Dovetails: A Handmade Look With the Speed of a Jig - Page 2 - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #21 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 11:52 AM
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In a production setting, hand DTs are pretty much out of the question due to the time it takes and is typically beyond the skill of most production workers/employees.

I am fortunate enough to have reach a point in my career where I can afford to waste a little time doing hand work on occasion. I look at it as a "loss leader".

And ditto to Hammer's last post except that you can still consider yourself a skilled woodworker even without the hand DT in your repertoire.

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post #22 of 41 Old 03-11-2011, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Lola Ranch View Post
And ditto to Hammer's last post except that you can still consider yourself a skilled woodworker even without the hand DT in your repertoire.

I've been woodworking since the age of 10, and have had many failures and many sucesses. It is only recently (within the last 10 years) that I have learned to excercise patience and to not rush a project. I have to say, that I have never cut a dovetail by hand, but am proud of the dovetails that I make with my Leigh jig. I am 100% a woodworker and I am proud of it. Everyone on this forum has something to bring to the bench and regardless of skill level, experience or mehtods used, we are all woodworkers on some level, dues paid or not. Whether you consider yourself a journeyman woodworker or an apprectice woodworker, you are still a woodworker and we all have a place here on WWT. That's the great thing about this forum. Everyone fits in.

There is a very fine line between a "hobby" and a "mental illness"
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post #23 of 41 Old 03-12-2011, 09:18 PM
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There are times like building custom designs when only hand-cut will do. But for production, there are options that get a similar look. Most hand cut pins are very thin, especially at the base. A Carbide tipped DT bit is "chunky" and incapable of emulating the hand cut look. HSS bits can get closer.

Choose a HSS bit; Then vary the spacing so that the joints aren't evenly periodic in size and spacing. Most jigs on the market are incapable of varying these.

The Woodrat or the Router Boss can accomplish this with ease. These have the built in advantage of being capable of creating a bunch of other joints with precision and ease. If you have to buy new, go with the Router Boss. If you want to purchase HSS bits to use in your existing jig, contact Craftsman Gallery.
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post #24 of 41 Old 03-13-2011, 12:28 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks all. Great info!
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post #25 of 41 Old 03-13-2011, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Hammer1 View Post

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.
I'm only saying this in reference to what you posted the first time and I'm not intending to start a war. Hoping to make a somewhat coherent analogy.

I'm also a musician, albeit part time. I'm sure you're aware there is a large group of people who would say "if you cover music you're not a musician. It doesn't matter if you hit that solo note for note, you need to come up with your own sound, make it unique and pay your dues."

It's all hogwash. Whether I'm playing an original on stage or a cover, I'm a musician. People don't want to hear originals, they want the covers. Doesn't make me any less of a singer or player.

Similarly, I've never hand cut anything and have no intentions of doing such as I simply don't have the patience or the desire to learn. I want it now dammit and I want it to look as polished and perfect as possible. When I make a mistake chiseling out something and now there's an extra gap, I don't think "it's ok, I'm paying my dues", I think "UGHHHHHHH, next time I'm hitting that with a router."

That's not to say I can't look at a piece that someone hand cut and appreciate it, it's just not for me to embark on... at this point in my woodworking life.

Rock on.

Ut Prosim
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post #26 of 41 Old 03-13-2011, 09:35 PM
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This has gone from a discussion as to if you can tell the difference between machine cut and hand cut dovetails to whether one can call oneself a "real" woodworker if you don't use handtools. Unless you are doing this as a living, in which case the customer will tell you, most anything you do can be considered woodworking. There are a near infinite number of skillsets that will be achieved over many years of learning.
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post #27 of 41 Old 03-13-2011, 11:39 PM
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I did not see a post that said you aren't a real woodworker if you don't do hand cut DTs. Quite the contrary I thought.

Let me pose this question. "Does learning the skill of hand dovetails make you a better woodworker?"

I would say that it would at least make you more well rounded, as would learning any new skill. For instance, I could learn a lot from Kenbo about operating a scroll saw. I don't have a scroll saw and have used one very little.

But would it make you "better"?

Woodworking philosophy 101.

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post #28 of 41 Old 03-14-2011, 12:41 AM
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Let me pose this question. "Does learning the skill of hand dovetails make you a better woodworker?"

As someone who is in woodworking full time to earn a living my personal opinion is that if you do not have good handtool skills you are not as good as you could be. I would point out that if the work is that of a kitchen cabinet maker or cnc operator these are not skills you would need, but you would still not be as well rounded as you could be.
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post #29 of 41 Old 03-14-2011, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Lola Ranch View Post
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
I enjoyed that .02.

I have only used the Leigh jig for dovetails. I really do want to become proficient at cutting them by hand though, like you, for special projects. I too think the hand cut ones look better. I dont have yalls experience though and I needed to sell products so I opted to get a tool that will produce dovetails (Leigh D-1600). I bought it used on another forum. It sure is fast and I can space the dovetails like I choose. I still think the hand cut ones look better and aspire to that. Good thread yall

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post #30 of 41 Old 03-14-2011, 04:36 PM
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a person who works in wood, such as a carpenter, joiner, or cabinet-maker.
Whew! That was close.

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post #31 of 41 Old 03-16-2011, 01:34 PM Thread Starter
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Why handmade then?

Wow, interesting just how passionate everyone is on this subject.

Question for those who prefer to make them handmade. Is it because of the look or because it is handmade?

Thanks in advance!
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post #32 of 41 Old 03-16-2011, 02:23 PM
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post #33 of 41 Old 08-10-2011, 02:42 PM
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my gramps was as great worker-wood, metal,concrete, farmer, and still found time to work for the local water district . as a kid i saw him make "stuff" out of wood. i recall seeing my first dovetail joint many years later and thinking, so this is what grampa was doing. for me, carving out a dovetail by hand has the appeal of trying to do it like my grandpa and his dad and grandad did it, because they had no jig or router, and it smelled great when the wood was being carved. i havent the time that i wish i did for woodworking, and i dont have that particular skill yet. it is something that i am looking forward to learning, but for the moment, i will use a jig and router bit. does that make me a poorly rounded woodworker or not? i dont know, but more importatnly i dont care. if at the end of a project i can stand back, look at it,think, "that looks nice" and have my kids say "that looks nice daddy, can i put it in my room?", then it is ok for me. im sure everyone here can do something that no one else can, and as someone already posted, it is a forum where we all fit.
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post #34 of 41 Old 08-12-2011, 08:10 PM
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I Think it really comes down to time. If you have it, go for the handcut, if you don't, jigs do a good job and it's not something that an average joe be able to spot anyway.

Personally DT's piss me off cos I have hands like shovels and usually screw them up (with some happy exceptions). I tend to go for pinned rebates (sorry, I'm English ha ha), they're simple, elegant and take a fraction of the time

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post #35 of 41 Old 08-19-2011, 11:57 AM
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I was fortunate enough to learn from a master cabinet maker, he made me learn how to do hand dovetails before I could use a jig and yes you can tell the difference. A lot of our customers could tell the difference, some may not know why they like one over the other, but the hand one catches there eye just like a hand rubbed finish will draw there attention over a non rubbed finish. As for time in a production shop making antique reproductions, why not have an option like we did. If you want hand cut it cost this much, if you want machined it cost this much as well as if a customer wants handplaning or not. Just my .02 cents. Someone could paint a mona lisa and another throw cow poop on a canvas, someone will buy it and call both artist.
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post #36 of 41 Old 09-03-2011, 10:34 PM
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When I decided to get back into woodworking I decided to go with traditional woodworking because I am poor and cant afford expensive machinery.....I also dont have a place to set up machinery....and because I dont like the noise associated with machinery... plus...all I want to do is small projects for help me get away from all of the pain and misery I suffer from just trying to get thru this life.

Id absolutely love to own a huge bandsaw to be a big one though so I could do a little milling on some of the wood I run across after storms around here...

Id be in heaven if I could own one of those big portable bandsaw/sawmills..... I just love wood so much.... It would be so nice to be able to harvest it and turn it into some wonderfull boards for woodworking.....

anyhow..... Im stuck with scraps I find and handtools... but I dont see myself any different than the guys who use the router tables and the incra jigs... we all love working with wood and Im sure that if the great masters of years past had access to what we had today....they would throw down their panel saws and jointer planes and embrace the machinery. Its all about making the wood look good.....

As for handcut dovetails..... in the past it was the job of the apprentices and shop monkeys.... it wasnt done so much to impress was done for glue surface and to keep things from being pulled apart under stress.

Like everything else in life anyone can master dont need a book or a rob cossman video..... you need a saw, a chisel and hammer....and a couple of pieces of wood......and some time to practice. Practice.....measure twice or three times...keep your tools sharp and in good shape.

And I will also agree that it takes skill to operate woodworking machinery.... it still takes planning and measuring skills and like I stated above.... machine woodworkers are no different than those who possess or chose to use the old methods.... its the 21st century....and we wouldnt have all these machines if it wasnt for the woodworkers of the past coming up with these machines to make the difficult tasks easier to perform.

I like doing things the traditional way...but if I had the extra cash and the room for the equipment.....Id probably have a bandsaw, a table saw and a the very least..... probably have a router and dovetail jig

I still dont even have a workbench after two years.... I do have some wood for a top and its clamped together with all thread rod sitting on top of my old steel cabinet on the back porch..... but its better than trying to work on that old metal top.

My goal is to have an actual all wood workbench by winter this year...and hopefully in time to do some work on it before it gets too cold to work on the back porch.
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post #37 of 41 Old 09-22-2011, 01:38 PM
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A good woodworker makes wood into the correct shape. It is irrelevant how he gets there. Some people walk, some take a cab. Others drive themselves. One cannot claim they used the wrong mode of transportation when they got there on time and safely.

Some people love the journey. Some people just love to arrive. The end result is, hopefully, a working dovetail.
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post #38 of 41 Old 09-23-2011, 08:25 PM
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It has been an interesting thread seeing people's "colours"
I have used and use both. I like my Leigh jig if there a a lot of drawers especially on a utility piece. They look fine if done well. If only one set of dovetail joints is involved or the joinery is part of the "look" then hand cutting them is good. The old debate as to whether to cut the tails or pins first could keep this thread going for many pages.
All you need is a good saw, a sharp small chisel and some patience.
Using a jig always seems to take a bit of time setting up so is best for multiples.
Their(Leigh) mortise and tenon jig is even more handy and quick. Is it OK?
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post #39 of 41 Old 09-30-2011, 08:09 AM
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Another Two Cents

I've been wood working almost seriously since the early 1980's. Power tools and jigs are indespensible, but just like a carcass saw, have their times and places.

Before buying my first hand operated carcass saws and dovetail saw this year I spent some time trying to figure out just why I wanted to "step back in time" and begin to make joints and other things the old fashioned way. After awhile it finally dawned on me: when setting up jigs on a power tool I feel more like a machinist than a wood worker. Using more traditional tools lets me feel more like a wood worker than a machinist.

My $ .02
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post #40 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 04:48 PM
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Yes Scribbler, maybe is because of that saying... "When you like what you do...". By hand is closer than with machines...

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