Workshop Tip: Use a File to Pare Hand-Cut Dovetails
When cutting dovetails by hand, I true the tails with a couple swipes of a file. I use the flat side of a half-round file for this, so I can reach all the way into the corner. This works better for me than paring with a chisel, especially on hard woods with random grain, like sapele. It also smooths the face a little, helping the joint slide together better during assembly.
To avoid rounding the tails, I hold a small square against the workpiece with my other hand. This visual guide works best if you leave a small gap between the square and the file. Short, slow passes are also key. Unless I really blew the sawcut, it typically takes just a couple of file strokes to true the face.
—BILL HUFFMAN, Snoqualmie, Wash.
Illustrations by Dan Thornton
From Fine Woodworking issue #277