Monday, July 7, 2008

Sliding Dovetails

Here is one way to cut the groove for a sliding dovetail.

Mark the depth of cut with a marking gauge on both edges of the board. Lay the dovetail piece on top of your work surface and trace the bottom of both sides of the dovetail. Transfer that line to your depth of cut line on both edges.

Now you can see where to position the dovetail on the edge of the board so you can trace its angle. Trace this angle on both edges. Connect these lines across the face of the board and this shows you where to start cutting.

The dovetail plane I used cuts a 16ยบ angle. Bevel a 2x4 at this angle to use as a fence to guide your saw. I keep finger pressure on the sawblade so it stays tight against the fence. Saw down to your depth of cut mark and chisel out the waste between the saw marks. Slide the dovetail into the groove....and you're done!

Because the sliding dovetails on the sawbuck table are so long (25"), I'm not comfortable with this technique, so I'll show another way to cut sliding dovetails in a future post.


Anonymous said...

This is the way I cut sliding dovetails with one exception. I use the guide (fence) upside down from your orientation, so the fence protects the money side and if the saw skates out of the kerf it doesn't damage anything but waste wood.

I then use a router plane to true up the bottom of the dovetail.


Kari Hultman said...

Stephen, is it difficult to keep the saw blade against the fence when it's angled upside down?

Anonymous said...

I think it is easier because the fence forces the blade into the angled cut.


Anonymous said...

Very nice, VC!
I would suggest making a tapered sliding dovetail. It isn't any more difficult to cut and the fit doesn't get tight until the male part is almost home.

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Roger!

The sliding dovetail on this sawbuck table will be seen from both sides, so a tapered sliding dovetail is not an option. : (

Metalworker Mike said...

Kari: With the conformation of your dovetail plane, I would imagine it would be able to trim the inside of the dovetail socket, yes? While the pictures prove that you did an admirable job of getting a joint that fit just fine and dandy, I would imagine that you would have the option of cutting it a hair narrow and cleaning it up with the dovetail plane.

Vic Hubbard said...

So are you constantly following Nancy around the house, telling her how hard it is to be you?!?! Dang, you are good with the hand tools.
So, somewhere hidden on your blog, do you have a list of "must have" hand tools? If not, could you?

Kari Hultman said...

Metalworker Mike, that's interesting. I'll keep that in mind if I have trouble fitting the ones for the sawbuck table. Thanks!

Vic, keep in mind I was using pine, which is very forgiving. Pine can make a person (i.e.,me) look more talented than they are. haha
I listed some of the tools I use every time I'm in the shop on the "Desert Island" post, but that's a good idea to post more on the subject. I never get tired of talking about hand tools! : )

Geemoney said...

I would be extremely interested to see other techniques. Having no access to a table saw to cut a guide, I would be forced no matter what to do things by hand. Good practice, but likely bad results.

That said, any particular reason not to use the table saw to cut the angled lines to correct depth? I can imagine that the width of the TS blade might make for some not-so-nice corners. Answer: Bridge City Jointmaker Pro. That thing gives me the chills, and seems to be just on the right side of the hand/power divide for this blog (but please correct me if I am wrong).

Cool post, and something I have wanted to try for a long time.

Kari Hultman said...

Geemoney,my preference is to use handtools whenever possible, but you could cut the angles on a table saw. But as you pointed out, with the wider blade, you would have to stop short of the bottom of the dovetail and clean it up with either a chisel or dovetail plane.

To cut a bevel along the edge of a board with a handsaw or plane, mark the depth of cut on both sides of the corner and plane/cut down to your lines. It's similar to how I cut the bevels on the stretcher of the sawbuck table.

The Jointmaker is very impressive, but I'm not sure I would ever buy one. Somehow handsawing seems more like you are making the cut rather than a machine (albeit, a non-electical one). But that's just my opinion. It's an awesome piece of equipment, for sure.

Anonymous said...

I for one am duly impressed with the Jointmaster Pro. There is just one thing that I can't quite understand... After you clamp the workpiece, do you move the saw or do you move the Jointmaster Pro?

Metalworker Mike said...

Gary: There's a sliding table that the work is clamped to, either with an actual clamp or just with your fingers. You push the table forwards, and the saw stays stationary. After each stroke you raise the blade and push it again until you're at depth. It has some seriously interesting features, but it's too expensive to be interesting *enough* for me to pay for, personally.


Kari Hultman said...

Gary, check out this video for the jointmaker on Youtube:

Vic Hubbard said...


You'll have to forgive me. I usually am very tired when I actually sit down to read my favorite blogs. I was already following you when you made the Desert Island post. I would definitely love and more in depth and prolonged ode to hand tools.

will said...

The Jointmaker, another new tool that's new to me.

I watched the youtube vid, went to Bridge City's site, saw the price ($1295.) and the out of stock sign.

I don't know which is more amazing: what it does, how much it costs or the out of stock sign.

I suppose in the typical gadget-happy workshop, especially with our long history of dovetail jigs, mortising jigs, joinery jigs, sharpening jigs and the rest - the Jointmaker will be another successful machine that dazzles and amazes.

One thing: The wowie factor of the demonstrations must be tempered by the size and type of wood used. If you are making small boxes, that's one thing. Large drawer pieces and cuts on the ends of large boards are another.

It is sort of ironic - a new tool with the gee-whiz factor and it isn't even electric!

Kari Hultman said...

Good points, Bill. I am glad, as you said, that it's a non-electric tool that's getting so much press. I wonder if it comes with sharpening instructions or extra blades?