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Forum topic by Betsy posted 04-09-2008 04:49 AM 5202 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3392 posts in 4258 days

04-09-2008 04:49 AM

I’ve been watching the videos on making dovetails on Finewoodworking.

One of the tools this guy uses to mark out his dovetails is a divider. Do any of you use these to mark out your dovetails and if so, where did you buy it?


-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

6 replies so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4350 days

#1 posted 04-09-2008 04:54 AM

You can get dividers almost anywhere:

These are heavy duty woodworking ones.

You can also get lighter dust ones at most any arts and crafts or stationary store.
I think even Wal-Mart has them.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4250 days

#2 posted 04-09-2008 04:58 AM


I think spending any time on the layout of the pins (or tails) with anything not only a divider is a waste of time and makes dovetails look less hand made. Placing the dovetails visually gives them a special charm that no machine can reproduce. Using a divider to place the pins uniformly will not improve in any way the precision with which the dovetails are cut.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4258 days

#3 posted 04-09-2008 05:24 AM

Thanks guys. Alin – right now I’m looking for any type of crutch that will help me on my way. We all need the little gimicks to help us figure things out. I’m not sure I’ll look for the dividers but I thought it was an interesting idea.

Thanks for your help!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View JJackson's profile


104 posts in 4445 days

#4 posted 04-09-2008 01:53 PM


Using dividers to layout dovetails is definately not a “gimick”. I cut 100% of my dovetails by hand and I use dividers to lay them out. You don’t need on set of dividers, you need two sets. The ones that Woodcraft sells are definately too big. What you need to do is go to ebay and type in “starrett dividers” and buy them there. They are relatively inexpensive and will help you with the process. Why two sets? When you are making multiple drawers and you want them layed out the same, one set will be to lay out the end half pins. Then you set them aside without adjusting them and they are set for the next drawer. The second set is used to lay out the spacing between the half pins. Do yourself a BIG FAVOR. Go out to Woodcraft or order online Rob Cosmans DVD’s on hand cutting dovetails. There are 3 DVDS you will want to get

1. Handcut Dovetails – which is all on through dovetails
2. Advanced Handcut Dovetails – which is about half-blinds, houndstooth and a mitre dovetail.
3. Understanding the Dovetail Saw – which will explain everything you need to know about the saw.

I can guarantee you these will teach you everything you need to know about dovetails. Quite awhile back I posted some pics of some practice joints I cut. Check them out. I was taught how to cut these by Rob himself. Let me know if you need any help, I will be glad to shorten your learning curve for you!


-- Jeff, Indiana

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4258 days

#5 posted 04-09-2008 03:20 PM

Thanks Jeff. I’ve been hesitant to buy more DVD’s—- but think I’ll take the plunge. I really want to learn to cut this joint – and I’m grateful for any help I can get. I’m pretty persistent, so I’m sure I’ll get it eventually.

Thanks again.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View che's profile


123 posts in 4388 days

#6 posted 04-09-2008 05:50 PM

I second Jeff’s recommendation on Rob Cosmans DVD series I am firmly in his “camp”. I would get hand cut dovetail DVD followed by the dovetail saw DVD, especially if your using a non-top shelf saw. The video shows you exactly what the saw should be doing and how to tune it up. You can hold off on the advanced dovetails until later. If you don’t want to buy them you can rent them from …

Dividers are a great simple layout tool. It’s nice to have a couple so you can leave them set for specific measurements. Having said that using dividers to layout dovetails is a time saver. They won’t make your dovetails any better. A good layout tool will however. I would get / make a good dovetail marking gauge. I made one similar to the one Rob Cosman has on his web site from some 1/4” maple from the big box store and a table saw. Or you can buy one.

Cut a square approx 2-3” square on the table saw. Make sure all the angles are exactly 90deg.
Cut a dado 1/4” wide (I used my Freud box blade on the table saw) but you can do it with 2 passes of a standard blade. Again, all the angles need to be precise. Glue in a piece of 1/4” wood into the dado. The two faces need to be 90 degrees to each other but the ends don’t need to be precise, they will get trimmed later. Allow the glue to dry. CAUTION: the next step can get your fingers close to the blade. Set the table saw blade to the angle you want for your tails (1:7 = approx 8 degrees for example) Use the miter gauge to trim the edge of the piece you glued in. It should look something like this… I use 1:7 for everything so I cut both sides the same. When using the marker you can layout both lines at once (face and end of the board.)

-- Che.

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