Hand Tools for Dovetailing
Matt Kenney shares the tools he uses to cut dovetails by hand.
I was cutting some dovetails recently. Here are the tools that I use when I cut them with hand tools.
- Coping saw to remove waste between tails and pins.
- Gramercy Tools dovetail saw. I’ve had this for a long time. It’s an old friend now.
- Tite-Mark Mini marking gauge. The smaller size (compared to the standard Tite-Mark) is perfect for dovetails. The micro-adjust rocks, and makes it very easy to set the gauge to the length of your tails/thickness of your parts.
- 4 in. Vesper Tools sliding bevel. It’s beautiful, has a nice heft, and locks tighter than any other sliding bevel I’ve ever used.
- Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil. One of two pencils that I’ll use. The other is the Paper Mate Mirado Black Warrior.
- Vertias 6 in. precision square. I use this for laying out the spacing of the tails.
- 2 in. engineers square, for drawing straight lines across the end grain. It’s little. It’s cute. It’s perfect for the job.
- Pencil sharpener. I don’t know the brand. I can’t tell you were to get one. (I got them for free from a pile of stuff being given away.) It’s the best sharpener I’ve ever used, and I have about six of them. The point is sharp, but not so acute that it breaks easily.
- Lie-Nielsen bevel edge chisel for paring tail sockets. The size I use varies depending on the size of the socket.
- Hand-forged Japanese paring chisel with a triangular cross section. It gets between tails, into the pin sockets, without deforming the tight corner. I had this one and another one (wider) made for me by a blacksmith in Japan. Yes, I am that far gone.
- Japanese paring chisel from Japan Woodworker. It gets insanely sharp and takes super thin slivers. I use it to pare the half-pin sockets on the edges of tail boards.
- Gramercy Tools holdfasts. Inexpensive but absolutely awesome. Good for clamping down boards for paring.
- Veritas twin-screw vise. It’s beat to hell, but works great and I would never use any other type of vise. (It’s not surprising that 94% of folks with a leg vise now have a Moxon vise. The other 6% have a hand clamped in the leg vise and can’t get free.
If you’d like to see more of what’s on my bench, check out my Instragram feed.
You can get that pencil sharpener at any art supply dealer. They are the cheapest ones, and they work the best.
I use a home made (Paul Sellers-type) dovetail gauge, a small square, a marking knife (Pfeil single bevel), a marking gauge, 0.7mm mechanical pencil, some beveled chisels made in America and Czech republic, a couple shop-made mallets and a LV dovetail saw. Sometimes I use an old (but sharp) plane iron in place of the marking knife. Seems to work for me :)
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