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Thread: My quest to do dovetails...

  1. #1
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    My quest to do dovetails...

    So today I tried to cut some dovetails by hand. I know I have a marking gauge somewhere. Couldn't find it. Got sidetracked into cleaning off a bunch of shelves while looking for it. Still couldn't find it.

    So I winged it and marked out some dovetails. Couldn't find my 'gents' saw. Know I have one. I think it's down at the old house. Decided to use my japanese dozuki. Well, managed to get some dove tails cut, but cut on the wrong side of the lines and the saw didn't cut down the back side the same was as it cut down the top. So pretty sloppy and useless.

    Let's just say that I took advantage of Lee Valley's free shipping offer today and have some suitable tools on the way to help me on on the hand cut.

    Brown did stop by with on of the Harbor Freight Blue Monster dovetail jigs for 35$ on friday, so I'll give that a shot sometime tomorrow or Monday I reckon...

    The procrastination around here just never stops...
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash


  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Dowell View Post
    Brown did stop by with on of the Harbor Freight Blue Monster dovetail jigs for 35$ on friday, so I'll give that a shot sometime tomorrow or Monday I reckon...

    Mine works fine but i gotta tell ya there are some setup things ya gotta do. Call me if ya go questions.
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
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    Hey, that's great Don. I might just take you up on it.

    Couple of things I've read so far recommend:

    • Putting it on a board to prevent flexing of the jig, then clamping that board to your bench.
    • Putting some PSA sandpaper on the jig to keep the boards from moving when clamping
    • Use a 1/2" setup bar to position one of the boards 1/2 inch over.
    • Keep all your board widths at an even 1/2" size, i.e. 2.5, 3.5, 4.5, etc...
    • Add some longer jointed wooden bars to the fences/stops to keep them aligned.


    I've got just a really stupid little project I'm working on that I think this will be perfect for, and I've got a ton of poplar milled up and ready to run through it.

    Hopefully I'll be able to get around to it tomorrow..
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash


  4. #4
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    Brent, I taught myself to do handcut dovetails, what it takes is some time, serious time devoted to getting it right.

    What I did is this, I cut up some wood, all about 5/8" thick, maybe 6" wide by 6" long, I cut maybe a dozen boards up.

    First thing I did was put one board in my vice, then I took my saw (don't matter which one you have, push, pull etc) and I practiced cutting a straight saw kerf about 5/8" deep into the piece of wood, I just the best I could, without being too worried about how good it was, I then moved the saw over about 1/8" and cut another one, I did this to the entire length of the board, then I took the board to the SCMS and lopped off that end with all the kerfs..... repeat.

    Make a few hundred cuts like that and you will be amazed at how much better you get in a short time. You have to look at other things too, these things will become very apparent when you cut a couple hundred kerfs, body position, even the height of your workbench, if things are good, you will be fine, if things are too high, or too low, you body will complain and you will feel it.

    Then just start doing dove tails on your practice boards, don't worry about them being perfect, just do them, do half a dozen then quit, the next time you are out in the workshop, practice your saw kerfs and your dovetails. When you make a set of dovetails, they will not be perfect, but you and your body will have learned more, muscle memory works. Again, if your board is 6" long, you and make at least 4 or 5 sets of dove tails on each board, make the dovetails, then go cut them off on the SCMS, repeat.

    Trust me if you do this two or three times a week, you WILL get better, and I mean MUCH better at hand cutting dovetails.

    They are NOT a black art, but they certainly require that you put the time in learning how to do it, train yourself.

    Sure a better saw can help, and a fancy dovetail gauge is nice, but nothing, I mean NOTHING replaces plain old sweat and practice.

    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  5. #5
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    Thanks Stu.

    Good advice, as usual... Once I get the right tools, I'll setup some time to practice. Like any other manual skill, makes sense that practice makes perfect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Ablett View Post
    Brent, I taught myself to do handcut dovetails, what it takes is some time, serious time devoted to getting it right.

    What I did is this, I cut up some wood, all about 5/8" thick, maybe 6" wide by 6" long, I cut maybe a dozen boards up.

    First thing I did was put one board in my vice, then I took my saw (don't matter which one you have, push, pull etc) and I practiced cutting a straight saw kerf about 5/8" deep into the piece of wood, I just the best I could, without being too worried about how good it was, I then moved the saw over about 1/8" and cut another one, I did this to the entire length of the board, then I took the board to the SCMS and lopped off that end with all the kerfs..... repeat.

    Make a few hundred cuts like that and you will be amazed at how much better you get in a short time. You have to look at other things too, these things will become very apparent when you cut a couple hundred kerfs, body position, even the height of your workbench, if things are good, you will be fine, if things are too high, or too low, you body will complain and you will feel it.

    Then just start doing dove tails on your practice boards, don't worry about them being perfect, just do them, do half a dozen then quit, the next time you are out in the workshop, practice your saw kerfs and your dovetails. When you make a set of dovetails, they will not be perfect, but you and your body will have learned more, muscle memory works. Again, if your board is 6" long, you and make at least 4 or 5 sets of dove tails on each board, make the dovetails, then go cut them off on the SCMS, repeat.

    Trust me if you do this two or three times a week, you WILL get better, and I mean MUCH better at hand cutting dovetails.

    They are NOT a black art, but they certainly require that you put the time in learning how to do it, train yourself.

    Sure a better saw can help, and a fancy dovetail gauge is nice, but nothing, I mean NOTHING replaces plain old sweat and practice.

    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash


  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Dowell View Post
    Hey, that's great Don. I might just take you up on it.

    Couple of things I've read so far recommend:

    • Putting it on a board to prevent flexing of the jig, then clamping that board to your bench.

      Didn't bother and didn't have a problem
    • Putting some PSA sandpaper on the jig to keep the boards from moving when clamping
      Didn't do this either, just adjusted the pressure
    • Use a 1/2" setup bar to position one of the boards 1/2 inch over.
    • Keep all your board widths at an even 1/2" size, i.e. 2.5, 3.5, 4.5, etc...
      Yea so what this would only make sense
    • Add some longer jointed wooden bars to the fences/stops to keep them aligned.

    I never have had a problem with this
    I've got just a really stupid little project I'm working on that I think this will be perfect for, and I've got a ton of poplar milled up and ready to run through it.

    Hopefully I'll be able to get around to it tomorrow..

    answers in blue
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash


  8. #8
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    Tokyo Japan
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    Hey Brent, just for you!

    I was cleaning up down in the Dungeon, and I happened upon my dovetail tools, so I did a little practice and took some pics to show you what I'm talking about....

    Click image for larger version. 

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    First my set of tools, not much to look at, I made the striking knife, mini square and layout tool, the saw is a "Razor" type Dozuki and the marking gauge is just a run of the mill unit, but they do the job for sure.
    The mirror I picked up at a dollar shop, and the wood is Luan, I like this Luan, it is cheap to buy and it is hard enough and works very well. I find that there are two kinds of Luan here on the shelves, the darker colored wood is better it is harder and usually has straighter grain, the lighter colored stuff is much softer and the grain can sometimes go sideways

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I honestly don't know who I picked up the mirror trick from but is certainly saves you some time and work, just keep a close watch on the mirror to see when you get to the line on the opposite side of the board, easy! Just don't put the mirror too close....

    Click image for larger version. 

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    To keep your saw square and cutting straight, you can look into the shiny surface of the saw, it if is all straight the mirror image in the saw blade will also be straight

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is about 10 or 15 minutes work (I was stopping to take pics too) and it really does work if you keep practicing, you will get better, and as you can see, I need more practice, not bad, but I can and have done better.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    When you are done, just take the board to the saw, and cut off the little fingers on the board you have made....

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I drop my laser light line right on the marking gauge line on the board, then when I cut off the fingers, I can see how I'm doing for depth, not bad, but I need to keep a better watch in that mirror

    spend 15 minutes each and every time you go into your workshop, consider it your "Workshop Warm Up" and in no time flat, you will be making great cuts, which lead to great dovetails, as you will not have to finesse them so much with the chisels DAMHIKT!!

    I hope this helps!

    Stu
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  9. #9
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    Very cool Stu.

    My 'stuff' is supposed to arrive on Tuesday, so if I can keep the shop clean until then, I'll try some hand cuts later this week.!
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash


  10. #10
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    Well, My handcut dovetail kit arrived!

    Time to start practicing....


    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails dovetailkit.jpg   dovetailkit2.jpg  
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash


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