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Cutting your own dovetails is a right of passage for many woodworkers. Many out there find it intimidating when they first start though. Here are a few techniques that will help you out (or help you improve the skills you already have).
1. Cut By Hand
When dovetailing by hand, be bold. Don’t bother with a try square or sliding bevel. After gauging a thickness line across the board, lay out the pins with your saw as you make each cut. Trust your eye to find a pleasing dovetail angle and repeat it over and over. Trust your hands with a sharp saw to cut straight down. If you’ve never done this before, let go of your anxiety and just do it. Practice, practice, practice. You’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes.
Don’t worry about the exact sizes of the pins or the spaces between them. In fact, a little variation is a good thing. Your right and left hands aren’t perfectly symmetrical, so it’s okay if your dovetails aren’t, either.
2. Chop With Vigor
Chop out the pins like there’s no tomorrow. Good, solid blows on a very sharp chisel get the job done in no time.
Leave a flat spot at the end of the waste.—if you’ve ever torn out the interior of a hand-chopped dovetail, you’ll appreciate this tip. Chop halfway down one side of the board, brush away the chips and turn the board over. The flat spot supports the waste so there’s no tear out.
3. Fix Mistakes
4. Level Quickly
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