Dovetail Confessions

dovetailsOkay, true confession time: I’ve never cut dovetails by hand. There, I said it.

It’s probably not a big thing to admit, really … lots of us woodworkers don’t cut and chop pins and tails the “old school” way. Sure, I can steer my router through a dovetailing jig with the best of them, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But for me, a woodworking editor for gosh sakes, I feel like I’m admitting some deep, dark secret. I’m supposed to know this stuff to be a card-carrying shop writer, right?

Well, wrong.

It’s just that cutting dovetails by hand is one of those “I’d really like to learn that and someday I’ve gotta get to it” kinda things. Who doesn’t want to make sweet-looking dovetails in any shape or configuration you please? A well-made dovetail joint separates a darn-good drawer from one you want to carry around and show off, like a picture of your kids. And, when you can stand back and say that you did the job without ever reaching for a guide bushing or spending three hours dialing in the bit depth…well, you’ve arrived, right? At least that’s what that little voice inside my head tells me.

Now, if I were the kind of guy to have a therapist, he or she’d probably tell me that admitting what I can’t do is the first step in the right direction. Okay, check. Now, what to do about it…

Well, this is the year to learn how. What I need is a good tutor and some advice to get me going. If you’ve got a favorite method for hand-cutting dovetails — one that even a woodworking editor can figure out — let me know what works for you. How did you learn? What are the tricks? Where can I find a good dovetail saw without spending a fortune? Please, share! Maybe we can get some posts going, because I’ll bet what’s left of my retirement fund that I’m not the only one out there who’d like to learn how to cut them.

Hope to hear from you. Seriously. After all, now it’s public, and this is my year.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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