07:24 AM
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First of all cutting a dovetail by hand is difficult. It is one of the reason the dovetail joint became popular. At one time all of the dovetail joints were done by hand and a person shopping for a cabinetmaker would check out their dovetail work to see what kind of a craftsman they were. The idea became if the dovetail work was good it was a sign that shop had a high level of craftsmanship and their still doing today it even though most all dovetails are done with machinery.


The sides of the tails I would cut with a back saw. That would work to drill a hole to insert the coping saw blade to cut the bottom however it would be a pain to me to take the blade off for every cut. I would rather make a circular cut from the side turning to the angle to cut the bottom of the tail. Then turn the saw 180 degrees and cut the other direction to square up the other half of the tail. Then where you make the transition from the two cuts you might have to true the cut a little with a sharp chisel.
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post #4 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 03:06 PM Thread Starter
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I tried using the coping saw to saw from the top of the waste down to the waste line. And all I succeeded in doing was to get the saw blade stuck was I tried to turn it into the waste line. I was able to saw part of the waste to the bottom of the line, but once I turn it around I'm not able to saw it correctly. I end up with a slope on one side.

I considered just trying to chop the entire waste out at the line with a chisel. But I think I'd need a mortise chisel for that. And chopping through 3/4 inch of cherry with a chisel is easier said than done.
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post #5 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 03:40 PM
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Click on the link and go to post 38
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post #6 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the replies. I apologize if this is too much to ask, but can someone post some photos (or links to such) of the process of cutting out the waste with a coping saw? The problem is that I can't fit my coping saw blade into the kerf left by the dovetail saw. To see it in progress would of great assistance.
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post #7 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 12:19 AM
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If your coping saw blade is too large for the dovetail saw kerf, you need to get a smaller blade.

"Good Behavior is the last refuge of mediocrity" -- Henry S. Haskins
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post #8 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 07:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Purrmaster View Post
I tried using the coping saw to saw from the top of the waste down to the waste line. And all I succeeded in doing was to get the saw blade stuck was I tried to turn it into the waste line. I was able to saw part of the waste to the bottom of the line, but once I turn it around I'm not able to saw it correctly. I end up with a slope on one side.

I considered just trying to chop the entire waste out at the line with a chisel. But I think I'd need a mortise chisel for that. And chopping through 3/4 inch of cherry with a chisel is easier said than done.
It sounds like trc65 hit on the problem. You need a very small coping saw blade to make a turn like that. Having a slope on one side is why most people use a router to dovetail. You can do it, its just going to take a lot of practice to make the cut always at 90 degrees. If you wanted to cheat on it you could get a table model jig saw. Then the blade would stay at 90 degrees.
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post #9 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 08:53 AM
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Tims right if the kerf from your back saw is to thin for a coping saw then you need to get a fret saw, the blade from a fretsaw is much thinner than a coping saw.
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post #10 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 09:02 AM
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To show the use of a coping saw(fret saw) see pics

Start the cut up off the line and turn the saw as you push forward nothing to it really. Just keep the cut away from the base line
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post #11 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 09:22 AM
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If you are having problems with the base line clamp a block of wood on the base line and use it as a backing for the chisel.Turn it over and repeat.

The other way to cut it out is to chop it out just using the chisel but again staying away from the base line and paring it up later.

Two pics look the same here 3&4 but if you look closely in No3 the chisel is just placed by the base line but in No4 it has been struck and has moved back towards the base line. This is what causes the cut to be to deep when you set the chisel on the base line and strike.
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post #12 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 04:33 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the images. That makes more sense now.

On the image showing the fret saw cutting out the waste, is it safe to assume I will always have a "ledge" on one side? That is, one corner will have more material left on it than the other? And that would require chiseling?

The best set of chisels I have are Irwin Marples bench chisels. Will these be sufficient?

I have a hell of a time using the chisels to make a flat bottom to the line. But I guess I'll need to read more and practice more.
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post #13 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 06:04 PM
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[QUOTE=Purrmaster;369696]Thank you for the images. That makes more sense now.

On the image showing the fret saw cutting out the waste, is it safe to assume I will always have a "ledge" on one side? That is, one corner will have more material left on it than the other?

No that's just the way I cut it, but all I`m trying to do is hog out the stock I allways cut my base line with a chisel.
The only time I cut to the base line is with a cut that is called a London style dove tail?That can come later.

Irwin marpels should be able to handle all these cuts.

Google scary sharp and learn what sharp is.


You asked for a link go back to my original post No 2 at the bottom of the post in blue letters there is a link called "Hand cut dove tails for new guys" click on this you may find it interesting.


Enjoy your hobby,Billy
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post #14 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 11:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Purrmaster View Post
Thank you for the images. That makes more sense now.

On the image showing the fret saw cutting out the waste, is it safe to assume I will always have a "ledge" on one side? That is, one corner will have more material left on it than the other? And that would require chiseling?

The best set of chisels I have are Irwin Marples bench chisels. Will these be sufficient?

I have a hell of a time using the chisels to make a flat bottom to the line. But I guess I'll need to read more and practice more.
I am a woodcarver and I believe I have about 40 chisels which 4 of them are Harbor Freight chisels. I really can't see very much difference between any of them so the Irwin Marple chisels will be more than fine. What you need is a set of natural sharpening stones and learn how to sharpen them. You can sharpen a chisel razor sharp and would work very well for you. You might go to the website for Garret Wade Woodworking and see about the sharpening stones. You will need a stone that is coarse which looks kind of like granite. Then a medium stone which looks like sandstone. Then a fine stone which is white and looks like marble and then a very fine stone that is black. Don't buy honing oil. Keep natural stones in water 24/7. The water will rust out any steel impacted into the stone keeping them workable. Many of the sharpening stones I have were bought in 1975 and are a good today as when I bought them.
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post #15 of 27 Old 08-21-2012, 02:12 PM Thread Starter
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As far as sharpening goes, I have the Work Sharp WS3000. It works well for chisels in the sharpening port. The Work Sharp is essentially the scary sharp method. Though I think the 6000 grit micro mesh may not be a fine enough. I got some finer micro mesh discs from scientific instrument services. I haven't actually put them on the glass wheels yet. I think I've got 8,000 and 12,0000.
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post #16 of 27 Old 08-21-2012, 02:20 PM
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Way to go man so chopping out with the chisels you have should be no problem.
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post #17 of 27 Old 08-21-2012, 07:59 PM
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BTW your welcome
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post #18 of 27 Old 08-21-2012, 09:14 PM Thread Starter
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Once again, many thanks. The more information the merrier.
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post #19 of 27 Old 08-21-2012, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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It occurred to me I might want to eventually invest in a small shoulder plane to clean out the bottoms. Addtionally, would there be any point in regrinding the bevel on any of the chisels to a different angle? They are all at 25 degrees now. I'll leave the Marples chisels at 25 but I can experiment on the crappy chisels.

I might invest in a set of Narex mortise chisels at some point. I've read good things about them on forums such as these.
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post #20 of 27 Old 08-23-2012, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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I'm going to pick up a fret saw and some blades today as you folks recommended.

On a somewhat related note, I've found that 3M 2000 grit sandpaper glued to the glass wheel of the Work Sharp seems to put a better polish on chisels than even the 8,000 grit Micro Mesh. Odd.
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