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Trying to learn the dovetail saw

I've been trying to learn online by watching woodworkers on Youtube etc, and I get *how* to make dovetails, but the saw and I don't get along too well.  Almost every cut I've ever practiced is messed up in some form or another. Is there a place anyone suggests that I can learn proper dovetail saw use?  Does HD offer this as one of their workshops?


I also think that perhaps my saw is part of the problem.  I can't afford one of those $125+ saws, so I have a Stanley one that's 13 TPI.  I try to use it without applying pressure even, etc, and it works once in a while, but nothing reliable.  I'm sure most of the issue is lack of experience though, so I want to learn how to do this well since I have a couple projects waiting!




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Posted 2012-06-18T20:12:49+0000  by Dovie Dovie
Are you deadset on doing them by hand? There are router jigs that make dovetails easier. The TPI of the saw is relative to material thickness. Your saw would typically be used for 3/4" stock. More teeth, thinner stock. Check your local woodworking shops, places like Woodcraft usually offer classes at some point during the year. There are also woodworking schools that offer weekend workshops. Wood Magazine, Fine Woodworking and the like list ads in the back that might point you to some local sources. Also check with your local Community College, Tech School or adult education classes through your city or county parks and recreation department.
Posted 2012-06-18T23:32:07+0000  by Paul

Yes. I'm kind of deadset on doing them by hand for two reasons.  One, idealogically, I like doing something like dovetails by hand and two, realistically, I don't own a router anyway. :)  One day, maybe, but I'm quite the beginner with many space/time/money restrictions. Besides, I've watched video on both the handcut style and the router method and the handcuts don't look like they should be too hard once I learn how to use this saw properly.  Then again, I'm watching people who do this for a living!


The wood I'm trying to cut is 1/2" thick. I looked and the Lie Nielsen one only has 15 TPI to the 13 TPI I'm using so I'm thinking I probably just need more experience since I've seen pros use the LN on wood thinner than what I'm using.


Thanks. :)  I'm going to do some looking around and maybe even call the local HD as well and see what they offer.


Could the wood itself be part of my problem also?  I'm currently working on cutting poplar.  I'm working on a cufflink/jewelry case I designed and am now trying to build.

Posted 2012-06-19T15:27:14+0000  by Dovie

Ok... By hand it is.


Lee Valley, Veritas and Lie-Nielsen are probably the most popular dovetailing saws (I'm sure this could create some arguments). You'll have the choice of a traditional push saw or the Japanese style pull saws. Push or pull boils down to personal preference. Once people get used to cutting on the pull stroke, a lot of folks end up liking the Japanese saws for their controllability. You'll also want at least one good chisel to help clean up your cuts.


As for price, Veritas has a nice traditional styled saw, with some modern enhancements for about $60.

They also make a Japanese style dozuki saw for dovetails as well. If you hunt around, Veritas also has a Guide System to help you get the cuts you desire. Shown here with the dozuki saw.

I saw an old auction for a used dozuki and guide system combo kit for about $80.


One of the foremost hand tools authorities and woodworkers, Christopher Schwarz, loves this little $11 gem called the Zona Razor Saw.

He has mentioned using it on almost every project he does. It's a 24tpi saw pull saw.


Each of the companies make dovetail saws in different TPI models. Again, this is to accomodate both thickness of material and personal preference.


As for the wood, everything I've read says poplar is an excellent wood for cutting dovetails. The only thing about poplar is to make sure you go through your boards and pick wood with consistent color, or staining will be a pain the ...

Posted 2012-06-19T22:22:31+0000  by Paul

First off, thanks so much for those options!  I actually am really excited about that last one and the 24 TPI.  I knew of the "top names" you mentioned, but wasn't sure if I was ready make an invstment in a more expensive saw when I wasn't so sure that was my problem. I think I might order that Zona from their site if I can't find it locally.


In other news - yay!  I cut my first dovetail today.  I finally managed to get one done after a week of practice or so.  Admittedly, it looks like it was cut by a squirrel on coffee, but it's a dovetail!  I also realize something about my saw.  Everyone's talking pull or push, and I realized today that my saw is reversible and the teeth basically go straight up and down, so it catches both directions!  I think I need to buy a none reversible one so I don't have this schizophrenic saw getting caught both ways!


Also, is there a way to "watch" posts on this BB? I haven't figured it out yet.


Thanks again!

Posted 2012-06-20T22:00:57+0000  by Dovie

You can "subscribe" to posts... When you reply, in the upper right of the message post screen, there's something called Subscriptions. Check the box that says Email me when someone replies. You can also go into your settings by clicking your name on the left side. There's an option there that will make the subscription box checked your default. This is how I can respond to your posts relatively quick.


Now back to your dovetails... Excellent job on cutting your first one...


One of the things I've been consistently reading that might help you and has probably been covered in the videos you've been watching is this. Cut your tails first, then trace their shape onto the other piece to cut the receiving part. Just be sure to leave your line. If you're using a pencil, leave the pencil line.


But there is a better alternative to marking your cut lines. Use a marking blade. Basically, you're going to scratch your pattern into the wood rather than mark the pattern with a pencil. Think this way, a pencil is relatively "fat" in comparison to a knife blade. This will me far less tweaking and clean up to get that tight fitting dovetail.


If you don't know who Christopher Schwarz is, just do a search on his name along with 'woodworking'. The guy is incredible.

Posted 2012-06-21T03:40:25+0000  by Paul

Just to help you track down the Zona, check this out:

Posted 2012-06-21T03:42:48+0000  by Paul

Subscriptions: That's exactly what I was expecting and looking for, but what you're describing isn't showing up on my screen.  Odd.  I'll look into it.  I'm using FireFox. Maybe it only shows up in IE. Although that would be odd.  Not unheard of, but odd. Thanks!


Dovetails: Yea, I found their site.  I'm still looking at the saw thinking I'm missing something since all the other good ones I've seen start at 8-10 times as costly!  I'm probably going to order one today or tomorrow.  I was trying to see if a store near me carries it so I can just go get it, but it looks like they only sell it online. :(


Thanks for all  your help!  When I finally am cutting good dovetails and can finish this project I'll try to remember to come back and post pics!  My plans for it are kind of scratch notes at this point, but I should probably do them up nicely and save them for future reference once I make sure it all works and fits properly. :)

Posted 2012-06-21T15:28:05+0000  by Dovie

Yea. I looked all over again, and even went to the help page etc.  The tab in the settings that would have the subscription options simply doesn't exist when I look at it!  I also don't have the option on a specific post.  There's also nobody to email it seems, so I guess I'll just keep checking back when I am trying to track a post.

Posted 2012-06-21T15:47:30+0000  by Dovie

I also just realized that I totally didn't respond to the other stuff you wrote.


I actually was already doing tails first and using a marking knife since the first guy's video I watched (Jon Bullar) did it like that.  I didn't even know there was a concept of pins first until a while later when some other guy mentioned it. All of the instructional videos I watched did tails first.  The only pins first ones were ones where they were just showing that you *could* do pins first.


Also, I just ordered my Zona.  Which sounds kind of funny since Hebrew is my second language. :)

Posted 2012-06-21T17:40:35+0000  by Dovie

Hello Dovie,


I wanted to lend a helping hand and give you a step by step on how to get you subscribed to all of your posts.


Paul was right on. I just wanted to give you a picture of where to click.


I had a hard time trying to figure this out myself when we first started the community.


I'm a firm believer that a picture is worth a thousand words so here it is.

Subscription Steps.jpg


Once you complete these simple steps you should start receiving emails for every post that you participate in.


I hope this helps you stay in tune with all of your projects.


Let me know if you have any other questions. I would love to help.

Posted 2012-06-22T16:44:19+0000  by Christine_HD_OC
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