LumberJocks

Manual Dovetails with some Power Tools

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by BlueRidgeDog posted 02-28-2019 08:50 PM 657 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I mentioned that I had a somewhat non-standard or hybrid approach do dovetails and a few folks suggested I document it here.

Since most of you know how to make hand cut dovetails, I will skip the basic steps (though I will have a link to them at the end) and focus on the differences from normal hand cut joints.

I use the “two compasses” method to layout the joint and standard marking gauge scribing.

I layout the tails first using a bevel gauge, picking an angle that suits the work.

The key to a perfect joint is a square tail. A tail that is out of square (from one face of the side to the other) will leave a gap on the tail face or the pin face or simply be impossible to assemble. A lot of tutorials online go to great lengths on how to cut square tails. Jigs to use to hold the saw against, methods for learning to hold the saw square and everything you can imagine. For me, the simplest approach is to cut them with a tool that guarantees a square cut line: the bandsaw. You can cut tails on the bandsaw if you can hold your work easily at the angle you have chosen for the tails and to do that you can make a simple jig.

To make the jig simply take a small piece of 1/4” plywood and draw an angle line on one edge at the angle you are using for your dovetails then glue a block on this line accurately. You can then run the part (when the glue has setup) through the table saw with the opposite side against the fence to square up the block to the plywood, establishing a flat edge to ride against the bandsaw fence.

To use the jig, place a side board on it, extending out past the edge of the plywood about an inch then adjust the fence so that the blade is generally aligned with the left most tail line. To get the tail cut line exact, move the drawer side forward on the jig to move the line to the left and backward on the jig to move it to the right. When aligned, move the drawer side and jig forward together on the bandsaw fence and the line will be cut at a perfect angle. Cut right up to the scribed marking line. This gives a cut that is square to the face of each board and a square shoulder.

Flip the board and you will be generally aligned for the other side (that runs in the opposite angle, but is now the correct angle as it was flipped). Make the cut and then move the fence in until you are generally aligned with the next cut mark. Cut then flip then move the fence and repeat until all the tail lines are cut.

There is no need for anything other than general accuracy with the tails as the pins will be cut to fit them. As long as you are more or less on the line, they will be uniform. You do need to be very accurate in not cutting past the scribe line. Cut to the line, the bandsaw blade should stop in the middle of the dent made by the marking gauge.

While at the bandsaw, put away the tail jig and use the miter guide to cut the waste off of the the edges. Here you want to position the side board to that you cut exactly on the scribe line, stopping at the prior cut line. With practice you can cut these perfectly so no paring is required. If you are at all in doubt, leave a 32nd or a 16th to remove with a chisel.

In practice, I make all the drawer side cuts at the same time, so I have a stack of sides and I do the two cuts on them all (cut once, flip and cut) then move the fence and repeat my way through the stack, so I move the fence once per tail for the entire group of sides versus moving it three times per side.

The waste is trimmed from the pin area using traditional methods.

With perfectly square tails, the joint typically comes together very tight:

The pin board is then marked from the tail board and cut using a dovetail saw, fret saw and chisel.

For half blind joints, you use the same bandsaw process for the tail board, but then add a rebate to registration to the pin board and to reduce the amount needed to cut as well as improve the alignment of the inside corner.

I then use a router to remove the bulk of the waste for the pin board sockets:

Then manually trim to the line:

With careful fitting and cautious trimming, the join comes together tightly:

So that is my deviation from all hand tool dovetails to hand/power combination. The bandsaw makes perfect tails and the router speeds up hand cut pin board sockets.

A much longer write up on the process is here.



4 comments so far

View SMP's profile

SMP

1392 posts in 413 days


#1 posted 03-01-2019 04:03 AM

Interesting thanks for posting. I am going to be building some Mike Pekovich plans and I know he does some hybrid dovetails on some of these using a table saw as well. I haven’t bought the plans yet so only saw the preview. Excited to try it once i get the time though.

View BlueRidgeDog's profile

BlueRidgeDog

499 posts in 287 days


#2 posted 03-01-2019 02:25 PM



Interesting thanks for posting. I am going to be building some Mike Pekovich plans and I know he does some hybrid dovetails on some of these using a table saw as well. I haven’t bought the plans yet so only saw the preview. Excited to try it once i get the time though.

- SMP

Yes, there is a table saw method for this where you cut the tails with the blade tilted to the angle you are seeking and use a sled to cut the tails. It is about the same. I use the bandsaw method as I don’t have to wrangle a big sled and I can cut the edge pin waste at the same time with the same tool. I can also get a small kerf that eliminates the need for a special table saw blade or for changing blades on the table saw.

View EarlS's profile

EarlS

3090 posts in 2856 days


#3 posted 03-01-2019 04:17 PM

Thanks for showing us how you make dovetails. I’m curious what the red marks are. pen or pencil? They show up really well.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View BlueRidgeDog's profile

BlueRidgeDog

499 posts in 287 days


#4 posted 03-01-2019 04:39 PM



Thanks for showing us how you make dovetails. I m curious what the red marks are. pen or pencil? They show up really well.

- EarlS

A red permanent marker, fine tip. Makes a good line, gets into tight spaces and planes/sands off easily.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com