I’m a novice at cutting dovetails and can get them only to the point of a rough fit. My problem is in cutting away the waste between both the tails and the pins. How do I do that to make the fit clean and sharp?
Joe Zianno, Liberty Township, OH
Start by defining the tails and pins with backsaw cuts (photo above). Then remove most of the waste between tails and pins with a coping saw. If you used a Japanese pullsaw and the kerf is too thin for the coping-saw blade, make a second cut with the pullsaw to remove a wedge, creating more space.
Hold the blade about 1/8 in. above the baseline and begin the cut by twisting the saw’s handle slightly so that the blade teeth bite into the side of the kerf. Then make several strokes back and forth while turning the handle—not to advance the cut, but to rotate the blade into a horizontal orientation. Then complete the cut.
I use a Stanley #15-057 extra-narrow blade to cut away the bulk of the waste. Whatever blade you use, orient it 45° in relation to the coping saw’s back. This helps keep the back from snagging on the workpiece during the cut.
Try to leave 1/32 in. to 1/16 in. of waste inside the baseline. That’s just enough for the chisel to bite into as you complete the process by paring to the baseline.
To keep the baseline really sharp, chisel halfway in from each face of the board, starting on the inside and finishing from the outside.
Photos: Charlie Reina