My dovetails are always at their best if I warm up before sawing. But I’ll be honest – when I am pressed for time I have no patience to cut an entire joint, much less prep the wood for a practice set.
So here are two things I do to get my sawing on track that don’t require extra material or significant time.
Crosscut Your Rough Stock by Hand
Even though I own some machines, I almost always crosscut my stock to rough length with a handsaw. This hand work gives a clue about what to expect with each board. Is it wet? Dry? Filled with tension and/or pitch? Mild?
But just as important is that it gets me tracking a line with my handsaw and loosens up the muscle groups I’ll use for sawing the dovetails.
Cut Starter Kerfs in the Waste
After I lay out my tails, I make a few straight lines in the waste between the tail joints. Then I practice sawing right next to that line and confirm the cut is dead 90° to the faces of the board. I keep repeating this exercise until I get two perfect kerfs in a row that are dead 90° to the front face of my tailboard.
I also make about 10 long saw strokes in each of these “starter kerfs.” These strokes confirm that the saw teeth are sharp, the plate is free from bends and ready to go.
— Christopher Schwarz