Tool Review: Veritas Dovetail Saw Guide
Lee Valley Tools sent out a new product release for a guide used for cutting dovetails. It’s not really a new guide, but a new angle for the guide. The reconfigured Veritas 14Ã?Âº Dovetail Guide (05T0205) has a 14Ã?Âº-angle cut instead of the 7Ã?Âº or 9Ã?Âº slope that’s associated with the oft-quoted dovetail ratios of 1:8 and 1:6. (For more on my thoughts about dovetail angles, click here or at the bottom of this entry.)
I’ve had occasion to use a 1:6 ratio guide, and although it was for a limited amount of time, I was very impressed with the way the guide held the saw in the correct position for woodworkers. So, I was interested in getting the new design into the shop to evaluate after a lengthier period of use.
The guide is made with an anodized aluminum body and has a 3/4″ rare earth magnet embedded at both ends of the jig. Those magnets grip your saw and hold it at the correct position, angled at 14Ã?Âº. Each end of the guide is covered with UHMW plastic to protect the jig, and your saw, as you make cuts. The guide and complete instructions come as one package, or you can purchase the guide, instructions and a saw as a second package.
Any saw without a back can be used with the guide and Lee Valley has the saw they recommend (click here to see the guide with that saw), but I had another idea. The Autumn 2007 Woodworking Magazine (issue #8) ran an article discussing flush-cut saws. In that article we listed Lee Valley’s kugihiki (60T06.20) as “highly recommended.” I used this flush-cut saw with the guide and found it worked great. I recommend purchasing the kugihiki and making the saw work double duty as both your dovetail guide saw and your flush-cut saw.
This guide does not automatically produce a dovetail joint. You need an understanding of dovetails at the outset. You’ll need to know the difference between “tails” and “pins” as well as have a certain understanding of layout and what’s the waste side of your layout lines (information provided in the included instructions). With that information at hand, this guide helps improve the quality and accuracy of your cuts.
I’m a “pins first” dovetailer, so naturally I began cutting the pins. This is the only experience I had with the guide earlier and I knew the jig worked great here. I started with a half pin on both ends of my board, then positioned and cut two full pins in between. Once the guide is clamped at a layout line, the saw snapped to the magnet and was held perfectly vertical as I made the 14Ã?Âº cut. The cut came out perfectly straight. Next, I chopped out the waste to finish my pins and used the pin board as a layout tool for the tails.
A sharp pencil provides tight, accurate lines and that’s exactly what I needed to position the guide. The clamp portion of the guide can be removed and repositioned to cut the tails of the joint, too (see the photo at right). I set the guide so my pencil lines were just covered , that forces you to cut on the waste side of your lines , and made the cuts that define the tails. Clean out the pin waste and the tails portion of the joint is complete. Slide the pins into the tails and the dovetail joint is made. This guide can also be used to cut half-blind dovetails.
To read more about dovetail angles, click here.