Dovetail Question

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Forum topic by kolwdwrkr posted 07-14-2010 02:19 AM 3991 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2824 posts in 4197 days

07-14-2010 02:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Should the line from the marking guage remain or be sanded off on hand cut dovetails? I researched it at one point and every drawer I saw that was handcut had the line. I’ve never left the line on the outside of projects like the side of a jewelry box, but have always thought they were to remain on drawers as a sign that it was in fact hand cut. Is this wrong? My thoughts were that the line seperates it from a machine cut dovetail, and without it, who’s to say it isn’t machine cut except the maker? Thoughts?

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

22 replies so far

View Bothus's profile


442 posts in 3784 days

#1 posted 07-14-2010 02:32 AM

I had a thought once but…

-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

View patron's profile


13694 posts in 3948 days

#2 posted 07-14-2010 02:39 AM

i don’t do hand cut ,
so i couldn’t say ,
but your idea may be true ,
for some that do ?

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3625 days

#3 posted 07-14-2010 02:42 AM

I would say that if the lines were neatly and crisply drawn they could stay but if there were double lines or messy lines then I’d say remove them. Actually it is up to the person doing the project. BTW you do beautiful work so your lines could stay!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4320 days

#4 posted 07-14-2010 02:43 AM

I think it is personal preference. You know they are hand cut, your client knows, who else needs to know whether they were hand cut. What really matters is that you produce quality (and from what I can see you have no problem with quality worksmanship Keith) craftsmanship that satisfies yourself and your client.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

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Al Navas

305 posts in 4482 days

#5 posted 07-14-2010 02:49 AM

I prefer to leave them, as do my clients:

Just before finishing I remove only the pencil lines transferred from the tails to the pins (for half-blind dovetails). I am a pins-first guy, so it is backwards for through DTs.

I clean up the joint and the drawer sides using hand planes, which leave the baseline intact. No need then for any sanding :)

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3949 days

#6 posted 07-14-2010 02:50 AM

I guess it depends on the appearance you are trying to achieve. The marking gage line is acceptable on drawers and In my mind why waste time removing the line when it is hardly ever seen. I leave it on most of the time because I scribe a deep line so I can use it as a back stop for my chisels because I am still trying to master the joinery.

If I were making a jewelry box I would definitely remove the scribe lines. If I were trying to draw attention to the joinery and make it evident it was hand cut, I would change the size and spacing of the pins so it looked thinner, not as if a jig and router were used.

-- Marc

View Rob Bois's profile

Rob Bois

33 posts in 4002 days

#7 posted 07-14-2010 02:51 AM

I typically use a block plane to remove the edges of the tails, so ordinarily it leaves the marking line fairly well intact. I see no reason to over-sand after that just to remove the lines. However, one time I did need to do a little extra work in one section and removed part of the line. I do think leaving only a partial marking line looks bad, so you need to either re-mark the line (which might be considered blasphemy) or sand the whole thing down. But I think it’s usually pretty obvious if tails are hand cut or not regardless of the marking line.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3781 days

#8 posted 07-14-2010 02:52 AM

Everybody in the ww world knows more about this than I do, but … as you said … leaving them tells ME that I’m definitely looking at a hand-cut dovetail.

If that matters to you … or to the customer.

If it’s subtle, then … I think it adds something to the project.

-- -- Neil

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4732 days

#9 posted 07-14-2010 02:55 AM

Hmmm… I may start scribing ‘em in on my router cut dovetails, just to confuse the issue…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 4482 days

#10 posted 07-14-2010 02:57 AM

I have heard that some folks mark the baseline after cutting on a dovetail jig. I have always asked myself ”...why???” Talk about stuff… :(

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 3816 days

#11 posted 07-14-2010 03:10 AM

Just my opinion, but I’ve never seen leaving the lines as adding anything to a piece.

Maybe leaving the layout lines on drawers is along the same line of thought as traditionally not putting a finish on the interiors. As for it being “proof” of hand cut dovetails, I would hope the rest of the piece would already speak of a level and quality of construction.

View AaronK's profile


1509 posts in 4072 days

#12 posted 07-14-2010 03:25 AM

I’m with Mary Anne. Let the joinery speak for itself… you can always scribe a line over machine cut dovetails too!

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2824 posts in 4197 days

#13 posted 07-14-2010 03:25 AM

Dan, I knew someone would say that. LOL. Marc5, my Leigh jig works great with just about any spacing I want, so the spacing is irrelvent to a hand cut joint.
In my opinion it seems somewhat petty to worry about the lines. The reason I am asking is because I posted my project in another forum and a comment went something like this: “this is full of flaws. you even left the line from the marking guage”. The way it was stated was worded a little rougher and was obviously to push me the wrong way, and the site moderator had it removed before I even had a chance to comment. I wish I had gotten a chance to ask about what flaws were seen, as I like honesty and would like the chance to fix them. I didn’t know what to think about the marking guage line, so I inquired. Looking through issues as far back as ‘83 in fine woodworking, the line is there so I figured that’s just the way it is. If it’s a “modern” problem then I need to change with the times and start to remove the line.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18786 posts in 4283 days

#14 posted 07-14-2010 03:40 AM

Lots of people leave them to show they are hand made. I leave them if they are there when I’m done otherwise. In other words, I don’t go out of my way to remove or leave them :-) Try to be consistent throughout a project.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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Al Navas

305 posts in 4482 days

#15 posted 07-14-2010 03:46 AM

In another hundred years or so, the pendulum will swing the other way, so don’t worry about it. Dovetails used to be hidden behind trim a long time ago, as the joint was used not because it was pretty, but because it worked great and held things together, long after the glue line failed! Today, if I paraphrase correctly, ”...dovetails are a sign of craftsmanship…” Times change, that is for sure!

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

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