Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hand-Cut Dovetails - Houndstooth and Signature

In the first entry on hand-cut dovetails, I presented two videos showing how to hand-cut them by eye using a pins-first method and a tails-first method.  The idea was to show that you end up with dovetails either way.  In this entry, I present two more videos on hand-cut dovetails.

The first are houndstooth dovetails, a very nice decorative dovetail that can look amazing on an elegant box.  In my case, I used it for the top two drawers of the vanity since those have a special position versus the other 4.  These are done by eye and are done pins-first simply because they are much easier to do that way unless you really want to layout all the cutlines ahead of time (you don't, right?)

The second is what I'm calling a 'signature' dovetail.  A signature dovetail is one with a special design for just one tail, typically on the least used drawer; call it a sort of Easter egg for the owners to find.  I call it a signature since you could design the dovetail based on your logo or attributes of the style piece it is a part of.  The shop's heat killed my creativity that day, but I decided on making one using Greene and Greene elements.  Might be whimsical, but I like the look of it on the bottom drawer.  The idea likely came to my mind after having visited the Gamble House recently... (next time, I'll do the knot you'll see in the video).  The signature dovetails, regardless the design you choose, will be easier to do tails-first.

The point of this series is to show that while either method results in basic dovetails, some special dovetails may require one or the other method; both should be learned.

This series isn't done yet on dovetails.  The video is ready for 2 more types built on the first two method videos of the last post.  Hopefully you find them interesting enough to grab a saw and give them a try.  If the first couple tries are kinda ugly, well, that's what fire was invented for!

Oh, and I haven't forgotten the vanity.  We're tying heat records this week every day, but I have most of the next episode recorded.  We'll put it out before you get completely sick of dovetails :)

First up, Houndstooth:

Second, Signature:


Addendum: many people have asked me about the fretsaw I use. Enough, in fact, that it prompted me to make a review of the Knew Concepts fretsaw.


  • Mark Rhodes said...

    I like the signature dovetails, I bet the short grain was a bit difficult to cut and chisel, without it just breaking off?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thanks, Mark... I was surprised in a number of ways with those dovetails. By using the dovetail chisels to first score the bottom of whatever I wanted to pare off, it came off pretty cleanly. The biggest surprise was the first test-fit; one area was tight so I pared it more then it went in very nicely without lopping off the extremities of the dovetail.

    Russ made a great comment in email; while I set out to make them rounded like the picture, which would have been more Greene & Greene, I left them boxy. Never dawned on me how much the end result looked like a Navaho design. The Navaho are native Americans from our area. It should have been more obvious to me considering the casino near my house has a similar motif! :)

  • john said...

    Where did you get that coping saw. I must not be looking in the right places for one. I use a cheap one from a big box store. I'll use my scroll saw as well to cut out the tails.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, John,

    It's actually a fretsaw so it uses scrollsaw blades instead of those coping blades with holes in the ends. The tensioning mechanism on it is pretty stellar. Coping saws are more like a bow in that they rely on the tension of the saw itself springing out, which isn't that much.

    The saw comes from Knew Concepts who make premium fretsaws for jewelers. Lee of Knew Concepts collaborated with some woodworkers on a forum I frequent to create a version for woodworkers (the link above). The difference between that one and the jewelers' saws is that there are positive stops for the blade so you can swivel it out 45º as well as 90º, which is useful if you are clearing stock in something large (presumably jewelers don't :)

    Mine is the titanium model, but the aluminum is nearly as good; either way, leagues ahead of the others out there. I got the titanium at a show-special price.

    What Lee said is that the titanium model is able to tension the blade to the point where it snaps the blade. The aluminum model wiggles when it gets to that tension point as it is as the limit of the saw's structure. As a scrollsaw user, you'd know how a poorly tensioned blade can make a bad cut.

    So since you have the scrollsaw, you could likely use it for fun.

    I've been asked about it numerous times since I started that series so perhaps I'll do a short blog entry about it.

  • john said...

    Thanks Paul. I like anything that makes dovetailing go faster and easier. When I do the first two drawers I'm excited and having a great time. By the last two I want to sell all my tools and take up knitting. Seriously I am going to order one of those saws. I "knew" it will make a great addition to my tool collection!