limited tools, finger joint or dovetail? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 03-31-2012, 06:42 AM Thread Starter
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limited tools, finger joint or dovetail?

Greetings to all:
I currently have limited tools (no table saw) and am looking to build a hope chest. I am torn between trying my hand at dovetails or using finger joints. I have a router table but no table saw.
I am torn between the two, but if I do dovetails it would be by hand and if I do finger joints I would need to make a jig for them.
This is a very opinion based question, I know people have their favorites.
Thanks in advance for those that chime in their $0.02
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post #2 of 6 Old 03-31-2012, 07:28 AM
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Both joints can be done entirely with hand tools.
Power tools would make it a little easier but lots of time will be spent setting up a jig and other machining processes.

Try your hand at cutting some dovetails using a gent's saw or a coping saw and having a couple of very sharp chisels.

There's lots of Youtube videos on cutting dovetails by hand.

You're building a hope heirloom.
Do it by hand.
Make it your art.
....and have fun......

Learning more about tools everyday
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post #3 of 6 Old 03-31-2012, 09:06 AM
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The finger joint would be easier for you to do and is stronger. As far as the dovetail, I prefer the through dovetail joint. The picture of the broken dovetail is the most common. I don't like this one at all. I have a great deal of experience with antique repair and most of the dovetail joints I have encountered is on drawers. Almost every time when a drawer needs to be repaired, it's this type of dovetail and the pins and tails are broken to where you have to replace parts instead of regluing it.
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post #4 of 6 Old 03-31-2012, 11:28 AM
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That last picture looks like the combination of poor technique and poor tools. I do not think that is at all typical of dovetail joints.

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post #5 of 6 Old 03-31-2012, 06:58 PM
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Actually that picture was from a website where the guy was demonstrating that the finger joint was stronger than the dovetail. He had made a dovetail on one side and the finger joint on the other and drove a wedge between them until one broke. When I looked for pictures of these two different dovetail joints this one caught my eye because it is what my experience with the joint is. His opinion of the dovetail joint was the same as mine. It was invented for the inferior glues of the time and are now obsolete.

For ten years my shop was located in a group of antique warehouse stores. These dealers were sending me furniture by the truckload to repair. The dovetail joints I was repairing were mostly European made but factory made drawers. Seeing how the different joints hold up through the ages it's easier to see which ones are a bad idea. I don't remember ever having to repair one with the through dovetail. The ones with a butt joint usually could be repaired cheap because they could easily be reglued with epoxy without replacing any parts.
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post #6 of 6 Old 04-01-2012, 10:07 PM
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Ether joint when done reasonably well is stronger than it needs to be. The choice is a matter f which looks better in the application or which you find easier to do.
Finger joints lend themselves to easily being done with a router table. The jig is also easy to make and set up.
For a blanket box 1/2 inch fingers would be ok for a smaller box 1/4 inch or so would be better. It's best to make the sides a multiple of the finger size.
I expect there will also be you tube videos of finger joint jigs and use.
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