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I about to make a toy chest for a customer. What she wants is a shaker chest with dovetails.
I cut dove tails for small things like boxes, drawers etc... But dovetailing such a wide panel is kinda intimidating.... Dose anybody have recommendations for this operation?
Is there any lay-out tricks that you could give me?

Thanks!:)
 

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There is really no difference in cutting DT in a large panel or a small box or drawer, the only real difference is the size and number you'll be cutting.

The one "rule" I follow is to use a half width pin for the top and bottom of the panel - for both appearance and strength.

Wide tails and small pins, equal size tails/pins, whatever look you like is fine. I usually don't worry too much about having all equal sized tails across the board, most of the time I decide on a size of tail/pin I like and will start marking from the outside edges of the board and leave a "center" tail that is either larger or smaller than the others - it's just a look I like. Might want to ask your customer if they have a preference and maybe even show them a sample of proposed tail/pin size/spacing to make sure you are both in agreement on the "look" of the DTs.

Other tips: do what ever you need to support the panel while sawing - trying to saw when only part of the board fits in the vise is a pain in the butt and leads to poor results.

If I have a panel that won't fit in the vise I use a couple of hand screw clamps - one on the panel and the other to hold that clamp to the bench.

clamping long boards.jpg

Take your time when marking the pins after cutting tails. With larger panels it's easy for one or the other boards to shift a small amount and that can lead to a real mess. I highly recommend doing whatever you need to clamp them both before marking.

Take extra time in test fitting. A lot of time you might be able to "force" a poor fitting DT joint together on a smaller piece, but any poor fit is magnified with higher numbers of DTs and larger size panels.

If you haven't been using a coping saw to cut most of the waste, it is highly recommended or you'll really get tired of chiseling - it saves a lot of time.

I assume you are already using a marking gauge and marking knife, if not you really should - much more accurate than pencil lines.

Here is a tutorial on Hand Cut Dovetails - it's really informative and has lot's of tips. I even go back and read through it periodically just to refresh my memory.

Finally, don't let the size of the panels psych you out, they're just dovetails:smile:

Edit: Forgot to add - Welcome to the forum, glad to have you aboard!
 
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