In Shop Blog, Techniques

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As I’ve written before in this blog, many woodworkers are amazed to learn that I hand-cut my dovetails even though I consider myself mostly a power-tool woodworker – I would say I’m about 70 percent power and 30 percent hand. One area that I have used hand tools primarily is for dovetail work. At this point in my woodworking career, I consider myself fairly proficient at cutting dovetails. I would not try and guess the actual number of pins and tails I’ve cut, but I can say that experience – and I have experience – is a wonderful teacher.

You may remember, we held a workshop here at the Popular Woodworking shop in which 10 woodworkers came in to learn the secrets of hand-cut dovetails as they built a keepsake box that is an article coming in the April 2011 issue. The intention of the class was to help these guys make better dovetails, and to film the class for a DVD. That DVD, “Cheating at Hand-cut Dovetails” has just made its way into our store ( for pre-order. (Click here to get your copy ordered.)

Why is the word “cheating” in the title? Simple. I explain the step-by-step process to hand-cut dovetails, but it doesn’t stop there. After you learn a few tricks to better dovetails and learn about the potential pitfalls that generally cause problems for dovetailers, I explain and demonstrate a few methods to power-up your dovetails and increase your productivity without sacrificing the traditional hand-cut look – no dovetail jigs during the class or in the DVD. The methods are so easy to use it’s as if you’re cheating.

Here’s the challenge. I’ve used these methods for many of the years that I’ve built furniture. In fact, more than a few of the pieces that have made the pages of Popular Woodworking Magazine employ these “powered-up” processes. Go back through the articles – some 70 plus articles – and see if you can spot the difference between my hand-cut dovetails and the power-assisted dovetails. Betcha can’t. And that’s why you’ll want a copy of this DVD.

(There is also a couple hints that allow you to easily work with cupped and bowed panels. Ever have that problem?)

— Glen D. Huey

If you’re looking for a book that discusses dovetail jigs as well as hand-cut work, Here’s “Woodworker’s Guide to Dovetails” written by Ernie Conover.

Need a book to explain other joinery options for drawers and doors? “Danny Proulx’s Cabinet Door and Drawers”, by Danny Proulx, of course, is a great choice.

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  • Mr. Pink

    I’m looking forward to this DVD. I want the look of hand-cut dovetails, but if I can increase my speed using machines, I’m all over that.

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