Dovetails: A Handmade Look With the Speed of a Jig - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 41 Old 03-09-2011, 09:58 PM Thread Starter
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Dovetails: A Handmade Look With the Speed of a Jig

I've run into a few woodworkers who want the handmade look for their dovetails, but they become frustrated with the time commitment. Jigs are quicker, but they're easy to distinguish from a fine, handcut dovetail joint. Does anyone else find that trade-off annoying?
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post #2 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 02:56 AM
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If you use a Leigh jig each space can be varied so that dovetails of different sizes. This will give a handmade look.
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post #3 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 04:25 AM
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I like the handmade look as well. A while ago, I ran across this jig that can do handmade appearing, like the Leigh at a lot less $$. Granted, more work.

http://praziusa.com/chestmate.html
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post #4 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 08:32 AM
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Hand cut dovetails are only difficult for beginners. Like everything else, it's a matter of practice. If you aren't willing to put in the effort to learn, can you call yourself a woodworker? There are times to use hand cuts and other times when it doesn't make any difference. Most non-woodworkers wouldn't know the difference without an explanation, that they don't actually care about. Doesn't matter what router jig one uses or how they are spaced, you aren't faking anyone out. Machine cut dovetails are machine cut and every woodworker knows that with one look.
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post #5 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 10:17 AM
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Ummmm OK
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post #6 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 01:52 PM
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Here is a quick how to video on hand made dovetails. Its a good reference to start your practice.

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post #7 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Grubgrub View Post
Here is a quick how to video on hand made dovetails. Its a good reference to start your practice.

I didn't view the video, but I wouldn't use a coping saw for cutting DT's.

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post #8 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 02:28 PM
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Just jump and spend a little extra time hand cutting. Once you've got it down you can make them pretty darn quick.

Think the coping saw was to trim out the waste between tails, Scott.

Lots of good vids with great tips on DTs. Lots of time savers.

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post #9 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 03:19 PM
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Think the coping saw was to trim out the waste between tails, Scott
The cut shown on the video cover, is an initial cut.

Chisel, is how I always chopped 'em out.

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post #10 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 10:20 PM
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When I cut dovetails, I use a band saw and a simple jig.

9:1 for softwood
7:1 for hardwood

Use the right tool for the job.

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post #11 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 10:24 PM
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The cut on the video is not the first cut. I used to chop them as well,once I tried Rob Cosman's approach I've never chopped again. I think if you try it you won't either.
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post #12 of 41 Old 03-10-2011, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Hammer1 View Post
Hand cut dovetails are only difficult for beginners. Like everything else, it's a matter of practice. If you aren't willing to put in the effort to learn, can you call yourself a woodworker?

Most definitely. There is more to woodworking or being a woodworker than doing everything by hand. Woodworking is a personal thing and everyone has their own style. I don't cut dovetails by hand, but that does not make me any less of a woodworker. Whether you work with power tools and jigs, or with hand tools and sweat, your are equally defined as a woodworker. I'm proud of the work that I do, whether I do it by hand or not and I do both. Just because someone does the work by hand, it does not put them on a higher plain than one who uses jigs and power tools. They are both woodworkers. Same working material, same satisfaction at the end of a project, just 2 different ways of acheiving a similar goal. I'm not starting a war here, I just think that your judgement may be a little biased and clouded on this one.

There is a very fine line between a "hobby" and a "mental illness"
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post #13 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 01:25 AM
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What Kenbo said
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post #14 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 01:27 AM
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I agree with Kenbo on this one
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post #15 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 02:21 AM
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I've been a woodworker professionally and as a hobby for over forty years but it wasn't more than two years ago that I had never cut dovetail joints totally by hand. I have various router jigs and specialized sleds for the table saw. I've also used the band saw a lot for help with dovetails. I just felt that a well rounded woodworker should have the skill to cut these classic drawer connections using only hand tools, so I began practicing.

I watched a few videos, read a few articles and then began butchering perfectly good pieces of wood. The first attempts were not pretty. I bought a nice little dovetail saw because the promise was that it would improve my joinery. I took extra care sharpening my chisels. And I kept practicing. I can now say that I can cut pretty decent DTs all by hand, both through and half blinds and even some special curved ones. It's a look that is hard to duplicate with power tools, you can see the effort of the maker.

I still use a router jig or table saw sleds for production runs and save the hand work for special projects or for something I'll keep for myself.

I've developed some techniques along the way that have helped me get better results. I built a good vise attached to a solid bench that does not move around. I use extra lighting and magnifying glasses. I lay the cuts out with a mechanical pencil using a hard #4 lead and a shop made dovetail square. I cut the sides of the tails with the DT saw and clean out most of the waste with the coping saw so that when I chop out the remaining waste I'm only chopping an 1/8" or less which is less trauma to the wood.

I don't do three minute DTs. But I can do two drawers with DTs front and back, eight corners, in about an hour and a half. A little longer for half blinds. It's fun, It's also not as dusty or noisy as doing it with power equipment.

My 2 cents, Bret
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post #16 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 02:29 AM
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One approach to a middle ground was a chapter in Taunton's working with TableSaws. At the moment, that chapter is on google books:
http://books.google.com/books?id=qiX...page&q&f=false
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post #17 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 05:23 AM
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Kenbo's right.

If the joints fit tight, it'll be strong. Doesn't matter if you use a jig, coping saw, chop the waste, pins first, tails first, etc.

I think it takes as much woodworker skill to set up a jig, and end up with proper half pins, as it is to lay out and cut and chop by hand.

I cut mine by hand (I also flatten table tops with a plane) because I don't like the sound of power tools, and I enjoy it.
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post #18 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 06:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammer1 View Post
Hand cut dovetails are only difficult for beginners. Like everything else, it's a matter of practice. If you aren't willing to put in the effort to learn, can you call yourself a woodworker? There are times to use hand cuts and other times when it doesn't make any difference. Most non-woodworkers wouldn't know the difference without an explanation, that they don't actually care about. Doesn't matter what router jig one uses or how they are spaced, you aren't faking anyone out. Machine cut dovetails are machine cut and every woodworker knows that with one look.
Feeling a little superior today are we? I certainly disagree with your comments.

How a person accomplished a job has no bearing on how good a woodworker he/she is. I am absolutely sure that there are many, many exceptional woodworkers on this board who have never cut a hand dovetail.

A professional in a cabinet shop cannot afford the time to make all dovetails by hand. That does not make them any less of a woodworker.

Enough.

George
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post #19 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 07:04 AM
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Thank you, so many of you for your comments. I am fairly new to woodworking and very new to the site. I am definitely here to learn and I am impressed with the courtesy on this site. There are some pretty great woodworkers here and for the vast majority, you all seem to be willing to help the "New Kids" out. I have to admit that I was put off by what seems to be a dressing down by Hammer1. It did cause me to knuckle down and learn more. I spend the evening last night watching Dovetail Videos.

I have a few small projects to get out in support of a career move my wife is making. After that, I had already planned to take my collection of scrap woods and practice Joinery in hopes of learning and improving. Dovetails are now on that list.
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post #20 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 09:55 AM
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I think folks misunderstood my post. It isn't about hand tools vs power tools, I don't think that issue is an issue at all. To be a woodworker, you have to pay your dues. It doesn't matter if you are setting up a CNC machine or using a chisel. You have to put in the effort, make mistakes, analyise both the successes and failures and hone your skills. You don't advance without putting in the work. There aren't any hand or power tools that will automatically make a person a woodworker just by owning them.

When it comes to hand cut dovetails, you can't fake them. Router cut dovetails, regardless of the spacing are obvious. Either way, they aren't easy. We have to know our tops from bottoms, lefts from rights, fronts from backs, insides from outsides. You need the right bit, pieces oriented in the jig properly, depth of cut set, then not make any miscues running the router. Hand cutting has it's logistics, too. We are all going to make some mistakes with either.

I'm a musician. There are times I want to learn a lick or phrase or cover a song. I don't want to approximately play the part. I want to nail it. It can be a real struggle. I may only be able to play a hand full of notes in the proper sequence and meter after many hours of practice. It can take weeks, even months of dedicated practice to get some parts down but once I have them, they're mine.

The same is true of most things. If you want to hand cut dovetails, you have to put in the practice time. It may not be easy or fast at first but eventually, you will own the skill. There isn't anything quite like reaping the rewards of hard work. When you truly earn something rather than have it handed to you, you have taken a big step that often transfers to other tasks. When it comes to calling yourself a woodworker, can you use that description if all you can do is cut accurately with a power saw or, conversely, a hand saw? You need both skills.
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