Chestnut

Dovetail Chisels

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I put this in advanced WW because i want a more advanced discussion. I'm strongly wanting to get better at hand cut dovetails. I've been trying it here and there (haven't been posting) and am so-so but i always feel like fat guy in a little coat when it comes to chisels and hitting the corners of dovetails. So I'm thinking about buying a couple dovetail chisels to start with and maybe add a couple more down the road.

I have the 4 set of Stanley 750s and they will probably stay as my go to for most operations but wouldn't turn down a chisel that is flexible and i could use in multiple places.

So this goes out to those of you that hand cut dovetails. What do you think is the better route to go down.

The options i know of:
Veritas PMV-11
Blue Spruce Dovetail
Ashley Iles Roundback
Japanese DT
Skew Chisels
Fishtail Chisels

Some of the options that i know of are pretty strait forward (top 3). I'm not to sure on the PMV-11 Chisels if the edges are sharp enough to work as DT chisels. They show them on their website as being suited for it. Should a conversation about the different metals be had, A2, O1, PMV-11, what ever Jappanese is?

What I'm unsure of is what the other options vs the known options. I understand that the Japanese chisels can range from ok to HOLY #(@$ on the cost scale. Skew chisels don't really seem like the solve the problem but create a sharpening problem. Fishtail chisels on the other hand seem perfect for DTs but still seem a bit more tricky to sharpen.

Also what options am i missing and not considering?

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I don't want to sound critical so if I do I apologize in advanced.Yes I too believe a good set of chisels help a lot but if not sharpened correctly there just a set of chisels. I think your set of Stanley's are just fine When I first started cutting them many years ago they were pretty ugly And after many ruined pieces of scrap wood they are no problem now. Practice makes perfect but also have a sharp chisel and a good saw and a good method of laying them out all come into play. I use and Old set of Marples English chisels that I have had for years Not expensive in today's market but they work just fine . Good luck on your choice  

IMG_20170226_162111733 (1).jpg

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For specialized dovetail chisels, I just bought some cheap 1/4" chisels off ebay, and reground the ends like I wanted them for half-blinds.  I don't think I paid over 10 or 12 dollars for any of them.  I think 2 are old blue handled Marples, and I don't remember what the other one is.   At best, they don't have to do much work, so I'm not sure I've ever sharpened them after the first time.

I know for hobbyists it's as much about what you are holding in your hand, own, and have on your wall, as it is about doing the work.  For me, doing this stuff for a living, it's all about doing the work.

Buy what makes you happy.  I'm happy with what I have.

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Narex make two dovetail chisels that arent as high priced as some of the other options. I looked at buying one of those, but settled on the tight-wad option, and ground down the sides of my cheap Kobalt 1/4" chisel into a dovetail chisel. Its worked great for me thus far. Havent tried it on half blinds yet, but ive been making alot of through dovetails recently, and havent desired for anything different. Just my take. 

Narex dovetail chisels

 

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1 hour ago, Tom King said:

For specialized dovetail chisels, I just bought some cheap 1/4" chisels off ebay, and reground the ends like I wanted them for half-blinds.  I don't think I paid over 10 or 12 dollars for any of them.  I think 2 are old blue handled Marples, and I don't remember what the other one is.   At best, they don't have to do much work, so I'm not sure I've ever sharpened them after the first time.

I know for hobbyists it's as much about what you are holding in your hand, own, and have on your wall, as it is about doing the work.  For me, doing this stuff for a living, it's all about doing the work.

Buy what makes you happy.  I'm happy with what I have.

Your right, fully right. I don't own a grinder so i could almost buy 1 expensive specific chisel for what I'd buy a grinder and a used chisel to grind down but i'd be saving myself the time. Or i could go at a chisel with a file...

I do have some junk chisels so maybe I'll take a file to one and see how much work it is. I'd still like input on the above from any one else.

Edit: Yeah i'd pay $80 to not have to file the sides of the marples i have down 5 min got me nowhere fast.

Edited by Chestnut
Edited

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I expect even a carbon steel chisel is still close enough to a file's hardness to make it not worth the effort.

I remember looking at some set at Highland, and being tempted, before I just ordered the cheap ones.

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Probably the feel in your hand is as important as the steel they are made with. But, if the problem is in clearing out corners, a fishtail is handy to have.  You only need one, and I really like my Blue Spruce fishtail.  

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I made a pair of skews, and a fishtail.   I agree though that the fishtail is really all you need.   Something might come up in the future that I need the skews for, but can't think of what it might be, right now.

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The fishtail chisels seem so single use. Are they that much better than a regular DT chisel that might be useful for other things/

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I don’t have any fishtail chisels I just haven’t saw a reason to yet. But I have a 1/2 Narex dt an it has never failed to do anything I’ve tried. I cut all my dt’s 7:1 by hand wither soft or hardwood. I don’t know if you do a different ratio if that would effected it any. 

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13 hours ago, Chestnut said:

The fishtail chisels seem so single use. Are they that much better than a regular DT chisel that might be useful for other things/

Angle and narrowness are the factors that matter. Fishtail are also a tad more forgiving. 

Edit: Just reread this and want to clarify. The angle of the DT and the narrowness of the opening are the factors that make the difference in the suitability of each chisel. Fishtail also leave a little wiggle room for those of us who don’t chop every day. 

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6 hours ago, Chestnut said:

I do have some junk chisels so maybe I'll take a file to one and see how much work it is. I'd still like input on the above from any one else.

When I took that class in Tennesse last year, I was somewhat surprised to find that Lonnie Bird primarily uses Leigh Neilson bevel edge chisels and he has one that he ground down to a sharp bevel edge for corners.  That's about it - and he is a master craftsman.  The practice is a lot more important that the tools.  Yea, I know, but new toola are fun.

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I guess i never meant this to come back to budget, which confuses me. We'll egg people on to drop $3,500 on a table saw and poo poo the budget table saw options but $100 on chisels chisel gets a "Hey save you pennies and grind down the side of some junker" :huh:<_<:lol:

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Drew, dovetails is something that I have no desire for but recently I have been listening to a lot of the past episodes of Fine Woodworking's Shop Talk Live and this subject comes up quite often.  One of the things that is mentioned almost every time is that before you go out and by specific chisels, you need to go through the process numerous times so you start to see what goes on and where the chisels that you have fall short, or if they even do, then when you are looking at dovetail chisel features it will be more obvious what you will like or need in a chisel.

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This is why I'm not really jazzed about fishtail or skew chisels. Dovetail chisels are essentially what's outlined above a bench chisel that doesn't have the flat on the bevel edge. So it's sort of like the cutting edge continues around the sides of the chisel. So you don't cut yourself they are slightly square (.01" or something). The nice thing about these chisels is they can be used as an ordinary chisel. My goal is to use them as such a nice ordinary chisel and a DT chisel when i need them. I'm also looking specifically at sizes i don't currently have 1/8" & 3/16" and 1-1/2". The reason I'm here is because my chisels do fall short for both sizing and having a large flat that gouges the dovetail corner. There are just so many options i was trying to clear them up and hone :D in on a best solution. @derekcohen did a great job of that. I totally forgot about his website sorry Derek. Picture below shows DT chisel, I'm sure you have a bench chisel and can see how it's slightly different but yet not considerably different.

453WISNarexChisels2.jpg

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I’m going to expose my lack of knowledge as well. @derekcohen, referencing the pic that @Chestnut just posted, where the chisel lies is much wider than the dt’s that you show on your first pic of the drawers. How wide are yours and how did you chop them out? 

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For chopping, that's a solution for a problem that doesn't exist, unless the pins are so narrow that even the narrowest chisel can only go straight in.  For every other case, the chisel needs to be narrower than the opening anyway, so that you have room to chop back at an angle to sever a chip started by the previous vertical chop on the line, and then the narrower than the opening chisel can pare at an angle to provide relief for the height of the chisel edge.   Maybe the chisel could be close to the exact width if it was only used for paring what was left after sawing out the waste with a jewelers saw, but I've never been tempted to use that method anyway.  I would like to have one of the saws with the bend that cuts both the vertical, and horizontal cuts, if only to play with.

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So chopping is probably the wrong word, one I heard somewhere. But how did he remove the material in such a small space? I’ll never attempt one that small, just wondered. 

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I don't see why a standard dovetail chisel can't take the place of standard bench chisels.  It seems like an "everything you can do, I can do better" type of chisel.  I have a big crush on the Blue Spruces, they might be the way I go when I'm ready to buy GOOD chisels.  They're just so damn pretty.

 

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@bleedinblue That's basically where I'm at, except there are a lot of options once you start spending $50+ per chisel. There are many Japanese chisels, Veritas PMV-11, Veritas A-2, Blue Spruce, Ashley Isles, Lie Nielsen, more I'm probably forgetting. The nice part about chisels is that you can buy them 1 at a time and build a set over the years. I have chisels that work for daily tasks so grabbing what i feel i need now isn't terrible. The Koyamaichi Derek mentioned earlier at in the $65-70 each range. So if i take my state tax return and put it towards a chisel or 2 if it's enough it'd take me 5-8 years to build a whole set. Heck of a lot easier than dropping $800 in 1 go or how ever much a full set would be.

@K Cooper I guess i didn't intend on the image spiraling into a topic about DT width and chisel width it was just the first picture i found that showed the chisel shape well. I also like tom would use a smaller chisel here than the width of the DT.

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This is a value of the forum.  Many of us have been through several types of chisels and landed on a favorite.  You can save time and money by learning from our past ;-)  I landed on Lee Valley PM-V11. I lked them so much for dovetails I put butt chisels on my wish lists for birthdays and Christmas and now use them as my go-to's for everything.  I still use the others but, the LV's get the bulk of the work.

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