Author Topic: Dovetail Technique  (Read 3257 times)

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Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
  • Woodworker, Sportsman, Retired
Dovetail Technique
« on: August 26, 2018, 02:14 PM »
I’m learning to do handcut dovetails. I’ve watched a lot of videos and have picked up some techniques that work for me and some that don’t.

I have a question about technique.

I cut the tails first using the Dave Barron magnetic guide and then pencil mark the pins using the L shaped Barron marking guide and the Barron magnetic guide.

I’ve had difficulty cutting the pins exactly perfectly. Too close to the mark and I get a sloppy fit.

I’ve tried allowing a little extra wood on the pins and using a fine rasp to get a good fit.

I’m using a Bad Axe dovetail saw.

Question.... is there a technique to cut the pins perfectly the first time to eliminate the “adjustment “?

Birdhunter

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Offline lwoirhaye

  • Posts: 234
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2018, 03:31 PM »
I mark the pins from the tails with a piece of hacksaw blade ground to a claw shape.   The mark is consistent from part to part and it gets in places a pencil or knife won't go.   Once the marking is consistent then it's a matter of figuring out where exactly to start the saw.

Pins can be made a little tight and then the faces subtly scooped out with a chisel.  This helps the joint  go together and the corners will be tight. 

Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
  • Woodworker, Sportsman, Retired
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2018, 03:52 PM »
Thanks. I’ve got a marking knife, but could see the pencil mark better than the knife slit. I’ll try it your way.
Birdhunter

Offline aloysius

  • Posts: 320
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2018, 06:43 PM »
As doubtful as it seems, the initial scoring cut produced by a finely sharpened marking knife provides an essential cutting guide for just about any follow-up saw cut.  Cutting just to one side of the "scratch" will prevent any surface micro-splintering of the already severed wood fibres.  This is why marking knives are so useful, & pencil marks so useless, in precision work.

If, like me, your fine detail vision is aged or in some other way challenged you could follow up your initial knife scores or cuts with a fine propelling pencil fitted with a soft lead (say 0.5 or 0.7mm & B or even 2B lead) as a vision aid.  A line of dark graphite along a marking knife's "trench" or furrow will provide clear vision of the cutline's edge, and also some essential dry-lube to assist the saw.

Slow, deliberate saw cuts, concentrating particularly on the appropriate angle should help too.  An extremely fine-kerfed saw with fine ripsaw sharpened teeth (=/> 16 PPI & near-vertical or at most 5-10 degree back angles & <5 degree filing angle) & minimal if any set should give a nice chiselling cut along the grain.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2018, 01:05 AM by aloysius »
FOG-wit since '95:  Some say since birth...

Online rvieceli

  • Posts: 864
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2018, 07:52 PM »
@Birdhunter as far as old eyes go, [eek] I've been having extremely good luck with this led light from Harbor Freight. It routinely goes for 19.99 with a coupon. Keep an eye out.

https://www.harborfreight.com/390-lumen-magnetic-slim-bar-folding-led-worklight-63958.html

It has a magnetic base and I keep it stuck to a piece of steel heavy enough to keep it in place and it really lights up what I'm working on.

Takes 18650 lithium batteries so extras are easy to come by.

ROn

Offline Michael Kellough

  • Posts: 3603
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2018, 08:39 PM »
Check out Derek Cohen’s apothecary chest thread. There you can see how he uses blue tape to make borders extremely clear.

Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
  • Woodworker, Sportsman, Retired
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2018, 08:57 PM »
I use the blue tape trick when marking the baseline with my gauge. It really helps.
Birdhunter

Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 229
    • In The Woodshop
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2018, 12:58 AM »
Hi Birdhunter

I use blue tape for more than just the baselines. My eyes are 68 years old. I hate wearing reading glasses. Old eyes suck! The blue tape makes it so much easier to see where the lines are, but even more than that, they provide a fence against which to saw.

My dovetails go together 99% saw-to-saw. Knowing where to saw is half the battle.

Here are pictorials from my website:

Through dovetails:  http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furniture/ThroughDovetails3.html

Half blind dovetails:  http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furniture/HalfBlindDovetailswithBlueTape.html

My other recommendation is to put the David Barron guide in the drawer and stop using it. Learning to do so will advance your skills a thousand fold faster than using the guide. You need to develop confidence in your ability to saw to a line, and that's all sawing dovetails is about.

You also want to avoid deliberate paring or filing of sockets or tails since this will introduce errors.

Practice makes perfect. Just do a few practice dovetails without guides each day. You will be amazed at your progress in a few weeks.

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
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Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2018, 11:55 AM »
I’ll begin practicing without the guide (only on scrap though).
Birdhunter

Offline Billedis

  • Posts: 613
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2018, 12:00 PM »
@Birdhunter have you checked out Rob Cosman videos?

Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
  • Woodworker, Sportsman, Retired
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2018, 12:11 PM »
I think I’ve seen a bunch of his videos. All the Youtube guys are amazing. Perfect dovetails every time. I kind of like Dave Barron’s videos.
Birdhunter

Offline Wooden Skye

  • Posts: 1143
  • My little girl was called home 12-28-15
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2018, 02:04 PM »
Watch Frank Klausz. He has a few good videos. 
Bryan

TS 55, (2) 1400 Guide Rails, 1900 Guide Rail, MFT/3, Domino DF 500, 2 domino systainers, ETS 150/3, RO 90, CT 26, (2) OF1400, RO 150. RTS 400, LR 32 set, PS300 jigsaw, 3 abrasive systainers, (2) sys toolbox, (2) sys mini, clamps and other accesories

Offline waho6o9

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Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2018, 10:32 PM »


Frank Klausz ^

Good call Wooden Skye

Offline RKA

  • Posts: 1288
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2018, 11:25 PM »
Lol!  I watched that video and marveled at how quickly he goes through the process.  Then he says he’s switching to a 3/4” chisel because it will go much faster!  I get the feeling you could blindfold him and he would still out dovetail me!
-Raj

Offline lwoirhaye

  • Posts: 234
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2018, 12:55 AM »
Frank is very skilled.  I think he's using a soft hardwood here so the cuts go fast.

The reason I cut the tails first is I don't have to follow a line through grain fibers.  To cut the pins all I have to be able to do is saw vertically.  Marking is easier his way it's true.  I just put the pin board in my vise and put the tail board on top.    The little claw shaped marking tool gets into narrow gaps between tails.

Frank also cuts them with a bow saw using a special blade with a 90 degree twist forged into it.  The blades are very hard to come by as they haven't been made in a long time.   Using it one cuts down with one part of the blade and turns the corner to cut out the waste with the twisted part.   The dovetails aren't as fine as chiseling but it's very fast.

Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
  • Woodworker, Sportsman, Retired
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2018, 05:17 AM »
I watch a few Klausz videos last night while my wife was watching her soap operas.

He is an artist and he’s also an excellent showman. He’s entertaining without really trying.

His shop is a palace. Especially, compared to my chopped up basement areas.
Birdhunter

Offline ChuckM

  • Posts: 679
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2018, 05:46 AM »
Snip.
I cut the tails first using the Dave Barron magnetic guide and then pencil mark the pins using the L shaped Barron marking guide and the Barron magnetic guide.

I’ve had difficulty cutting the pins exactly perfectly. Too close to the mark and I get a sloppy fit.

Snip

Question.... is there a technique to cut the pins perfectly the first time to eliminate the “adjustment “?

I have not watched the whole video yet, but it seems to have covered the Barron's guide. Not sure if it is helpful to you:

http://www.woodworkersjournal.com/video-using-a-simple-jig-to-hand-cut-dovetail-joints/

Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
  • Woodworker, Sportsman, Retired
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2018, 12:53 PM »
I’m consistently seeing a gap at the bottom of my dovetails. The tails and pins are snug with no gaps whatsoever. I’m using the blue tape and Veritas marking gauge to establish the baseline. When I rechecked the depth with the marking gauge, I can see the bottoms are a hair past the baseline. The pins and tails are flush when tapped together.

I think I am being careful chiseling out the waste so as to not bruise the baseline, but it’s obvious that I’m doing something wrong.

Should I set the marking gauge with less depth?
Birdhunter

Offline CirclDigital

  • Posts: 67
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2018, 01:02 PM »
When you transfer the tails to the pinboard you can allow for that baseline to be a hair over the thickness of your tailboard. When the joint is closed you plane the sides flush for a perfect fitting joint.

But first make sure that the clearance between the tails and pins is really flush. It’s easy to create a bit of a hump in the middle. Undercutting somewhat towards the middle is another “trick” to get a perfect joint.

Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
  • Woodworker, Sportsman, Retired
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2018, 05:44 PM »
I’ll try that.
Birdhunter

Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 229
    • In The Woodshop
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #20 on: September 06, 2018, 08:02 PM »
Birdhunter, there are only two reasons why you can have a gap ...

1. You ran the chisel back over the line because you chopped too close to the line.

Check out this pictorial of mine for illustrations on undercutting the baseline and creating a chisel wall:

http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furniture/ThroughDovetails3.html

2. You marked out inaccurately to begin.

Regards from Perth

Derek


Offline ChuckM

  • Posts: 679
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #21 on: September 06, 2018, 08:15 PM »
Also check your shoulders/sockets are square and FLAT. For narrow ones, this comes handy:

http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=72730&cat=1,42936,42941

Offline Mortiser

  • Posts: 15
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2018, 10:09 PM »
Use a tall straight edge (a 3/4" or 7/8" piece works well) clamped to your stock at the baseline (as James Krenov did). The back of your chisel rests against the straight edge as you chop. All of the baseline cuts will be exactly in line.
Hope that helps.

 
Rich

Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
  • Woodworker, Sportsman, Retired
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #23 on: September 07, 2018, 05:27 AM »
I went back and inspected the depth of each area where I had removed waste. The shoulders of the tail board were perfect. The depths of the chopped out areas were very slightly too deep and not perfectly even. Some were spot on and some unevenly too deep. I’ve been using the blue tape trick. I have been using the technique of building a “wall” along the scribed line, but my guess is that my chopping technique is somehow pushing the wood back. The gap is about a business card thickness or less. I’ve been using black walnut as practice pieces.

P.S. I tend to want perfection in my work.
Birdhunter

Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 229
    • In The Woodshop
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #24 on: September 07, 2018, 01:05 PM »
You cannot "build a wall" using blue tape. It is not strong enough to prevent the chisel pushing it back. You need to create a chisel wall. The blue tape is only used for marking.







http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furniture/ThroughDovetails3.html

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline Birdhunter

  • Posts: 2382
  • Woodworker, Sportsman, Retired
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #25 on: September 08, 2018, 06:40 PM »
Ta Da. Glued up my first almost perfect dovetail joint today. Thanks for all the tips and references. One side was perfect and two of three dovetails were prefect on the other side. One dovetail had a very slight gap at the bottom which I filled with glue and sawdust.

I think the techniques that helped the most were using blue tape to make the cut line more visible, making the “wall” with really light chisel taps, getting the fret saw cut much closer to the cut line to reduce chopping, and angling the chisels into the wood to creat a “valley”.
Birdhunter

Offline waho6o9

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    • Garage Door Handyman.com
Re: Dovetail Technique
« Reply #26 on: September 08, 2018, 07:32 PM »
Congratulations!