Dovetails in Pine

As I continue to work on a small cabinet to hold baskets for my daughter, I’m doing some focus exercises on my dovetails. I teach a hand cut dovetails class at Woodcraft, but I’m no master like Mr. Cosman. Because I don’t do this professionally (outside of teaching), I take every new project with dovetails as a chance to improve my technique. The critical points for the tails is that 1) they are perpendicular to the face of the board, and 2) they stop exactly on the scribe line. By taking the time to practice, I’m trying to continue developing muscle memory, which is a hard thing to do if you don’t do them all the time. And anyways, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point that speed becomes an focus, because I do this for fun not for profit.

I ganged the tail pieces to work on making sure I was cutting perpendicular – the extra width makes it easier to track squarely – the downside of course is because you’re cutting 1 1/2″ instead of 3/4″ you have to cut for longer. I did hit the sides of the blade with some tallow, because I noticed after the 2nd cut that the plate on the saw was heating up. With the tallow in place, cutting was much easier. (I had a brain burp, because was that the light on my bench was fully extended to be able to see the front. I have round dog holes at the back of the bench, and a block of wood with a 3/4″ dowel out the bottom, and a 5/8″ hole in the top to hold the lamp. I have square dogs at the front of the bench, and so I can either drill a new hole in the top, or build a lamp base that fits in the square holes…. or something else.) Anyways, the pain is that as I get close to the bottom line I have to stop and lean over the work piece to see if I’m to the line on the back. I could prop up a mirror to see both the front and back, however it’s hard to see with my eyes when I’m up close, I can’t imagine what it would be like covering 2x ,or more, the distance.


Once all the cuts are made, I do 2 extra steps to check my work, first I separate the ganged boards and check the cuts are to the scribe line on both sides. It turns out that I tend to leave the back of the board high, and then tilt the saw down to finish off the cut. this can (and did in my case) leave a hump in the middle. So I resat the saw and leveled the cuts out where I needed to. BEFORE i removed the saw, I used a square to check each cut to make sure it was perpendicular. If the tails are not perpendicular, it can screw up the pin size when you mark them out.

I was pretty happy with the results, in total I had 2 boards with 7 tails on each. I had 2 cuts that went past the scribe line (just about a millimeter, but I still notice them). everything seemed to be square, so I’m just cleaning up the tails now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s