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Duration: 21:41 minutes
One of the readers of the blog recently posted the following Comment to the earlier article on More great drawers:
Could you add ‘Cutting Pins by Hand for Half-Blind Dovetails’ to the list of topics to cover? I fully get how to cut pins and tails for through dovetails, but half-blind pins I can’t seem to wrap my mind around. Is it all chisel work? Is there a sawing technique I don’t know of to cut 80% through the thickness of a board?
Torch, this article and video are my response to your request – perfect timing!
Although today it is considered the hallmark of a woodworking craftsman, the dovetail was not always held in such high esteem. In fact, dovetails used to be buried behind trim, as they were strictly a utilitarian joint; but they were used for their holding strength. Today we make dovetails by hand and with dovetail jigs, to get beautiful results; and they are beautiful!
In this episode I show in detail how to cut one half-blind dovetail on a narrow board. Although I managed to damage the fit on the first attempt, I recovered to shoot the chopping of the pins for this episode in its entirety. In the video I show in high speed the details of chopping the waste, from start to finish:
- Very light chiseling at the baseline, to ensure that it stays nice and clean.
- Once the baseline is established, more aggressive chopping can take place.
- But care must be taken at the half-pins, to prevent splitting of the wood; typically, a narrower chisel, and lighter chisel action are required, or the board will split.
- Slight undercutting at the baseline, about 1° to 2°, will result in better and easier fit of the tails in their sockets.
- However, too much undercutting will result in a weak joint – as a result, avoid too much undercutting. Practice, practice…
- Chop the bulk of the waste with the board supported by the workbench; then place the work piece in the vise, to finish with light paring cuts.
- Cut a very small chamfer on the back of the dovetails, to easy entry into their respective sockets in the pins board.
Gary Rogowski is a great advocate of the 5-minute dovetail, a practice session to get ready for the real job of cutting the joinery on a real project. And although the exercise is typically for through dovetails, I believe it applies just as well to half-blind dovetails. In fact, I always do a similar warm-up when I use the Leigh dovetail jig – I never start cutting dovetails cold, regardless the method. Click on this link to see the Inlaid Dovetails Tutorial videos I posted on the blog in March 2008, using the Leigh D4 dovetail jig.