Technique #1: Looking for Feedback on my Dovetails

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Blog entry by DoctorDan posted 11-19-2010 04:23 AM 1725 reads 1 time favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Technique series Part 2: Layout Tips »

Over the past two days I’ve been working on the dovetails on my Wax Melter Project. I haven’t had to use dovetails for about 9 months and am using new toys I’ve acquired in that time, including saw and bench.

I’m interested in any feedback from people on my technique, design, planing, prevention of errors, anything. The rest of the WIP is on my blog.

The twin leg vice combination truly excels at this task. It securely holds edge side the entire length of the vice. (I did notice some flex in the middle of the pine board which required stablisation with my left hand.)

A 2cm tail is marked every 5cm. I used the Vertias 1:6 dovetail marker, a mechanical pencil, vertias wheel gauge, and a 1m rule to achieve this. You’ll note that both sides are in the vice allowing me to cut tails on both boards at once speeding production.

This is the first time I’ve been able to test my new Wenzloff & Sons Dovetail saw. A nice tool to handle and quick to use.

Both sides complete.

Using eclipse blades in a stanley coping saw I removed the bulk of the waste.

I then cleared up to the waste with a chisel. I used the cut tails and a vesper marking knife to layout the pins on the corresponding board. The pins were cut using the same above technique.

One side complete. Three to go.

I do have to show some errors though. (Fortunately this project is to be painted so the final product will not be effected.)

You can see the rabbet for the base board. Ideally this would be a stopped rabbet or mitred so it cannot be scene. I’m intested in about others would get around this project.

In some of my earlier chiseling my chisel wasn’t sharp enough and I had some resulting blow out and damage to the surface some of which will need some putty filler.

-- Daniel -

12 comments so far

View Safetyboy's profile


119 posts in 4271 days

#1 posted 11-19-2010 04:30 AM

That’s about how I do it (though without the double-sliding leg vise). Don’t know of any other additional pointers except to practice, practice, practice.

-- -- Kevin in Mentor, Ohio

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3554 days

#2 posted 11-19-2010 04:50 AM

They look good to me. I am certainly no expert but if they hold and look descent then they are good in my book.

View Scott R. Turner's profile

Scott R. Turner

267 posts in 3701 days

#3 posted 11-19-2010 05:13 AM

That’s probably better than I can do, although that’s hardly setting the bar high. There’s probably a limit to how well you can dovetail in soft pine.

I’m curious about the rabbet question as well. You can hide the rabbet in one direction by putting it on the socket, but in the other direction you need to stop it. I’ve done that when cutting the rabbet on my router table, but it seems more problematic doing it with the table saw.

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3854 days

#4 posted 11-19-2010 05:57 AM

That’s a lot of dovetails! I think you are doing good. I chisel my dovetails starting from the inside going half way and flip the board over to complete the chiseling. This really helps eliminate blow out and if it happens, it is on the inside of the project.

-- Marc

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4406 days

#5 posted 11-19-2010 06:27 AM

what is the point in cutting hand dovetails that could be passed for being made by a machine?

the “pin” should always be “skinny” enough so that there is no mistake, it should always be thin enough so that there is ZERO doubt that it was done by hand as router bits only come so small.

otherwise, you might as well use a jig ?

study old furniture, you certainly have the skill to get it right.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View sras's profile


5200 posts in 3641 days

#6 posted 11-19-2010 07:37 AM

I remembered seeing a stefang share blog post on how to close in gaps on dovetails. Luckily, I found it here – definitely worth looking at. From what I can tell, you are making great progress…

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 3577 days

#7 posted 11-19-2010 12:46 PM

I haven’t really done that many dovetails. But I really like the vise you are using there. Is it your own design?

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1590 posts in 4077 days

#8 posted 11-19-2010 01:18 PM

Definitely check out stefang’s blog that Steve mentioned. Regarding the stopped dado, I think you do as much as you can with a plow plane then finish the stopped ends with a router plane.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4536 days

#9 posted 11-19-2010 01:57 PM

The only other solution I know of for a through dovetail like that is to plug the opening with a piece of matching wood. Of course this is still visible. If it were a half-blind, you could hide it in a tail, but Timbo’s suggestion is all I can think of as well.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View rkoorman's profile


381 posts in 3337 days

#10 posted 11-19-2010 02:41 PM

i normally plug the opening with a piece of wood, it almost disappears completely. the nicest would be on a routertable.



View lew's profile


12863 posts in 4268 days

#11 posted 11-20-2010 12:33 AM

You can reduce/eliminate the blow out by chiseling out the waste from one side, about half way through the material. Then flip the piece over and chisel from the opposite side towards the middle.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 3393 days

#12 posted 11-20-2010 03:18 AM

Very nice! As good as any router jig affair!

I like the fancy wheels on the bench too….and chrome no less!

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

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