through dovetails long or short?

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Forum topic by 12strings posted 07-24-2014 04:45 PM 1400 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 3434 days

07-24-2014 04:45 PM

When you set your marking guage (or other method for determining the length of your tails and pins) for through dovetails, which of the following do you do?

a. Try to make them exactly right to minimize cleanup planing when you are done.

b. Make them slightly too long on purpose and plane off the end grain to make them level.

c. Make them slightly too short on purpose, so you can plane the drawer side down a little and avoid having to plane end grain.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

10 replies so far

View JayT's profile


6419 posts in 3261 days

#1 posted 07-24-2014 04:51 PM


-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 4120 days

#2 posted 07-24-2014 05:09 PM

I’ve only practiced hand cutting dovetails a little, but if I recall correctly Marc Adams and other instructors at a woodworking event recommended cutting the pins and tails a little long and flushing them up later.

Marc Adams has a nice “Dovetail Refresher” video; about halfway through he talks about scribing the lines a little deeper than the thickness of each piece of wood.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View Loren's profile


11133 posts in 4697 days

#3 posted 07-24-2014 05:15 PM


View exelectrician's profile


2339 posts in 3477 days

#4 posted 07-24-2014 05:15 PM


-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View jdh122's profile


1232 posts in 3867 days

#5 posted 07-24-2014 05:22 PM

I usually do B, but it can be a lot of work to plane that end grain down, especially on big piece like a blanket chest. It’s really easy to have little pieces break off in the joint, but a super sharp blade, skewed, will do it. I dream of doing A and having it work.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 2474 days

#6 posted 07-24-2014 06:13 PM


- exelectrician

Ditto. A little proud.

-- Brad, Texas,

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17269 posts in 3668 days

#7 posted 07-24-2014 11:33 PM

A. Why intentionally cut something wrong?

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View Don W's profile

Don W

19961 posts in 3617 days

#8 posted 07-25-2014 12:32 AM


if they are long intentionally, its not wrong, its a process.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View sweetwilliam's profile


3 posts in 2452 days

#9 posted 07-25-2014 12:25 PM

B. But only slightly. Rather work on a little end grain than a whole panel.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 3419 days

#10 posted 07-25-2014 02:03 PM

B. I set my gauge to the thickness of the stock plus a little, maybe a dollar bill folded in half.

If you’re Canadian, though, the loonie will leave a lot of planing to do.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

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