Hand Tools Archive


Tony - Memphis
I've made a few dovetails over the years, but I'm not that great at them. My current project includes a small drawer that begged to be dovetailed. I'm using mahogany. My 'warm up' attempt was awful! I mean really bad. I made a few observations:

I discovered that my vise cheeks were nowhere close to being square to the bench top. Fixed that. (never noticed it before!)

Using an xacto to mark the pins (tails first here) did not work well for me. The tip seems to crawl under the tail a bit. I ended up using a knife I have that is flat on one side (Murphy knife - really too clunky for this, but it works - I double beveled the blade on it).

I needed to pay more attention to the saw being perpendicular to the board rather than following that angle. Also, saw perp to the board, not the vice cheek - the board could be a little angled to the vice face.

The blue tape method looked interesting. I tried it and I think I like it.

After all of this, my dovetails still aren't that great (I'll man up and post a pic later!), but I learned a few things. Derek's site was a big help -thanks Derek!

Oh, and I also sharpened my saw. Not a full blown sharpen, I just kissed the teeth (LN early DT saw). That really helped too.

I've had better luck than this, honest. I've cut a few that I am proud of. My first real DT heavy project was a low boy and I cut all the drawer half blinds by hand. But...those were pine into walnut,so cutting them a bit snug helped and also only one side was visible.

Anyway, I would like to practice and get better so that it was not such an ordeal to knock out a drawer, box, etc. I made a small wall cabinet for my wife a couple of years ago with half blinds and those things looked awful! They were good and tight, but they looked terrible. I was so ashamed. The good thing is, they are all hidden away behind molding...thank goodness.

One thing I think is important is to stick with a method. I understand, as with many things, that you correct to whatever method you use (marking knife, pencil, etc.) so stick with it.

Ok, I'm done. Thanks for listening. And for those that are still where I am, keep trying. Get the magnifier out and study your results and try and figure out what happened. It really isn't that hard of a concept! Thank goodness for 1.25 and 2.25 glasses! I think that may have been a factor last time I tried this! Light is good too.


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