Monday, May 3, 2010

Dovetails 101

Ok, here we go, this is absolutely the one topic I spend the most amount of time fielding questions about when it comes to joinery. So I am going to try and simplify it to it's barest bones, which is how I teach dovetailing. The one thing that I eliminate from teaching this joint is the one thing that hangs everyone up when they attempt it on their own. The "rules"! Yes ,take all that you have read or any videos that you have replayed a thousand times, and just throw that away. Once that is done it will all be much easier,trust me, as we proceed the rules will be come more or less suggested guidelines.

First, this post will focus on the most important part of dovetailing, tools and specifically saws. You can learn all the techniques in the world and it doesn't mean squat without a good, no, great dovetailing saw. It is the one tool you must be willing to throw a pretty fair chunk of dough at, because bad cuts make bad joints and and good cuts make you a little lightheaded, in a good euphoric way of course. It should be filed for rip cutting as most cuts are end grain cuts. The number of teeth is going to depend on the thickness of the stock you will be cutting. 18 to 20 ppi for cutting 1/2" or thinner stock and 14 to 16ppi for 1/2'' or thicker. That is just a suggestion, I myself tend to cut multiple thicknesses both thick and thin . Both of my dovetail saws are filed 14 ppi and do just fine .

A good saw will make you a good sawyer, and fortunately there are several phenomenal saw manufacturers to choose from. Here are the names of saw makers worth checking out
  •  Bad Axe
  • Veritas
  • Rob Cosaman's saw
  • Adria
  • Lie Nielsen
  • Wenzloff and Sons
  • Gramercy
  • Medallion
  • Eccentric Toolworks
Quite frankly a saw from anyone else not on this list will probably be money wasted, and if any saw maker not on this list is offended just send me one of your saws so I can drive it around the block a time or two Chances are I have tried your saw and am again sticking with the list. Now if you can get a good vintage Disston or Wheeler Madden, that is a whole other blog post altogether. I will tell you that my two saws are an Adria and a Lie Nielsen, both are excellent saws but completely different even though they have 14ppi filing. The Adria is smooth as silk with a shorter plate, while the Lie Nielsen is very aggressive and kick but with a longer plate. I am actually going to purchase a third finer toothed saw for handling strictly thinner material, a Gramercy or Wenzloff Kenyon.

This is all for today as I will start the actual dovetailling in the next post. I just needed to stress the importance of this "saw thing".

1 comment:

  1. Peter Korn in his book 'Woodworking Basics' also favours quality tools as it is money well spent. But then, for dovetail saws, goes for a 12.50$ Stanley with some sharpening.
    Testing a stock of new and older saws, I had a similar experience and liked a Veritas and a plastic handled Stanley.