My Hand tool Experience #2: First real venture into woodworking...hand cut dovetails.

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Mark posted 01-13-2010 06:35 AM 1554 reads 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Stanley No 4 restoration Part 2 of My Hand tool Experience series Part 3: Getting side tracked...restoring more tools »

Hi everyone,

As I am a complete novice and just getting into woodworking I decided that I will make this an ongoing blog of all my trials and tribulations. I have done this for 2 main reasons, a) so I can keep track of my progress and b) i am hoping once this evolves and has been running for 6 months it may give some aspireing woodworks a bit of an insight into where to start, what I have found works and what doesnt etc.

To get the ball rolling here is a pick of my first ever hand cut dovetails, I have never really used any hand tools before and decided to give it a go, as you can see they are way off and loose fitting but as i have said this is a journal of a novices learing in progress. I will have another go later today and post the pics. I will note that I do not as yet have a dovetail saw and my chisels have not been flattened or sharpened yet (i plan on starting them today as well whilst I am on 2 weeks annual leave).

First Hand Cut Dovetails

They are a set of Stubai polished chisels that are made in Austria. i have chosen sizes 6mm, 10mm, 12mm, 16mm, 18mm, 26mm. I have read quite a bit on how to flatten the back and then sharpening the edge, I will do this as a seperate blog entry to show the progress etc and take comments.

-- Mark, Sydney, Australia

13 comments so far

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2824 posts in 4129 days

#1 posted 01-13-2010 07:00 AM

Very nice chisels and a good go at the dovetails.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View fotomaker57's profile


13 posts in 3751 days

#2 posted 01-13-2010 07:46 AM

I am also making the same journey as you. I have done many home improvement projects but that is much different than fine wood working. So I will be following you journey with great interest. Good luck and stay safe.

-- Don't Tread on me

View woodworm's profile


14475 posts in 4129 days

#3 posted 01-13-2010 11:52 AM

You have great chisels no doubt. How about dovetail saw? These two tools should go together beside steady hand and skill. I’m happy to see the progress of your ability using hand tools. If you think you can do, surely you can do.
Good luck with your woodworking journey.

The tip from fellow woodworker – the softer the wood the scary sharp the tools should be and I believe it’s true.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View hunter71's profile


3461 posts in 3725 days

#4 posted 01-13-2010 02:19 PM

good start, good tools. Time spent working is the best teacher.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3647 days

#5 posted 01-13-2010 02:23 PM

Nice first attempt, especially without the saw. What are you using as a marking gauge for setting the lines?


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3773 days

#6 posted 01-13-2010 04:00 PM

Like David mentioned, get a marking gauge. Pencil works, but it smears and blurs making it hard to cut to a line accurately. In lieu of a marking gauge, you could use an exacto knife and straight edge, but the marking gauge allows you to very accurately scribe a line all the way around without trying to line up your cuts from face to face.

I bought the less expensive round one from Rockler that (last I saw) was still on sale. It works pretty well I think, but I’ve only cut one set of dovetails with it myself so I can’t speak to its durability :)

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3825 days

#7 posted 01-13-2010 06:10 PM

Great first try. It’s like anything worthwhile—-Practice, practice, and practice some more. It can be a difficult journey sometimes, but well worth it in the end.

Thanks for sharing


View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4413 days

#8 posted 01-14-2010 05:58 AM

I’m doing the same thing! Keep up the practice.

-- Happy woodworking!

View stefang's profile


16809 posts in 3873 days

#9 posted 01-14-2010 06:39 PM

Good job! It won’t be long before they are perfect. The marking out is just as important as the cutting. I get really good results with a japanese saw. They cut through wood like butter with a very thin kerf, and they are a lot cheaper than a decent traditional dovetail saw. I have cut a lot of hand dovetails, but I’ve become lazy in my old age and just use my scrollsaw now. The results are just as good, but doing it by hand is fun and rewarding.

I’m going to do a blog with photos in the near future to show how gaps around dovetails (and box joints) can be eliminated without the use of putty or other fillers. I learned about it in an article in Fine Woodworking magazine a few years ago. Works like a charm, and even the old pros use it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3647 days

#10 posted 01-14-2010 10:52 PM

I am looking forward to that tutorial Mike. I am sure all of us would appreciate that investment of your time.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View stefang's profile


16809 posts in 3873 days

#11 posted 01-14-2010 11:11 PM

Good David, I will try to do it real soon.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Mark's profile


27 posts in 3992 days

#12 posted 01-15-2010 12:04 AM

Thanks for all the replies. I will be working on the chisles today using a technique by David Charlesworth in one of his books. I will post some pics once done. I also picked up a Japanese saw until i can afford my Lie-Niesen Dovetail saw so I will be having some practice sessions on mortise and tenons and the dovetails as well as general saw cutting practice!

-- Mark, Sydney, Australia

View WEASEL's profile


12 posts in 3605 days

#13 posted 01-28-2010 04:56 AM

Not to bad. I just cut my first dovetails today out of a twisted 2×6 rusty saw and a chisel I hammered into cement. Do what you can with what you got.

-- WEASEL, Anthem AZ

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