Hand Tools Archive

Re: Chopping Dovetails and Spelching

The reason this happens is because you are using blunt force to sever the fibers. This occurs if the chisel is dull, or more likely the chisel has wedged in and is not cutting due to being wedged higher in the cut. Also if you flip the board you can get this effect from unsupported fibers.

Sharp chisels; removal of waste with a saw, or chopped out away from the line first (both waste time); Lower angle bevels so the chisel doesn't jam; better quality wood.

Best technique for efficiency and effect is possibly the Klausz version which is in the original Dovetail a Drawer video. The detail here is that on the first side he notches in, like the wedge cut felling a tree, this leaves some support for the second side. On the secon side he notches under which is faster. He does get a little damage, but not enough to affect anything. The problem with sawing is that you are doing double the work. Dovetails can have the waste removed with a saw, or a chisel. Using both is poor technique, but it is an easy way to get a start.

"I understand the end grain that breaks out does contribute to the strength of a glued dovetail joint, but spelching in softer woods can be frustrating. Has anyone found ways to reduce it?"

Did you mean to say: "does not contribute to the strength". That seems to be what most people believe. It is not correct. Side grain glued to endgrain is stronger than the side grain (which is to say as strong as when we laminate or joint two pieces for width). If you meant to say what you actually said, you have advanced understanding.

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