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Thread: Tools for handcut dovetails

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    La Habra Hts. CA
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    Tools for handcut dovetails

    Wanted to get some thoughts and opinions on tools for hand cut dovetails. What people prefer:


    Marking gauge- what type or brand?

    Saws- regular dovetail saw or dozuki?

    Chisels-type or brand?

    Any other input to ge started for hand cut dovetails


    Doug

  2. #2
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    Placitas, NM in the foothills of the Sandia Mt
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    Hey Doug,
    My two cents worth would be to not sweat the tools but to practice, practice, practice. I have seen really elegant dovetails cut with very modest tools. Probably the hardest skill to learn is to cut a straight and square line with a handsaw. When I was first learning (and as a warmup exercise now), I would mark a dozen or two straight lines on some scrap with a square and practice cutting them until the muscle memory developed.

    Having said all that, I use a Veritas wheel marking gauge, a Veritas dovetail angle template for marking, a dozuki saw, and Marples blue handle chisels. Nothing special and certainly nothing expensive.
    Don't believe everything you think!

  3. #3
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    Nov 2006
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    La Habra Hts. CA
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    Thanks Jesse sounds like great advise.

    Doug

  4. #4
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    Oct 2006
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    Tokyo Japan
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    Doug, Jesse has you on the right path, for sure.

    I like the Japanese pull saws, I'm in Japan, so it kind of make sense to use them.

    My chisels are all refurbished ones off the auctions, and I made my own marking gauge and knife, work fine, but I'm still the weak link in the process

    Cheers!
    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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    Oct 2006
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    ozarks
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    doug, i`m with the others here sharp saw-n-chisel and practice are what it takes to cut pins-n-tails.....the tools could be pink and from wal-mart if they`re sharp they`ll cut better than a dull set of lie-nelsons.....tod
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Herndon VA
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    Start with the basics. A good rip saw is key to keeping the cuts from wandering. I went with a high end LN saw but you can get just as good from PAX for less, or look into the antique market for older Disston saws.

    For a marking guage I use the Lee Valley one. It is nice for me.

    Sharp chisels are a must. You can go low end Marples that have surprisingly nice steel and hold a nice edge. Along with that are sharpening stones.

    You'll also need a DT guage. LV makes some nice DT saddle gauges.

    For books/DVDs, I'd recommend Ian Kirby's book on DTs and the Rob Cosman DVDs.

    Most of all PRACTICE!!!

    Good luck. DTs are not as hard as they look.

  7. #7
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    Nov 2006
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    La Habra Hts. CA
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    Thanks everyone for the solid input. This gives me a starting point to start practicing.


    Doug

  8. #8
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    Oct 2006
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    Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
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    I have this guide and saw set from Lee Valley: http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.a...18&cat=1,42884

    I have guides of both available ratios as well as a set of good sharp chisels.

    The joints that I have cut with these tools are OK, not great but not bad either.
    Cheers, Frank

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Spokane, WA
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    60
    I agree with what others have said. I think you will be much happier with a rip saw, be it japanese or western, than you would with a crosscut. I strggled mightily with a cross cut dozuki, until I got my Adria. The problem was not that it was a japanese saw, it was the fact that it was filed crosscut, and required about 4 times as may strokes to finish the cut, which resulted in a very ragged kerf. I too like the wheel type Lee Valley marking gauge.

    The key is being able to saw to a line. A little practice here will save a lot of frustration down the line (no pun intended). Find a practice board, and make a series of parallel lines along the end, in the same orientation as you would for the various dovetail pins and tails. Mark your stop lines then just practice cutting to the waste side of the lines, stopping without going throuh your stop line. When you have worked your way all across the board, cut away the kerfs, and start again. Go as long as your interest holds. Evaluate your work, and see what you need to improve upon. If you do this a few times every day, within a few days you will note great improvement.

    One little tip I discovered quite by accident. is that particulary when making an angled cut, I do better if I start the cut while looking only with my dominant eye, which for me is the left. When using both eyes, while I can see more clearly, I have a built in error in the angle, pulling slightly to the left, especially when cutting the tails. If I remember to close the right eye when starting the cut, the error goes away or is reduced significantly. If just the right eye is open, the error is even greater. Once the blade is started, i can open the other eye, as the path is set. If you are having trouble sawing straight, try experimenting in this manner, see if it helps. for me, it has saved a LOT of frustration.

    There is another video by Frank Klause (SP?) who has a very different approach than Cosman, which might interest you. Try several different techniques and find the one which suits you best.

    Dan
    "A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down."
    Robert Benchley

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Southern Georgia
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    1,396
    Doug,

    So you're going from "Euro" style cabinets to hand-cut dovetails?

    Interesting seque for sure...

    As to your actual question, all I can add is that I use a Leigh jig for half-blinds and thru's, and my Jointech for double-dovetails. I just don't have the time and/or patience for "hand-cut". But I do admire those that do!

    - Marty -
    Fivebraids, Inc.
    When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there’s no end to what you can’t do…

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