Thursday, June 25, 2009

Handcut Dovetails Video

To view larger and in high definition, click here.

This is not the most expeditious way to cut dovetails and it's just one of several ways to make them. The video has been sped up; it actually takes me about 20 minutes to do what the video shows in 6 minutes 11 seconds.

You can quicken the process by not using a guide block, and you might be faster at chopping out all the waste with a chisel rather than removing the majority with a fret saw. A marking knife is great for transferring layout lines, but I use a pencil that's been bevel-edged on a sheet of sandpaper.

The double-folded piece of paper in the beginning of the video is used to offset the marking gauge about 1/64" so the pins and tails protrude a bit when conjoined. This provides some wood to shave off with a handplane so the mating surfaces can be made flush.

In my opinion, it's faster to cut tails first because you can saw both tail boards at the same time, plus transferring layout lines to the pin board is easier. But if you plan to make skinny, English-style pins, I suggest cutting pins first. It's nearly impossible to transfer the lines of thin dovetails if you cut tails first.

Always saw with the "show" side facing you. In the video, they are marked "Pins" and "Tails".

If you are careful with laying out, transferring, and cutting to your lines, and sawing perfectly straight, your pieces will go together on the first try.

For a write-up of one way to handcut half-blind dovetails, click here. It explains the use of a wide plane blade to assist in lining up the guide block, and lists the tools I use.

Music: Derek and the Dominoes (Eric Clapton) "Bell Bottom Blues" and the instrumental version performed by Vitamin String Quartet.

I used a 1:8 ratio dovetail marker because I had planned to use cherry. When I used pine instead, I forgot to use my 1:6 ratio marker. 1:6 works best with softer woods.