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post #1 of 14 Old 02-12-2012, 12:38 AM Thread Starter
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Dovetail Tools

Hello everyone, I am trying to start learning how to hand cut dovetails. At this point I am really just reaching out for advice on what tools are necessary for the job as well as models that I could look into. Since I am just a beginner I don't want to buy extremely expensive tools, but I do want to buy tools that will to the job well.


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post #2 of 14 Old 02-12-2012, 08:05 AM
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There's thoughts on this, but I have a good sharp pencil, marking gauge, some chisels (1/8" 1/4" 3/8") depending on your dovetail size, a rip tooth saw and a bevel gauge. That's the basics. Oh, and a clamp or two. Other's use a coping or fret saw, rabbet plane, marking knife, etc. I'm looking into making some dovetail markers cause my sliding Tbevel sucks.
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post #3 of 14 Old 02-12-2012, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by brose1313 View Post
I am trying to start learning how to hand cut dovetails.
When I was a 20 something child working in a Boston Hand made custom furniture factory I was working under this guy who between his brother and himself weighed a quarter ton and together they'd go into bars and start fights. Both were MMA fighters before there was any MMA. They were bruisers who studied various forms from golden gloves to Mui tai, taekwondo etc.

Anyway my boss "Mike" showed me how to cut hand cut dovetails.

He grabbed a piece of wood, & marked it with a pencil. Threw it across his - - - - knee. Cut the tails out with a saw - no particular saw just the one nearest him.
Then grabbed another piece of wood and placed it on the bench and used a Razor knife to mark the pins.
Then he tossed that across his - - - - - knee and sawed the pins out.
Then he held them up together and looked at 'em,

Then he grabbed his razor knife and pared away some stock from one of the boards and hammered them together with his fist and thrust it at me saying: "There~!! That's how you do it."

I never asked again.
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post #4 of 14 Old 02-16-2012, 09:54 AM
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Not to highjack your thread, but i'm really interested too, especially in regards to what type of saw. I've read that a 15pt Disston backsaw or gents saw works great. But those are as easy to pick up, certainly not on any budget. So what other saws are good options and relatively inexpensive?
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post #5 of 14 Old 02-16-2012, 10:10 AM
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Not to highjack your thread, but i'm really interested too, especially in regards to what type of saw. I've read that a 15pt Disston backsaw or gents saw works great. But those are as easy to pick up, certainly not on any budget. So what other saws are good options and relatively inexpensive?
I am planning on getting a Veritas DT saw. They are in the $60 range. They have gents saws even cheaper if you don't mind the straight handle. I've heard nothing but good about them. For me, too, $130 + is out of my range for a new LN or Grammercy or Wenzloff saw. Someday maybe.
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post #6 of 14 Old 02-16-2012, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by ACP View Post
I'm looking into making some dovetail markers cause my sliding Tbevel sucks.
I have a pair of these from Veritas that are VERY handy and easy to use....


Learning more about tools everyday
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post #7 of 14 Old 02-17-2012, 10:14 AM
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I've read that a 15pt Disston backsaw or gents saw works great.
I've read a few of the people generally thought of as experts along with a slew of the self appointed ones, and paid close attention to some of them while they did what they do and talked you through it.

My take away on the tooling is that you can get away with very little if you want to but it seems that there are as many ideas about what ya gotta have as there are people talking about it.

I wanted a 20 TPI saw. Something got under my skin that this was the mandatory TPI. I forget what convinced me of this.
I was hell bent to have one, but was dammed if I was going to pay the price for a decent one.
So I set about learning to file the saw by hand. That didn't work out as I hoped. SoooOOooOOoo
I made a machine that guides a file up and down in a reciprocating track with a little X - Y table to hold the blade and guide it into the file. My cross slide lead screw was 1/4-20 Allthread so I have a one turn = one tooth feed. I can swap out the lead screw for other pitches.

Then I got myself a little Saw Set.

I used large Sheet Rock Mud spreaders for the blades. Sawed 'em to the width with an abrasive blade and a water jet coolant.
Uses JB WELD and two pieces of Brass to make the backs
Made my handles. I had to figure out what "hang" is. Make the handle wrong and the blade jams up tighter than you can imagine on the push stroke Yah, I made a handle wrong before I knew there was such a thing as "hang."

Now I have a sweet cutting 20 TPI rip tooth DT saw and I'm dammed if I can tell the difference between that and a 15 TPI with a cross cut tooth by looking at the cut.
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post #8 of 14 Old 02-17-2012, 10:44 AM
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Cliff I hear you about the experts and what I`v found is the experts are usually trying to sell you some thing, I`v no problem with that they have to make a living.

But it breeds a culture of I must have this tool.

I can remember a Journey man bragging about a new dove tail saw he`d bought and what it couldn't do,a guy bet him he could cut his dove tail with a hacksaw and at the end of the job you wouldn't be able to tell the two apart.
He won is bet BTW i think a hack saw has 20 TPI.
Funny old world.
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post #9 of 14 Old 02-17-2012, 11:12 AM
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BTW I forgot to ad that I marked my dove tails out with a sliding bevel and never had any problems with it.
But just to show I`m not completely against people who sell things I read about a self employed English guy on the net, he wasn`t setting him self up as an expert just seemed to me like a tool maker that loved what he was doing I bought a dove tail template direct from him.

Simple and cheep at the time,Don`t know what he wants now.The guys name is Richard Kell.
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post #10 of 14 Old 02-17-2012, 02:55 PM
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I'm gonna go agaisnt the grain of the last few post here. I do cut dovetails by hand on a regular basis. I'm not the resident expert here persay but I do quit a bit with hand tools in general.

It's one thing to say you can cut dovetails with a steak knife, it's something totally different to assume that it would be enjoyable. I enjoy camping/kayaking/climbing a lot but I'm lucky if I get away once a year. In turn I have a relatively inexpensive kayak and camping gear. On the other hand I dive regularly therefore I have nice reliable gear for that.

The real question the OP needs answering is how often will he cut dovetails and how many. If you feel this will be your 'new thing' splurge a bit and buy tools that will be easier to use and be overall enjoyable. If it's once a year, use a steak knife and suffer miserably through it.

I by no means have the top of the line hand tools available. I'm a realist and a poor firefighter. I've based my purchasing descisions on bang per buck of performance.

I really like the Veritas 20tpi saw that I have although I probably should have gotten the 14tpi instead and it as well as the sister carcass saws or on my list for the future. I have found the Veritas saws to be the, by far, best bang value per buck.

For chisels, same thing, I have bang per buck rich Narex bevel chisels. They hold an edge and they are moderately priced.

I have a $17 marking gauge from shopfox and another I made. I use an antique stanly sliding bevel guage and a marking knife that I made. I also use a skew chisel I made as it's a great tools for cleaning up hand joinery in general.

I really hope the other guys here who use hand tools and cut dovetails by hand chime in and back me as well when I say that no matter what the task it's always easier if you enjoy it. Buy the mid-line decent tools and ENJOY doing it by hand. If a task requires blood sweat and tears it will quickly be something you give up.

Good luck!

~tom "Ignorance is not a lack of intelligence - it's a lack of know-how"
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post #11 of 14 Old 02-17-2012, 09:35 PM
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I just picked up Ian Kirby's book The complete dovetail, hand made furniture's signature joint.It's in depth to say the least, he instructs as if you know nothing about doing this, and I know nothing. He starts off explaining the heritage, the rightful manner, explains different dovetails and their uses, tools and even the way to stand when making cuts with saw or chisel.
I must admit I still haven't tried it, i'd like to get or make a skew chisel, cutting and marking gauges.
I have a gents saw from Woodcrafters, about $25, I figure if I want to continue doing this I'll get better, more expensive tools later.
Many times learning from experts,as in Cliffs example, they forget to tell you the things they take for granted as common knowledge.
I have some drawers to do soon, I may give dovetails a try then.

Socially unacceptable, Politically incorrect!
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post #12 of 14 Old 02-17-2012, 09:51 PM
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The saw is everything. Using any old saw, that leaves a ragged cut, or wanders, will make every step harder and leave a sloppy looking joint.

I have this saw and guide, combined they're $59. The saw alone is $24.50. They work very well while you gain muscle memory making the cuts. Eventually I stopped using the guide, then moved on to a western DT saw.

To me, a chisel is a chisel, as long as you know how to sharpen it. The difference will be how often they'll need resharpening.
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post #13 of 14 Old 02-19-2012, 06:23 PM
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I have Porter Cable OmniJig the smaller one....and Cherry Chisels...and several razor knives....get the dovetail bits and follow the jig set-up insturctions to a T.....you will get within a whisker without a lot of frustration and then use the razor knife to tenderly adjust the fit....use can always trim a bit more but you damn sure don;t want to take too much off. I was a fist timer and did three sets of drawers for a buffet and this set up worked wonderfully. Forgot...even new chisels, good ones, need to be sharpened out of the box...a dull chisel is worthless.
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post #14 of 14 Old 02-20-2012, 11:43 AM
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Just use a dovetail saw to cut the pins and sockets. Then a chisel to get it level.

BRISTOL ROVERS FC!
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