Cutting the dovetails

In practice it hardly matters whether the actual pins or the tails are treated first (although in some instances—tall carcass sides and in secret dovetails—the pins must be worked first and the tails from them), but as a rule the tail side is marked out and the pin side from it. After marking out the tail side in pencil (154:6, 7) the pin sockets or cores are sawn in with the fine dovetail saw, with the tail piece held in the vice and tilted over to bring the markings vertical (156). This sawing should be on the pencil-line, square across the edge and down to the gaugelines, but the pin sockets should not be chiselled out at this stage—a mistake beginners often make—for the actual pins must be marked out before any chiselling away can be done. The pin piece (B) is then held in the vice (154:10), and the tail piece packed up and placed on it truly square with the edges flush (the drawing shows the positioning for a lap dovetail in which the tail piece is set back for the lap). The point of the saw is then drawn through the cuts, transferring them to the end grain of the pin piece, and once this is done then the pin sockets on the tail piece can be chiselled out, working from either side in a series of bevel cuts (154:11), so that the waste is fully supported with the last cuts vertical and exactly on the gauge-line; the end shoulders can then be sawn

154 Dovetailing details (1)

154 Dovetailing details (1)

in with the fine dovetail-saw. Sawing in of the pins in the pin piece can now be done, again held in the vice and sawing-in as in 154:8 but down to the gauge-line on either side for through dovetails, with a centre cut in each tail socket to clear the waste. It is a useful precaution to mark this waste 'O' as in 154:9, and the sawing must always be on the waste side and alongside, but never on the gauge-marks or the pins will be too small. Alternatively, instead of sawing out small wedged-shaped pieces alongside the pins as for lap dovetails (154:8), the pins are sawn in and the waste partially sawn away with a scroll-saw. It hardly matters which, but here again a fast worker will not bother to set up another tool.

Chiselling the sockets will be done as for the tail piece, and it is customary to incline the vertical cuts through the thickness fractionally inwards towards the centre so that the bed of the sockets is undercut; but the cuts must not go over the gauge-lines on the faces. When all the cutting has been finished the dovetails can be tried together, but they should never be knocked fully home until they are glued up, for it is axiomatic that a good dovetail only fits once. Application of through dovetails is in box sides, etc. and in all right-angled framings where it does not matter if the joint shows.

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