Stopped dovetails for case work

Cutting stopped or sliding dovetails by hand is not nearly as difficult as one might think, given that you have the right tools.244

For me, a sharp cross cut saw, a saw guide block (beveled to the appropriate angle), several sharp chisels (one ground for making the angled stop cuts) and a router plane makes the task fairly straightforward.

That said, every time I find myself engaged in this particular job I experience some level of trepidation. Obviously, layout is critical.  Ergo, I measure, check, re-measure, re-check, etc., etc.  I tend to take a few practice cuts with the saw (in some scrap), just to make sure that I’m “keepin’ my elbow tucked in”.  As the bottom surface of the dovetail is critical to a proper fit, I use the router plane to insure even depth.

It may come as a surprise, but my goal is to have a fit that can be assembled easily, not requiring the use of a mallet.  If the joints are so tight that they must be driven together, there’s a very good possibility of bowing the case side (or breaking out the dovetail) and remember that there needs to be a little room for the glue.

Next time, leave your router in the cabinet and enjoy the reduced decibel level.


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