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Thread: Scalpels & Dovetails

  1. #1
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    Scalpels & Dovetails

    I have always used a X-ACTO knife for marking my dovetails, but am thinking that a scalpel might be a better knife for the purpose.

    My method of marking and sawing dovetails is that I transfer the tail onto the pin board by running the knife blade right against the tail, almost undercutting it, so that the resulting thin line is equal to the tail edge. This allows me to place my dovetail saw just on the waste side of the line, drawing back a little to start, allowing the saw to jump into the cut line and off I go sawing. This is a little counter to most direction you see about leaving the line as you cut, but it works perfectly for me. The key is making the line as close as possible to the tail.

    The X-ACTO knife works for the process, but I have never liked how the handles hold the disposable knives. They do not clamp very well and I was thinking maybe a decent scalpel might be better. Anybody with any experience with scaplels out there that might help me in deciding if this is a good idea and what type of scaplel I should look for. I am not understanding the handle numbers and how they relate to size. Another thing is blade material, carbon steel or stainless?
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  2. #2
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    What about an exacto knife like this?

    I find with the knurled knob on the end, it clamps pretty well, and the custom made wooden handle gives a pretty secure grip...

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails FWW-4094.jpg  

  3. #3
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    That is a nice handle Brent! I still looking for someone that has used both a scalpel and an X-ACTO knife to tell me what the differences are in use. I know how an X-ACTO knife feels, including the blades, but not a scalpel. I would like the blade to be a little stiffer than the X-ACTO but still as thin. If that is possible?
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  4. #4
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    Scalpels & Dovetails

    Bill, I have a #3 Bard & Parker scalpel handle and mostly use #11 blades. As for using them for dovetails, I'll have to give that a try. I use mine for marking, trimming and cutting. They do work better than Exactos, but are a lot more expensive. Stainless is the way to go, and they will be VERY sharp. Some brand of #11 blades even have a little "spine" going along part of the top edge of the blade. They are a little stiffer, but I don't recall who makes them.

    HTH, Aloha, Tony
    "You got to learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make them all yourself". (Author unknown)

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  5. #5
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    Thanks for the information Tony!
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  6. #6
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    I have several. The smaller ones use the "10" series blades. #11 is the most common, but there are several other shapes that come in handy, like #12 and #15.

    The larger handles use a "20" series blade. #21 and #25 blades are the larger versions of the 10 series blades.

    Scalpel blades are very useful, but they're also fairly pricey, and very fragile and brittle. They're designed, of course, for cutting flesh, so they're quite thin, and the steel they're made from is very brittle, so the edges chip easily and dull quickly in harder materials (like wood). You've got to be very careful not to put any side stress on them, or they can shatter almost like glass - and flying bits of sharp steel aren't fun! (DAMHIKT)
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  7. #7
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    Thanks Jim, the websites that I was looking at for buying just listed the different model numbers without any explanation. They assumed you knew what you wanted. This helps.
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Satko View Post
    Thanks Jim, the websites that I was looking at for buying just listed the different model numbers without any explanation. They assumed you knew what you wanted. This helps.
    Maybe this will help a little more, Bill. These are the handles and blades I use the most:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails DSCN0720 (Custom).JPG  
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  9. #9
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    Jim, this is over and above any response I expected. I really appreciate your effort in this.

    Is that really the type of handle a dentist would use? It does not look like a "finesse" style of handle to me. Good thing any oral surgery that I had, I was knocked out. That would be like seeing a claw hammer on their surgery tray.
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Satko View Post
    Jim, this is over and above any response I expected. I really appreciate your effort in this.
    No problem, Bill. Glad I could help.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Satko View Post
    Is that really the type of handle a dentist would use? It does not look like a "finesse" style of handle to me. Good thing any oral surgery that I had, I was knocked out. That would be like seeing a claw hammer on their surgery tray.
    I don't know if dentists really use that handle or not, but that's the way it was labeled in the catalog. Perhaps it's intended to be used in the dental lab - like for trimming molds, etc.? I sure hope so. I wouldn't like to see that thing coming towards MY mouth! I like your claw hammer analogy, btw.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

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