Why buy it when you can make it! #36: First hand-cut dovetail

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Blog entry by paxorion posted 07-22-2015 03:44 AM 1818 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 35: Basement Wall Cabinets [Part 2] - Done?... Part 36 of Why buy it when you can make it! series Part 37: Restock - Baby's first trip to the hardwood dealer »

Being bored one night, I decided to head down to my basement and give hand cutting a dovetail a whirl. I had never hand cut a dove tail before and drew the layout lines on a whim. After some work with a saw that was certainly not meant for hand cut dovetails, a coping saw meant for moulding not woodworking, and chiseling, I had my first (sloppy) dovetail.

Say what you will, I’m pretty proud of winging it and learning a thing, two or two hundred for myself.

-- paxorion

6 comments so far

View rhybeka's profile


5066 posts in 4336 days

#1 posted 07-22-2015 11:07 AM

Great job jumping in, Pax! sometimes that’s all it takes :)

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

View ellen35's profile


2750 posts in 4647 days

#2 posted 07-22-2015 11:09 AM

I spent 2 weeks learning and practicing hand cut dovetails at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine (OK, we did much more than that!) and I must say I am a big fan of the practice. It is a “centering” activity and the result is very satisfying. I own a Leigh dovetail jig and have permanently put it away. Every time I look at the new bench in my front hallway, I get the feeling of accomplishment. I’ll never become a hand tools only woodworker, but there are some things that make me smile… hand cut dovetails top the list.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View handsawgeek's profile


663 posts in 2610 days

#3 posted 07-22-2015 04:14 PM

Good start!
The more of these you do, the better you will get.
You will find it to be quite a deal easier if you use a proper fine tooth back saw or dovetail saw. You get much more control on the cuts than with a coping saw.
I didn’t even attempt hand cut dovetails until I had tried a few box joints. Needless to say, my first few attempts were dismal.
Woodworking is always a progressive exercise!

-- Ed

View johnstoneb's profile


3175 posts in 3387 days

#4 posted 07-22-2015 11:08 PM

You have started down a dark road and there is no turning back. You will never be satilfied with a simple rabbet and dado when a dovetail can be used. congratulations.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 3260 days

#5 posted 07-23-2015 02:11 AM

Thanks everyone. I didn’t write it in my post but my two main takeaways from the first cut was that there are 2 immediate needs before integrating into a project.
  1. I need a proper vise. The hand screw clamped to my workbench won’t cut it.
  2. As handsawgeek pointed out, a backsaw will be bumping up on my list of tools to get.

It also raises my interest/priority to finish off my workbench.

-- paxorion

View bobdobbs's profile


8 posts in 4469 days

#6 posted 02-14-2016 02:36 AM

looks like a good start to me! I just embarked on the same trajectory. I decided to make my daughter a nightstand, thought dovetail jig was in order…saw a bunch of videos on hand cut dovetails…decided that the jig was out and learning how to do it without a jig was the ticket….realised that my saw sucked…bought a $40 dozuki (amazon, it’s quite nice!)...decided I needed a vise to hold my work…which led to the fact that my work “table” won’t accept a vise and house my table saw underneath…so anyway, spent the day cutting and laminating MDF and I like your idea of doublesided tape on the hardboard. I was toying with the idea of screws but thought it would look less than optimal.

-- If I had some ham, I could make some ham and eggs...if I had some eggs.

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