Author Topic: Dovetail  (Read 8760 times)

Jeff L Headley

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Dovetail
« on: August 23, 2012, 08:35:01 PM »
How and why?

Jeff L Headley

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2012, 08:51:15 PM »
How would you cut a dovetailed joint today? How and why? Every one has a secert. We use a mortiser to clean out between the pins.

Jeff L Headley

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2012, 09:34:05 PM »
Always use a cutting gauge, not a marking gauge! Then alway saw to the line with no clean up needed.

Mickey Callahan

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2012, 09:25:19 AM »
OK, I'll be the first to take the bait! A sharp! and properly shaped marking gauge works for me. Kind of hard to use a mortiser if your pin and tail spacing is tight but I understand its advantages when applicable. I occasionaly do the same for half-blind dovetails.

Mickey
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Jeff L Headley

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2012, 05:08:18 PM »
Mickey, Thank you for your reply. Another question to all is what type of knife do you use to mark your pins and tails? I do not like two seperate right and left angled marking knifes. What a waste! But there is nothing wrong with that. It should be what you are used to.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 08:26:15 PM by Jeff L Headley »

Jeff Saylor

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2012, 06:02:09 PM »
Nowadays, I almost always hand cut dovetails.  I do have a leigh jig that occasionally gets used  (usually where dts are hidden). Believe it or not, after hand cutting dts enough, it often takes longer to get out and set up the jig and router than it takes to just lay them out and cut them by hand!
 I'm a "tails first" kind of guy so when marking the pins I have a pfeil marking knife that I hardly ever use.  A good old exacto knife works for me.
Jeff Saylor
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Johnny D

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2012, 10:30:27 PM »
Jeff:
1.) Thanks for all you do in the forum.  You're keeping it alive
2.) Dovetails all hand-cut. Tails first, pins marked with scalpel
3.) Waste between tails removed with small coping or jewelers saw, capable of right angle turns.  Sawed close to line, cleaned up with small customized chisel with edges ground at a bevel to avoid bruising corners.
4.) Rip saw lines on tails untouched with chisels
5.) Saw lines on pins kept away from line, cleaned with chisel
6.) Waste between pins removed initially with pig sticker mortise chisel, refined with chisels, under surgical light, often with magnification
7.) No test fitting
8.) Big half pins
9.) On drawers, as you can see in the 2nd photo, small bevel on bottom edge of face to avoid hitting blade
10.) Dovetailing takes me an average of about four hours per drawer.  I don't do this for a living.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 10:35:03 PM by Johnny D »

Johnny D

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2012, 10:33:32 PM »
Pic of bottom half-pin

Jeff L Headley

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2012, 11:10:09 PM »
Johnny, A dovetail only fits once, or at least that is what I have been told. After over 35 years I am still trying to find that perfect joint

FrederickH

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2012, 11:32:50 PM »
I use a knife marking gauge for the layout of the tails/pins and then marking out the tails with a marking knife. The waste is removed with a coping/dovetail saw, followed with a shape chisel.

Jack Plane

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2012, 04:12:20 AM »
I only know how to cut dovetails by hand... tails first (except when making sliding, tapered dovetailed joints). I use a cutting gauge for the base lines and when my eyesight was better, I did use a homemade double-sided knife, but now I use a tapered pencil. I remove the majority of the waste with a coping saw and then take two chisel cuts to pare back to the line. No other paring ? dovetails always fit better straight off the saw.

I know some people drill the majority of the waste out of the sockets when making half-blind dovetails, but I get a bit medieval on them with a chisel before finally paring them (undercut) back to the lines.

I aim for a fit whereby I could forego glue: I can assemble a drawer side into a drawer front that's held in the vice and then flick the back end of the drawer side and listen to it vibrating like a tuning fork. I seldom pre-fit dovetails (unless posing them for a photo), but I like to know that I can if necessary without any detriment to the joint.

I cut half tails or full tails on the bottoms of drawer sides to suite the period of the piece.
Regards, Jack.

Jeff L Headley

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2012, 05:30:42 PM »
Jack Plane, I am interested in your sharp pencil. I got a posting offline about a pencil. Could this be an English trait. We are mostly taught in the states to use a knife line. Pencil lines can be deceiving unless you have cut hundreds (or more likely Thousands) of dovetails. Some in America, feel if you are not living on the edge then you are taking up to much space. Please take this comment in the humorous manner it was meant. A sharp pencil can give an extremely fine line also to trim to. I don't use a pencil but I do highlight my knife line with a pencil line so I can see to saw to. I also use a, beveled on both sides, "Dull" knife. I will set a knife tick in the outer ( or inner depending on how you look at it) point of each dovetail to set my knife to square down. This tick also works to start my dovetail saw. I am a tails first cabinetmaker because of only one reason. ?
While doing drawers I will set a line up block in the slot for the drawer bottom to help me line up the drawer sides to lay out drawer fronts and backs. How far up from the drawer bottom of your drawer will  you set the top of your drawer bottom dado (slot)?  Queen Anne, Chippendale and Federal (What do you call Federal (1780- 1825)? This question might depend on the period the drawer is being made.
Different angles for different woods!! We use the same angle for both hard and soft woods ( Walnut, Cherry, Maple, Mahogany, with poplar White pine, and Yellow pine secondary). We are located in the Central Eastern Coastal region of the States.

pampine

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2012, 07:04:57 PM »
My first set of dovetails made 30+ years ago I marked with pencil and pared out with a chisel (hey, I had 2 of them, so it was probably a 1/2"). It turned out perfectly fitted. The main thing about this first set was that I realized it didn't much matter that the first side, tails in my case, was marked at all since the second side, pins, were marked from the tails; so I started freehanding the tails first. For a couple of reasons: first, I can gang cut tails; and second, they all line up (ala Jeff). I still use chisels for paring/chopping the waste, although now and then I use much smaller chisels, often skewed or fishtail for hidden dovetails.

As to marking, I use pencil or knife, whichever is handier and/or small enough for the dovetails in question. My only foreign influence was years later, maybe 10 years ago, Jim Kingshott, who I'll forever regret died before I had a chance to meet him.

Pam

Jack Plane

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2012, 04:10:07 AM »
Jack Plane, I am interested in your sharp pencil. I got a posting offline about a pencil. Could this be an English trait. We are mostly taught in the states to use a knife line. Pencil lines can be deceiving unless you have cut hundreds (or more likely Thousands) of dovetails. Some in America, feel if you are not living on the edge then you are taking up to much space. Please take this comment in the humorous manner it was meant. A sharp pencil can give an extremely fine line also to trim to. I don't use a pencil but I do highlight my knife line with a pencil line so I can see to saw to. I also use a, beveled on both sides, "Dull" knife. I will set a knife tick in the outer ( or inner depending on how you look at it) point of each dovetail to set my knife to square down. This tick also works to start my dovetail saw. I am a tails first cabinetmaker because of only one reason. ?
While doing drawers I will set a line up block in the slot for the drawer bottom to help me line up the drawer sides to lay out drawer fronts and backs. How far up from the drawer bottom of your drawer will  you set the top of your drawer bottom dado (slot)?  Queen Anne, Chippendale and Federal (What do you call Federal (1780- 1825)? This question might depend on the period the drawer is being made.
Different angles for different woods!! We use the same angle for both hard and soft woods ( Walnut, Cherry, Maple, Mahogany, with poplar White pine, and Yellow pine secondary). We are located in the Central Eastern Coastal region of the States.

Jeff, I take a normal wooden pencil and plane opposite sides to a long slow point which reaches into even the finest dovetails. The lead is somewhat vulnerable, but if the end grain of the stock has been planed, the lead normally doesn't break. I can no longer see knife marks at a distance I'm comfortable sawing at.

I was asked recently to describe the method I use to make drawers, so I posted a summary on my blog here http://pegsandtails.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/constructing-a-mid-eighteenth-century-drawer/. I use a wooden block or key to align the drawer sides with the drawer fronts.

I blogged about furniture periods some time ago too. http://pegsandtails.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/the-queen-is-dead-uh-long-live-the-queen/ Please take it in the spirit it was written!

I also use the same (in theory) angle for all dovetails, though I don't know what the exact angle is; I place a series of pencil dots at the points I want the dovetails and luckily my saw remembers the correct angle.
Regards, Jack.

Mickey Callahan

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Re: Dovetail
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2012, 10:14:44 AM »
I generally use a draftsman's mechanical pencil with 2H or 3H lead lead on light colored wood such as poplar or pine. Using a light touch, the pencil also allows one to extend the lead to reach into tight spots when necessay. However, its important to keep the lead sharp just like any other tool. I also use a marking knife on darker woods such as mahogany or walnut where a fine pencil line is hard to see. I have a marking knife made by the Swiss company Pfiel that I particularly like but I've been known to use an Xacto knife with a #11 blade also. Like Jeff says, it all depends what you get use to using. From there you adapt to making it work.

I'm a pin first kind of guy. My reasoning is that there are ways to easily assess and correct the walls of the pins that generally must be square to the end of the board before you can rely on making an accurate ajoining tail(s). Once one develops good layout and hand sawing skills, it really doesn't matter which you do first with pins and tails. I've been teaching beginners for over 25 years and haven't had one yet that couldn't master hand-cut dovetails using this approach. For the most part, woodworking is nothing more than a lot of repetitive processes. The more you do it, the better you get.

Mickey
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