Dovetails


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Has anyone used the KM tools dovetail jig for hand cutting dovetails?  So my next projects are just some small boxes for the kids. It seems like too much work to get out the dovetail jig for the router or box joint jig for the table saw to make a handfull of cuts and then put it all away for another six months or longer until it is needed again as I just do not have the space to keep stuff like that out and setup. Am I kidding myself that the hand dovetails would turn out ok?  I am not going for a show piece just working on my skills and trying to make something for the kids. Should I just bite the bullet and get the jigs out and setup?  Just looking for any thoughts or suggestions as I know there is really no right answer other than just keep moving forward;-). 

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The great thing about dovetails is that they do not need to be a perfect fit to be perfectly functional. The need for perfect, gapless dovetails has more importance on social media than in the real world. 

I’ve never used a dovetail jig, and I’m no hand cut dovetail master like @derekcohen but they have all come out functional. 

You said it yourself that it’s not a show piece and you want to work on your skills. Cutting practice dovetails in scrap pieces is miserable (IMO), but making some boxes for the kids to enjoy and abuse is a fantastic time to practice and build your skills. Bust out the chisel and saw and get to it!
 

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I had to do a Google search to see what a KM jig was.  Personally, I would recommend skipping that, and just practice on scrap first.   If you can cut to a line, dovetails are no problem with accurate layout.  You need the accurate layout with, or without such a guide.

Make fifty rip cuts to a line an inch and a half down in scrap boards of different woods, and you should improve your sawing ability.  Mark a very fine line, and practice leaving the line, and taking the line.

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WEedo our best to keep the art alive.  There is no such thing as a silly question (unless you do it on purpose like some of us do from time to time.  Cutting dovetails by hand is a great primaty skill to have.  Teaches you a lot aboutsaw and chisel use as well as grain direction.  You can always figure out ways to incorporate you power tools into the process ( I have) but there is a certain satisfaction when those hand cut dovetails finally slide together and they look good.

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For 1 or 2 boxes I really like Matt Cremona's approach to dove tails. He uses a combination of his band saw and table saw to remove the waste and uses a chisel to clean things up and finesse fit. Think of the power tools here like it's 150 years ago and your apprentice did it. Doing dovetails in this manner is pretty quick and produces good results. I covered the process here and Cremona covers it in this video among many others. The video is long so i have to set to a specific time. To find some more I searched Cremona Speed Dovetail.

I like Matt's approach to dovetails. It's no nonsense and he just gets it done. There are some people out there that spend hours cutting 1 perfect example dovetail to take a picture and post it on social media. I don't have any interest in that. All it does is shame people away from making functional joinery because there are "huge gaps". A gap here or there is both fixable and not really an issue.

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I first learned dovetails from a furniture maker that scribe the lines and then cut right to the line every time - very little chisel work.  I had a  lot of trouble with that becuase I just did not have the skill and muscle memory.  Then I learned all over again from another Master craftsman who scribed the dove tails but alway cut just a tiny bit from the line and pared to the line with chisels.  That worked for me.  But I have noticed that the more I do the closer to the line I am cutting and, occasionally, when I feel in the groove, I will cut to the line. 

I noticed that know one has address the Pins or tails first subject in this thread - neither will I.

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4 hours ago, Ronn W said:

I first learned dovetails from a furniture maker that scribe the lines and then cut right to the line every time - very little chisel work.  I had a  lot of trouble with that becuase I just did not have the skill and muscle memory.  Then I learned all over again from another Master craftsman who scribed the dove tails but alway cut just a tiny bit from the line and pared to the line with chisels.  That worked for me.  But I have noticed that the more I do the closer to the line I am cutting and, occasionally, when I feel in the groove, I will cut to the line. 

I noticed that know one has address the Pins or tails first subject in this thread - neither will I.

Yikes I did not realize there was another  battle to still come on pins vs tails ;-). I was going to try by laying out the tails, cutting the tails, using that board to mark out the pins, then cut the pins. This was the original plan, but I am going to review all of the tips above first and it could sway how I try them out based on some of the tips and videos I am going to watch. 

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On 3/28/2022 at 7:57 AM, Chestnut said:

For 1 or 2 boxes I really like Matt Cremona's approach to dove tails. He uses a combination of his band saw and table saw to remove the waste and uses a chisel to clean things up and finesse fit. Think of the power tools here like it's 150 years ago and your apprentice did it. Doing dovetails in this manner is pretty quick and produces good results. I covered the process here and Cremona covers it in this video among many others. The video is long so i have to set to a specific time. To find some more I searched Cremona Speed Dovetail.

I like Matt's approach to dovetails. It's no nonsense and he just gets it done. There are some people out there that spend hours cutting 1 perfect example dovetail to take a picture and post it on social media. I don't have any interest in that. All it does is shame people away from making functional joinery because there are "huge gaps". A gap here or there is both fixable and not really an issue.

You can tell Matt's built 1 or 2 projects by watching his tooling and manhandling of wood. He built that serpentine chest with slab wood. This can't be advisable, am I missing something?

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On 3/31/2022 at 7:52 AM, sjeff70 said:

You can tell Matt's built 1 or 2 projects by watching his tooling and manhandling of wood. He built that serpentine chest with slab wood. This can't be advisable, am I missing something?

Why can’t that be advisable? 

I also prefer bandsaw assisted dovetails. The jig is simple to make and makes it quick and easy without any fiddly setup. 

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It wouldn’t be advisable to go out and BUY slabs to cut down to make into the piece of furniture, since slabs sell at such a premium per bdft compared to roughsawn or surfaced lumber. But if you are doing the milling, it certainly makes sense. The exception to that would be if you bought a figured slab to resaw for panels/doors/drawers/etc. 

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On 3/31/2022 at 10:00 AM, Chestnut said:

Matt studies period furniture and utilizes a lot of the techniques. More furniture has been built with slab wood than with our modern KD wood or plywood.

Or maybe i misunderstood the question.

No that was my question.  So is the purpose of using plain, quarter, rift, etc., for appearance only?  I thought there were stability issues with using slab wood to build furniture. That's why it wasn't advisable to build furniture from say, an Alaskan Saw mill... that's what I was told from this group several years ago.

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I consider using dry wood universal in that no matter what kind of wood you use it should be dry.  But slab wood contains all grain orientation in one board which would make it seemingly unpredictable. Is this why Cremona mills his boards at least 3 times prior to using them?

'Boards that a person buys from a lumber dealer are just slabs with the wane cut off.'

I'm misunderstanding this. If lumber dealers didn't cut with grain orientation in mind, how would people get desired grain patterns or parts that shouldn't move much?

If what I learned was more or less incorrect people should be willing to mill their own logs if they don't have to worry about cutting up a log with grain orientation in mind. What a hassle (!) and less waste.

I apologize to Woodworking_Hobby for derailing his thread. :)

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I think you are over generalizing. 

If you watch Cremona's build videos, you will see that he takes advantage of having the full width slab. He pulls leg pieces from the quarter/rift sawn sections and case parts from the plain sawn areas. Panels/drawer fronts are selected for continuous grain or for interesting grain. He doesn't often use the full width of the slab, therefore making it similar to buying some plain sawn and some quarter/rift sawn boards from a lumber yard. 

Mills do sometimes cut to maximize quarter sawn or rift sawn material, but not always. There is a lot more waste and time involved in this. That's why these select grain types usually cost more than plain sawn lumber. That's why at lumber yards you see mostly plain sawn boards and only some select quarter sawn. 

More people don't follow the same path as Cremona because (1) the amount of space it takes to have a mill, log storage area, and milled lumber storage area, (2) The cost of a mill and equipment to move the logs, and (3) the time involved in milling the logs and waiting for them to dry. Many people do some smaller scale milling, often with an alaskan chainsaw mill or small bandsaw mill. To some people the process is a "hassle" and creates a lot of waste, and it's easier to go out and buy material closer to the finished product's needs. To Matt, it gives him the freedom to choose whatever grain selection he wants for whatever project he wants to make, and he seems to enjoy the entire process.

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Does anyone have a good brand and good size (thickness) of coping saw blades?  I started to try today but after I made my cuts the blade on my coping saw was too think to fit it onto cut by blade and turn at the bottom. I looked my saw I am using to cut the dovetails and this is what it said for blade thickness. 

Teeth Per Inch: 25 TPI / Blade Thickness: 0.012 inch / Kerf Width: 0.02 inch / Blade Length: 9-1/2 inch 

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On 4/3/2022 at 10:43 AM, Woodworking_Hobby said:

Does anyone have a good brand and good size (thickness) of coping saw blades?  I started to try today but after I made my cuts the blade on my coping saw was too think to fit it onto cut by blade and turn at the bottom. I looked my saw I am using to cut the dovetails and this is what it said for blade thickness. 

Teeth Per Inch: 25 TPI / Blade Thickness: 0.012 inch / Kerf Width: 0.02 inch / Blade Length: 9-1/2 inch 

FWIW I find a fret saw with scroll saw blades works better. 

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