Getting serious about dovetails #1: The starting error

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Blog entry by controlfreak posted 09-09-2021 05:18 PM 491 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Getting serious about dovetails series Part 2: Second attempt »

I decided that I want to make a “Traveling Joiners Tool Box” with Paul Sellers as my guide. I have enough old Cherry to use but decided I would use some reclaimed Mahogany to make a box as practice first. Good thing I did. I wanted to do this without the training wheels on (magnetic guide blocks).

all seemed to be going well but I made an error when laying out the depth of my pin board. I must have made the error in not taking off the depth from the corresponding board correctly. The boards are milled by hand so it is critical to get the layout perfect. This caused my tails to sit proud on the ends and an error like that is just going to throw the whole thing off. I was disappointed to say the least but this is practice after all so I think I may just start over and give it a more careful try.
I think I will trim these off and restart. I know this is being picky but I really want a clean and tight joint. I will continue with my next attempt, wish me luck!

8 comments so far

View TxSurveyor's profile


62 posts in 108 days

#1 posted 09-09-2021 09:28 PM

Good luck! Looks like you are really close to hitting you desired tolerances.

-- Will, TX -- "You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas" - Davy Crockett

View pottz's profile (online now)


20151 posts in 2201 days

#2 posted 09-10-2021 02:41 AM

not bad bud,being a little proud i think is fine as long as it’s the same all around and not just one corner.better a little proud than less.hey after a couple hundred you’ll be fine-lol.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View controlfreak's profile


2746 posts in 818 days

#3 posted 09-10-2021 09:55 AM

I cut it off. Post mortem, I milled two boards by hand and one was almost an 1/8th thicker. I then cut those in two to make one side and an end. Technically I could have made that work if I keep track of what board goes where but I didn’t and that is how my tails ended up 1/8” proud. I really wanted to get back to cutting tails so I cut off the error and ran all four pieces through my planer to get an even thickness. I cut a new set of tails and with any luck get another try this weekend when a pin board is complete.

View Mike_D_S's profile


778 posts in 3431 days

#4 posted 09-10-2021 01:19 PM

I’ve only tried cutting DTs by hand a few times and mine didn’t look nearly as good as yours the first tries, so I think you’re on the way for sure.

I’d say its ok to be a little proud about your first attempt….... :)

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View splintergroup's profile


5748 posts in 2439 days

#5 posted 09-10-2021 04:04 PM

Great skill to be learning!

It is certainly best to have all the parts at the same thickness, etc. so you can concentrate on just the DT cutting. Even changing the wood species will alter the fit.

View GR8HUNTER's profile


8885 posts in 1929 days

#6 posted 09-10-2021 04:15 PM

GOOD LUCK :<)))))) Practice makes perfect joints

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View controlfreak's profile


2746 posts in 818 days

#7 posted 09-10-2021 04:36 PM

I really had a lot of fun using planes to flatten stock. It’s funny how someone like Paul Sellers can make it look so easy although I suspect he may own a planer that is only operated in a WWII sound proof bunker below his home. I started out free handing the flattening and after going off course had to make the decision to scribe the edge with a marking gauge to “bring it back” flat. I remember thinking that as long as I cut each board to fit the mating piece all be fine. Next time I will get one side flat and then mark my line on all boards. It ended up being the warmup I needed anyway. I should probably wait till I nail the next attempt but I find that with each time I do this I find that there is one more hack to help I can bypass. I am in awe of people like Frank Klausz who can free hand without marking cut a dovetail drawer in minutes. Make no mistake, that is not my goal here.

View Brodan's profile


373 posts in 2519 days

#8 posted 09-11-2021 12:00 AM

If only my first attempt came out anywhere near as good as yours.

I’m in agreement with you about how simple and effortless Sellers and Klausz make it look.

-- Dan, TN

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