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Hello, I was just looking for something on the web and came across this site, which I am finding very informative. Seems to be some very knowledgeable people invovled here. So I have a quickfire question for anyone who knows the answer. Before I ask, know this: I'm knew to woodworking but I am pretty well read. Thit means that I understand the theories, just not all together sure how to execute. I am starting a project and will be hand-cutting all joinery. I see, hear and read about people cutting their tails and then tracing and cutting their pins. However, I recently read an article that stated that the correct way was to cut the tails at 1:8 and the pins at 1:6. I marked up a board and tried it and it didn't quite look right. However, after reviewing the article a second time, it stated that this type of dovetail lasts the longest. Examples include circa and shaker furniture and early american colonial. This style utterly dates back before the Romans. My question is this: Has anyone ever heard of this and if so, is it better? I make very tedious designs with wood and joinery is the basis for a lasting piece.
 

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Welcome to the site Wudsplittr... Glad you found us!

I hope you don't mind. I moved your post to a new thread so more people will see it.
I hope you enjoy the site.
 

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Welcome Woodsplitter!
I'll type what i can until the wife hollers "Let's go!" Church won't wait on me.

Disclaimer: It would be a long answer to answer your question but I would like to state in general I am not familiar with those ratio's you cite.
Sam Maloof, considered one of the premier genuis's of woodworking had alot to say about the handcut dovetail and he was not in particular a fan of strict technical protocol.
Remember that the more meat you give one, the less you leave for the other. Aesthetics are certainly a consideration but like you I always try to consider the service life of a piece as being in therms of generations not years.
Take a good look at a piece with doevtail joints and study the ratio of the pins (especially the inside flare) to the base of a tail. The pins, in my thinking, can afford to be smaller becasue they don't have all that "wing" on top and bottom like a tail, that is prone to chip off if you aren't careful, and the grain orientaion works so much in favor of the pin. i like the look of smaller pins on long joints and the a more even look on shorter ones - in general.
i have seen few dovetail pices i didn't like though.
i prefer handcut because it looks better to me even though properly cut, it's hard to tell the difference between hand cut and jigged Dtails.
I think you should throw out the strict ratios and study the furniture itself, and gain an appreciation for approaching the piece with the idea that you are going to determine the ratio's with a view towrard common sense.
i realize "common sense" is not so common and in woodworking that can get you in trouble, I would just not be too concerned about strict ratos.
The biggest danger I see is in leaving too little meat in the base of the tail, and forgetting that pins and tails are after all, wood. And wood shrinks and it expands. Choosing your proportions, the specie for the particular design, the moisture content of the wood when the piece is asembled, and considering the service envrionment of the piece (determining what the average yearly EMC will be) are paramount to achieving the balance between function, form, and longevity.
My wonderful bride just said said "Get it in gear!" :D
 

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welcome wudsplittr. I have used the ratio's you r talking about when taking exams at college in the uk . 1:6 ratio is usually used on softwood and 1:8 is for hardwood, which just works on basic geometry. using a bevel and a set of dividers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Generations....

Hello, I am aware of the fundamentals i.e. moisture content, environment, shrinkage per species, seasoning and angles. However, I haven't had a real good look at anything over 2oo years old and wonder if this line of thinking was prominent in woodworking then. Has anyone out there had a chance to lay hands and measuring devices on an old piece (200+) to determine if this was the technique applied? I'm once again a novice at this but I have incredible patience and some serious woodworking tools to achieve the PERFECT joint. But is this a perfect joint? Only a century or two piece will tell. Has anyone done this? My opinion is that woodworking was mastered two to four hundred years ago. The future has only brought on faster ways to achieve an end result, but will it last?
 

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gedereco, it's good to have some formally schooled woodworkers on board. I hope you will share more information as the opportunity arises. Did you major in a woodworking degree if thee is such athing in UK? Or was this akin to a vocational typr school?

Wudsplittr, I agree in the sense that al of the techniques taht we currently enjoy are fruits of the labor, trial and error, from our woodworking antecedents, but don't think the bulk necessarily came from that particular time frame.
You must remember that woodworkers (furniture scale) borrowed joinery from the timber framers (large scale) more than vice versa, and timber framing spans several thousand years.
I guess it is really hard to determine for sure which came first the timber frame chiken or the woodworking egg, but dovetail joints I believe have been found in Egytian furniture and wood structures as well. And even in early Chinese pieces.
I would be timid to confine the bulk of woodworking expertise to any 200 - 300 period although it certainlky did seem to all come together quite dramatically at the height of the European cultural dominance.
 

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When I hand cut, I use the trace method as you described, without incident. I haven't tried the method that you explained.
 

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I recently read an article that stated that the correct way was
That author is full of HOOEY~!!
It doesn't matter which you do first so long as it brings a smile to your face.
 

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Hello, I was just looking for something on the web and came across this site, which I am finding very informative. Seems to be some very knowledgeable people invovled here. So I have a quickfire question for anyone who knows the answer. Before I ask, know this: I'm knew to woodworking but I am pretty well read. Thit means that I understand the theories, just not all together sure how to execute. I am starting a project and will be hand-cutting all joinery. I see, hear and read about people cutting their tails and then tracing and cutting their pins. However, I recently read an article that stated that the correct way was to cut the tails at 1:8 and the pins at 1:6. I marked up a board and tried it and it didn't quite look right. However, after reviewing the article a second time, it stated that this type of dovetail lasts the longest. Examples include circa and shaker furniture and early american colonial. This style utterly dates back before the Romans. My question is this: Has anyone ever heard of this and if so, is it better? I make very tedious designs with wood and joinery is the basis for a lasting piece.
This web site is dovoted to router's and dovetale and pin ect. I am a member. here is the site http://www.routerforums.com/ their are lot's of people that do this every day including me . good luck http://www.woodbarter.com/ is a new form very good on wood
 

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Somewhere between 1:6 and 1:8 seems to be a good balance but you can lay them out by eye and will end up somewhere around there. I have seen older examples that are on either side of that range and they have held up quite well. Ditto to everyone who says it doesn't matter to match an exact ratio. Go with what looks good. One thing you'll notice when you study old furniture, well several actually. Some methods are regional, some are common in a given time period and some are personal choices which make an item unique.
 

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I guess we were all bored. Next time I'll look at the date of the original post.
 

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This was well discussed several years ago by two eminent woodworkers Tage Frid and Christ Becksvoort in FWW issue 116 in 1996 ( if you want to lreview their opinions.
Frid favoured tails first as he felt it was easier to hold the pin board to mark the tails than vice versa. He also felt the walls of the pins made a better surface to mark from.
Becksvoort admitted being a rebel but liked doing the tails first as he could tape the boards together then cut both sets of tails at once. He also felt that marking the pins on end grain with a knife was more precise than using an awl to scribe the tails on side grain.
Try both but the " classical way is to cut the pins first.? I apologise if I misquoted the arguments.
Bob
 
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