4 Tips for Dovetailing by Hand
By Frank Klausz
1. Cut by Eye
|When dovetailing by hand, be bold. Don’t bother with a try square or sliding bevel. After gauging a thickness line across the board, lay out the pins with your saw as you make each cut. Trust your eye to find a pleasing dovetail angle and repeat it over and over. Trust your hands with a sharp saw to cut straight down. If you’ve never done this before, let go of your anxiety and just do it. Practice, practice, practice. You’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes.
Don’t worry about the exact sizes of the pins or the spaces between them. In fact, a little variation is a good thing. Your right and left hands aren’t perfectly symmetrical, so it’s okay if your dovetails aren’t, either.
|Click any image to view a larger version.|
2. Chop with Vigor
|Next comes a sloped cut that defines the shoulder. It’s made with the chisel facing the same direction as the initial cut—an economy of movement that’s common to all good handwork. This cut carries the chisel pretty deep, almost up to the first cut.|
3. Fix Mistakes
4. Level Quickly
|This story originally appeared in American Woodworker 171 Tips and Techniques.