Monday, November 8, 2010

Dovetails - Practice, Practice, Practice

One of the things I really want to do as a woodworker is get better at cutting dovetails by hand. This always seems to be a crowning moment for a woodworker, and is one of the highest achievements it seems. I think it is a mental thing, but once you can, consistently, cut high quality dovetails by hand, you feel like you can do anything in woodworking. So, I'm on a quest to get better at them, by hand. I've read a couple books, watched some videos and even tried some on my own; not successfully mind you. One of the things that I have read, and watched, over and over is to practice cutting straight lines. And I thought "Practice?! Practice? Are we talking about practice?" heck, I can cut a straight line, I don't need to do that! Well, if I can cut a straight line, every time, then why can't I get good dovetails? So, putting my ego aside, I decided to do what many expert woodworkers probably did in their apprenticeship....practice.

So, I set out to cut a bunch of lines to get used to cutting on a straight line, but also cutting to my scribe line, or shoulder line. I took a slightly different approach though; see, when you practice something, you practice in the same way you would execute whatever it is you are practicing for. So, in that spirit, I decide to no just cut straight lines, but to practice the types of cuts you would make when doing dovetails, skewed cuts and angled cuts. So, with that, I grabbed a piece of 3/8" walnut, laid out a bunch of lines, and started cutting.
Here you can see that, for the most part, I can cut a straight enough line; some on the left got a little crazy, but what I noticed is I need to do a better job of cutting to the line as on several of these, I went right past it.

This is a shot of the top of the practice board. Again, consistent angles all parallel to each other. These were laid out to simulate the types of cuts used when cutting the pins of a dovetail.

Next I grabbed a piece of 3/8" mahogany and made a series of cuts that would simulate cutting the tails.
Again, pretty consistent, but still room for improvement. My cutting to the line was much better on this one.

All-in-all, I think my cutting is pretty good. I definitely am going to do another round or two of practice cuts to get even more consistent; I also think I am going to practice cutting to save the line;personally, I think this is why mine just don't come out well. So, practice, practice, practice I shall do!

Be Safe!


  1. keep up the practice, let us know of any tricks and tips you discover.

    I have yet to cut a dovetail.. soon though!


  2. wood working is the best and the always growing business , and if your talking about the design in the wood then its little bit hard working and the time consuming. some of the work that is growing in wood industry is Hotel Furniture of the wood , Window Shutter Manufacturers and the Wooden Furniture