Interesting Woodworking Link

Friday, July 18, 2008

Episode #65 - Hand Cut Dovetails: Beauty, Strength & Craftsmanship

The Beginning of My Dovetail Journey

Ah, dovetails, one of the great gauntlets to run for the intrepid woodworker. Whether plugged or unplugged, sooner or later every woodworker will consider the path of hand cut dovetails. There is something very appealing about the fine fit of hand cut slender pins and the satisfaction of mastering chisels and the dovetail saw.

I recently have started down this woodworking slippery slope. I have acquired my weapons of choice. I’ve done my research reading textbooks and watching some instructional DVD’s. One of my favorites is Rob Cosman’s Dovetailing Series and Shop Manual. I also got a lot of inspiration from Thomas J. MacDonald, aka T-Chisel, over at The Rough Cut Show. If you want to get inspired to work on hand tool skills and raise the level of your work than check out The Rough Cut Show and join "The rough Cutters" Forum. So, over time I will share my progress as I work to master this essential woodworking skill.

One of the best bits of advice comes from Fine Woodworking Contributor Gary Rogowski, Studio Director of The Northwest Woodworking Studio in Portland, Oregon. In his video clip The Five-Minute Dovetail. He uses this as a “warm-up exercise” before beginning work. Excellent advice I took to heart. So, with that in mind I set aside some pre-dimensioned stock so I could quickly set-up and cut a joint each day. I did pretty well for a week. Then work and some other commitments put up a roadblock. I am just recovering from an injury (something to blog about later!) so I will be back at it soon!

DOVETAIL TOOLS - My weapons of choice

Lie-Nielson Dovetail Saw

Lie-Nielson Chisels

Adjustable Frame Fret Saw

Dovetail Marking Gauge

Starrett 6" Dividers

Sharp Knife - X-Acto


Rob Cosman - Your Hand Tool Coach

Alan Wood • Hand Cut Dovetails

Unknown Author • Hand Cut Dovetails


All About Dovetail Joints by Mario Rodriguez

My Favorite Dovetail Tricks: Five ways to increase accuracy and reduce the time it takes to execute this hand-cut joint by Christian Becksvoort

Cutting Dovetails - Learn from Five Experts: Chris Gochnour, Andy Rae, Christian Becksvoort, Gary Rogowski, and Philip Lowe share their dovetail-cutting expertise in this roundup of videos and articles from the Fine Woodworking archives by Fine Woodworking editors

The Five-Minute Dovetail: Practice hand-cut dovetails without the pressure in this easy exercise to strengthen your hand-tool skills with Gary Rogowski


Anonymous said...


You may want to add a couple of skew chisels to your tools list. With some skew chisels, your able to get into the corners of the tails without bruising their side walls. Either buy LN skew chisels or purchase some cheap 3/8" chisel and grinded a skew into them.

Another great resource you might want to review is Chisel Techniques for Precision Joinery DVD by David Charlesworth produced by LN. As you know TChisel has some great techniques as well. One of the best is placing a backer board on your work so when your paring it prevents you from blowing through the back with your chisel.

Keep up the great work.

Chuck M

David Pruett said...

Chuck -

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

As you know I am a big fan of TChisel. Great bits of advice with skew chisels, David Charlesworth DVD, and the backer board. I will have to let Beth know you have recommended a set of LN Skew Chisels! That way I won't take the heat for "more tools". ;-)

The Village Carpenter said...

Nice job on the dovetails, David! Keep up the good work. : )

David Pruett said...

Kari -

Thanks for the kind words! I know my dovetailing has a long way to go but I am looking forward to the challenge of perfecting this skill.

Shannon said...

Great post. I started down this path about 4 months ago and my journey has been stymied by a lack of a good bench. That is my next shop improvement before I begin the dovetail thing again. I have been compiling a list of articles, videos, etc in my notebook for this journey though and you just added a few things to that list. Speaking of Chris Gochnour, I was thinking of building his Shaker apothecary cabinet as a dovetail primer course.


David Pruett said...

Shannon -

Thanks for stopping by. Ah, a good bench! I agree that a good bench is very important. Check out the latest video episode at The Rough Cut Show. TChisel goes over the construction of his bench . . . a simple inexpensive (approx $500) solid workbench. Paul, one of The Rough Cut Show forum members posted a SketchUp rendering of the bench.

Chris Gochnour's Shaker Style 12-Drawer Apothecary Wall Cabinet would be as a great "course" in dovetailing!


Vic Hubbard said...

Hey David,

Your hand must be better. I've got to tell you, your dovetails look way better than what I managed to crank out the other day. Pretty pathetic.
But, I'm not proud so, of course, I posted it. Sad..VERY sad. I'm glad you're back at it.

Victor said...


Nice dovetails! Thanks for the reading list. I don't know if you saw my first two dovetails, but they were pretty bad. Nothin' practice won't cure. I've heard I need to try hardwood. I want to get a Tormek, too. Get those chisels sharp. Speakin' of which, how's the injury?

David Pruett said...

Vic -

Thanks! Practice, practice, practice . . . and more practice!

The injury is healing and I should be back in the shop soon.