LumberJocks

Dovetail Questions

  • Advertise with us

« back to Joinery forum

Forum topic by cowboyup3371 posted 12-09-2019 10:47 AM 460 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View cowboyup3371's profile

cowboyup3371

147 posts in 804 days


12-09-2019 10:47 AM

Topic tags/keywords: joining dovetails

I spent the weekend cutting dovetails for bookends I’m making as Christmas gifts to my kids. As this is only my second attempt at making them (first was for a drawer that is still holding up pretty well), I have some questions. Although none are perfect, I think most turned out okay except for one that came out a little loose and another is very loose (falling out loose).

Can I throw a nail into the really loose one below to help keep it together when I glue it or should I suck it up and make a brand new set?

Also, when is a dovetail too tight and what can happen over time to it? All of the good ones required the rubber mallet to set into place but I’m not breaking off bits to do so. Do I still need to use glue for those?

-- Cowboy Up or Quit - If you are going to quit than get out of my way


11 replies so far

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

4454 posts in 1189 days


#1 posted 12-09-2019 01:35 PM

Loose dovetails I make get fixed in a few ways (I almost never throw them away and start over). If they’re just a little loose (but tight enough that they can be glued up), I’ll glue it up, and then pack the gaps with sawdust and CA glue. It’s not super-strong, but it will keep things from moving.

I’ve read about peening wood to fill gappy dovetails, but haven’t ever tried it yet. Seems like it should work.

For looser dovetails, I’ll cut some thin shims. Generally I’ll glue them onto the pins, then re-adjust things with a rasp or chisel to get a good fit, then glue up the joint as normal. Using a rasp is slow, but it’s a lot quicker than cutting new joints. Paring with a chisel is using the right tool for the job (easier to resharpen), but if I’m having problems that day, a rasp lets me switch gears and usually I can fix the problem without making things worse.

If dovetails are too tight, over time (years?) you might get one of the pieces of wood splitting with the grain (see the third picture in that article on peening wood). Usually the joint will still hold, but now you’ll have a crack that either needs filling, or in bad cases, will require a butterfly to fix the crack. Easier to take another pass with the chisel and pare off a little wood first.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Robert's profile

Robert

3602 posts in 2087 days


#2 posted 12-09-2019 02:14 PM

Looks like you’re sawing to the wrong side of the line. You have to saw to the waste side of the line.

Those gaps are pretty big, minor gaps can be dealt with by inserting pieces of veneer, but those gaps are huge.

You asked so I’ll answer: Start over.

I recommend you practice on some soft wood like pine or poplar.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View controlfreak's profile

controlfreak

409 posts in 208 days


#3 posted 12-09-2019 02:29 PM

Dovetail bookends, that’s a great idea for using my practice pieces. As of now I have only done one because other shop projects have gotten in the way. My errors were mostly due to getting the saw kerf on the wrong side or not the waste side of the cut. I also cheated a bit and got the Kats Moses magnetic saw guides. They work well but they are only good for starting the saw into the cut. My dovetail saw runs out of real estate and hits the top of the saw back on the guide. I also got a fret saw when I realized my coping saw blade was too wide.

To your question about a nail to help hold it you may want to use a pin nailer if you have one because it is a smaller gauge. Even than I would worry about it splitting but it may be worth a shot.

View cowboyup3371's profile

cowboyup3371

147 posts in 804 days


#4 posted 12-09-2019 02:34 PM

The one that was very loose was cut on the wrong side. However, the others were cut more into the waste section and worked out better though again, not perfect. Still not too bad for what little experience I have with them.

I am using a Japanese Razorsaw that I have had for quite awhile and really like it.

-- Cowboy Up or Quit - If you are going to quit than get out of my way

View Sylvain's profile

Sylvain

933 posts in 3106 days


#5 posted 12-10-2019 02:04 PM

It seems your are only using a pencil for marking.
Greater accuracy is achieved with a marking knife.
I have used Paul Sellers technique with success.

https://paulsellers.com/2017/12/whats-knifewall/
“the knifewall serves both as a guideline and a line for other tools like chisels, planes and saws to register to. Thus the knifewall becomes both the guideline and the wall that separates the waste from the wanted.”
Look at the last picture of the above link: “You can see the knifewall at the shoulder’s edge as crisp as can be. Laying the chisel on the knifewall gives the perfect registration that guarantees accuracy.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iQ1-kuQ1qY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCYjoj6cfno

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View cowboyup3371's profile

cowboyup3371

147 posts in 804 days


#6 posted 12-10-2019 03:47 PM



It seems your are only using a pencil for marking.
Greater accuracy is achieved with a marking knife.

- Sylvain

I saw his videos and am using a knife to mark the edges though I will admit it’s not been the best one as far as leaving marks for the saw. What kind of a knife are you using?

-- Cowboy Up or Quit - If you are going to quit than get out of my way

View controlfreak's profile

controlfreak

409 posts in 208 days


#7 posted 12-10-2019 04:13 PM

@cowboyup3371
I think you need a good marking gauge to get your depth lines dead on and a marking knife to score the edges of the pins after you have cut the tails. I think another way I have seen is to use saw to mark them but you need to shift the tails over the width of the saw blade depending on with side of the pins you are marking. I am hoping to one day be able to do this without needing to think and rehearse what I am about to do on each cut.

View LesB's profile

LesB

2314 posts in 4050 days


#8 posted 12-10-2019 06:08 PM

That was a great effort at learning to make hand cut dove tails. I have to admit that mainly for lack of patience I machine cut mine.

So the question becomes like I tell my grandsons as I teach them wood working: “do you want that to represent you best work?: or on occasion, “that is not leaving My shop that way, do it right”.

There are a tons of tools to help you and also uncountable videos on how to do it. I would review some of them and start over…..by the way Oak is probably not the easiest wood to practice with.
By the way I looked as you other posted projects and they look great.

Good luck. I will stick to my Leigh jig and PantoRouter. LOL

-- Les B, Oregon

View Sylvain's profile

Sylvain

933 posts in 3106 days


#9 posted 12-11-2019 10:58 AM

cowboyup3371
I use the knife used by P.S.

in US:
Stanley 10-049 Utility Knife with 11-041 blade

in Europe
Stanley 010-598 with 5901 blade (don’t know why they are slightly different)

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View GrantA's profile

GrantA

2128 posts in 2014 days


#10 posted 12-11-2019 02:55 PM

are you cutting tails first? if not maybe try that. if so, make sure when you’re “tracing” the tail onto the pin board that nothing is trying to slide around on you, you have good lighting (I use my little aaa streamlight all the time, it stays right next to my pocketknife) and you are careful to cut right along the edge with a knife. I use an exacto knife.

As someone else mentioned I’m not sure what you’re using to mark your depth but a marking gauge is really a requirement. It does not have to be anything fancy, you can get one from HF even.

Also how are you securing the boards while you saw? Some sort of solid vise is another requirement. With the pullsaw you’ll want it down kinda low I think, I tried my razorsaw (which I love for lots of things) for dovetails and it just didn’t work for me
I love having my bench-on-bench moxon vise which raises the work up near chest height. That plus a western saw works great for me. There are a ton of ways to skin that cat though

Here’s a joint I just did, this is only my second time cutting dovetails (first time was 3 drawers this piece just has one drawer). It just takes focus. Keep it up!

View Sylvain's profile

Sylvain

933 posts in 3106 days


#11 posted 12-11-2019 04:33 PM

making a rabbet at the tail end can help align the board while marking the pins
look here at 11’45”

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

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

HomeRefurbers.com