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Here are a few pictures of some hand dovetailing that I did after I made my own guide using Rare Earth Magnets that I purchased from Lee Valley.

The time was 1998 or 1999 I don't remember exactly.
What gave me the idea was a guide sold by Japanwoodworker that is made by a Swedish firm called Nobex.

I purchased one but soon returned it because it didn't cut a true 90 degrees.

I went ahead and built the Chestnut Kitchen Cabinets using the guide to cut thru dovetails
in all of the drawers (all 4 corners).
I thought about trying to get a patent on the guide but didn't have the extra money
and just let it go at that.
Well Lo and Behold about 3 or 4 years later Lee Valley came out with their "Patented" Magnetic Dovetail Guide.
Someone put an entry in Methods of Work in Fine Woodworking in issue 171 on how to make a guide using the Rare Earth Magnet.
I haven't found it yet, but I believe it was Rob Lee from Lee Valley that said you can't do that because we have the patent on the guide now.
I looked up the patent on Google and don't really understand why anyone can't make their own guide
without infringing on the Lee Valley patent as long as they don't make them for sale.
Is the unique part about the patent that it uses a magnet to hold the saw blade to assist in the cutting?
If so what about the Nobex devise, it uses a magnet also and was being sold long before Lee Valleys patent.
I consider the design of Lee Valleys guide to more complex than needed with the clamps plus a lot slower
to use and a lot more clumsy than the one I designed to use.

There are only 3 angles needed to cut dovetails.
Without showing mine (I might get in trouble if I show it),
I can tell you that it is 3- 1/2" long by
1 - 1/2" wide by 1 - 1/4" high. Grooves are cut 3/16" deep along the 1 - 1/2" side
centered both top and bottom.
One groove is cut across the long side (1 side only) for the 90 degree cut.
The other 2 ends are cut one for tails the other for pins.
The device is flipped end for end to get the cuts needed.
I made mine at 7-1, you can make it any angle you want or make how many ever you desire at as many angles that you need.
I made one for narrow stock like 1/2" and one for 3/4" material.
The magnets are embeded flush on each end and on the one side.

It is very easy to use, I like to cut the pins first.
You really don't need to do any laying out other than the width of the pins.
Just position the guide where you want to make a cut and let the magnet hold the saw straight.

I have a Lie Nielsen Dovetail saw that I use.

I see a lot of folks talking about struggling with dovetails and I thought that I would share
what I have done to make it much easier for me.




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68 Posts
you can make you own guide. and it doesn't infringe on there patient. I saw the fine woodworking article that you mentioned and the next issue they had to retract the article, because of the patient.

You can make one you just can't make a bunch and sell them. But for yourself you can. I make jigs everyday that are out there, but I don't want to buy them.

But if you in someway redesign the product and make it better than you can patient that.

just my 2 cents.

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2,053 Posts
Nice work on the dovetails…is that a whole kitchen of handcut dovetails?

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1,342 Posts
Nice dovetails, and you cut them by hand. Good job.

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4,691 Posts
It looks like you have a pretty good setup there.

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5 Posts
All of the drawers were hand dovetailed.
The face frames I used pocket screws.
The doors I used a CMT set for kitchens.

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0 Posts
Very nice work! The dovetails look great!

I've never used guides, but often thought about buying some (or making some, but shhh…). I started my foray into the hand-cut dovetail realm with a cheap gent's saw and felt like a child trying to learn to cut straight with a scissors. But then purchased a Japanese dovetail saw and boy what a difference! Now, I usually saw pretty straight only to screw up with the chisel. :) However, one drawback of the Japanese style saws is that the kerf is too small to saw out the waste with a coping saw (which I find is easier than chopping it out with a chisel). I am saving my pennies for a good western style saw so that (hopefully) I can get the best of both worlds.

That's a funny story about the patent issue. I am no lawyer, but I can't see how showing people how to make a device would infringe upon the patent for the device. After all, that's what the patent does! However, I'm sure the retraction was based upon the advice of a real lawyer. :)

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2,025 Posts
I think the infrigement was more about a someone publishing the plans for the jig, than about people making their own for personal use. They'd never sell one if everyone had already made one.

Thats interesting about the other jig already commercially available. It makes me wonder if they bought them out, or if they didn't have an international copyright on it.

If yours is really a better mousetrap, then you could probably get a patent on that… and perhaps you should. Could earn you a pretty penny!