Newbie Dovetail Question... - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 02-04-2013, 09:01 PM Thread Starter
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Newbie Dovetail Question...

I am jumping from site to site, blog to blog, article to article, and contraption to contraption looking for the easiest, most economical way to make dovetail joints.

I eventually want to learn to make them by hand but at the moment I don't have the time for that endeavor.

I need to make a few drawers with dovetail joints and am kinda in a pinch as far as finances are concerned so I'm looking to learn to do them quick, easy and for as little as possible.

If this is at all possible I'm sure you guys can help me out, and if it's not... you'll let me know that too.
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post #2 of 24 Old 02-04-2013, 10:33 PM
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They really aren't that hard to cut by hand and if finances are an issue, all you need is a dovetail or gents saw and a chisel or two. With an hour or two of practice you could be cutting your drawers. Total cost~ $30-100 depending on what type of saw and chisels you buy. If that's the choice you make there is lots of help available here and many previous tutorials have been posted as well.

Sorry, but I can't help you with choosing a jig, I've never used one, but many others have and I'm sure many will give you some options.

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post #3 of 24 Old 02-06-2013, 12:56 PM
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Ditto on the preceding post. Making dovetails by hand is satisfying and not as hard as people make it out to be. Of course picture-perfect joints will take practice, but you can make structurally sound joints on your first attempt. I'm still relatively new at this, but I recently completed my third dovetailed project and was very happy with the result. The first two looked like bad dental work, but they still served their intended purpuse. I paid $10.99 for a dovetail saw at Ace Hardware and it works fine. Of course you will also need a couple of chisels at around $20 each, a sharpening system of some kind, a square, and a sliding bevel. That's all you really need.
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post #4 of 24 Old 02-06-2013, 05:11 PM
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Good layout and sharp chisels make all the difference. I saw huge improvements after working on layout and making sure the chisels are sharp. I don't have much more to add, since I'm still on the learning curve.
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post #5 of 24 Old 02-09-2013, 09:46 PM
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I bought a Veritas dovetail saw which cost $90 but has helped immensely with both dovetails and tenons, and is easier to control than the straight handle dovetail saws. I spent a good bit on Veritas honing guide Norton water stones, and a flattening stone but have used all of that at least weekly on chisels and my hand plane irons.... my point being it may be pricy but you will use all of it for much more than just dovetails, and you will have a need for it if you're aspiring to hand cut dovetails and the like.

by the way beginners tip.... to keep the saw from wondering off your dovetail marks use a chisel, a mallet, and a few taps on the scored lines. The saw will ride in that groove and helps keep you on target. Once I got that part down I was easily making great dovetail joints. Check out the many youtube vids and you'll be doing it in no time.

Last edited by GISer3546; 02-09-2013 at 09:49 PM.
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post #6 of 24 Old 02-09-2013, 11:50 PM
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You probably aren't going to find a satisfactory jig for less than these guys spent on their hand tools. Then, if you don't have a router . . .
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post #7 of 24 Old 02-10-2013, 02:12 AM
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And a jig... only does one thing, hand tools do anything
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post #8 of 24 Old 02-10-2013, 07:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SkinsKaos View Post
I am jumping from site to site, blog to blog, article to article, and contraption to contraption looking for the easiest, most economical way to make dovetail joints.

I eventually want to learn to make them by hand but at the moment I don't have the time for that endeavor.

I need to make a few drawers with dovetail joints and am kinda in a pinch as far as finances are concerned so I'm looking to learn to do them quick, easy and for as little as possible.

If this is at all possible I'm sure you guys can help me out, and if it's not... you'll let me know that too.
There are SO many alternatives.... That said have you considered a couple of shop made jigs, one ffor tails made on the tablesaw and pins using the router table? If you have access to either Wood, Fine woodworking,
or youtube there are many examples there. Hope this is of help.

Gerry

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post #9 of 24 Old 02-11-2013, 12:57 PM
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a router and a dovetail jig ($100 or so) will work well for half blind dovetials. you'll have to spend a few hundred to get through dovetails. there is a learning curve on the machine/setup. but once accomplished you can make many dovetails fast. i use porter cable 4212 i think.
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post #10 of 24 Old 02-11-2013, 01:34 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies.

I think that I'm going to try my hand at making the dovetails by hand.

I always seem to be a little more proud of things that I made by hand, not that it will matter to most, but I can still say I made those dovetails by hand. Every once in awhile I'll come across someone that
can appreciate the task and admire my craftsmanship.

THat's n ot to say that if I have to crank out a bunch in a hurry I won't go the jig route. I was thinking about going with the tablesaw jig. That looked pretty intersting and worked efficient enough.

I'll keep everyone posted on my progress (if you guys want)
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post #11 of 24 Old 02-11-2013, 02:00 PM
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Happy to hear you're going to give hand cut a try. It really is a lot easier than it looks once you get started.

Definitely keep us updated with your progress and don't forget lots of pictures

"Good Behavior is the last refuge of mediocrity" -- Henry S. Haskins
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post #12 of 24 Old 02-13-2013, 08:25 PM Thread Starter
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Alright, took a shot at my first set of hand cut dovetails...

Let me preface this by saying I used a template I found online, I didnt use tools that were even close to being the right tools for the job and I rushed through the entire process.

While the DTs are atrocious, I am hooked. A trip to the store tomorrow to get the appropriate tools and I'm going to go nuts learning how to rock these things out.

The one thing I'm not really clear on is the layout, I've watched a bunch of videos and done some reading but for some reason it's not sinking in. Any advice??

What thickness of wood is best? easiest to learn with??
Is poplar ok?
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post #13 of 24 Old 02-13-2013, 09:35 PM
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post #14 of 24 Old 02-13-2013, 09:54 PM
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I think poplar is fine. It's easy to cut and cheap. I don't know if there is a correct thickness to learn on. I'd choose whatever is cheapest ( probably a 1x6) and start practicing - but I wouldn't go any thinner than 1/2".

After each set of dovetails, just cut the boards flush and you're good to go. I'd keep the dovetails you practice on intact so you can refer to them and make corrections for the next set.

As for layout, I wouldn't worry too much about that right now. Focus more on cutting and marking technique and when you are comfortable cutting them you can decide what style you like. A lot of times I'll decide on a dovetail thickness/spacing and measure from each outside edge of the board leaving a thinner (or thicker) tail in the middle - whatever is left is what I get. Other times I'll measure and calculate for evenly spaced/sized tails across the width. You can also start measuring from the middle working out in each direction leaving the outside most tails a different size.

You can also change the size ratio between pins and tails. Sometimes I'll mark the pins to be the same width as the tails, sometimes I'll use large tails with really thin pins. Probably the best thing to do while you are practicing and learning is to keep the tails and pins the same size.

Also, if you haven't already take a look at some of the tutorials that have been posted here. Billy De posted one about a year ago that was really good. It was full of great tips for the whole process from marking to final fitting of the joint. It's here.

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post #15 of 24 Old 02-13-2013, 10:26 PM
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Hail to the Redskins!


Cutting dovetails by hand is actually fun. There is no better way to learn than trial and error! Just my opinion
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post #16 of 24 Old 02-14-2013, 11:44 AM
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Poplar is a great choice. Thickness is personal preference, but starting out IMO 3/4" is a good place to start. Re tails or pins first, there are many opinions, but another good starting point would be tails first, then mark the mating board for the pins. Remember to do your tail board layout to have half pins on both sides of the pin board, ( don't ask me how I know this...) . As many have said here, there are many examples of the process out on the net. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing your efforts!

Gerry

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Last edited by GerryR; 02-14-2013 at 03:50 PM.
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post #17 of 24 Old 02-14-2013, 12:20 PM
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most drawers are 1/2" thick, so i think that would be a good thickness to play with. also, home depot has 1/2" poplar in different widths to play with.
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post #18 of 24 Old 02-18-2013, 03:45 PM
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Def learn yourself not too hard just plenty of practice
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post #19 of 24 Old 02-18-2013, 09:10 PM
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Go to Amazon and get Frank Klaus's video "How to Dovetail a Drawer." You won't regret it and you'll be hand cutting good dovetails before you know it.

Kevin H.
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post #20 of 24 Old 02-21-2013, 12:01 PM
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If you have a tablesaw or bandsaw you can produce excellent dovetails...all in the setup. Fine woodworking has some good information on their web site.
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