Dovetail Practice Log #1 – #9

Early on in my dovetail research I came across a reddit user who posted a log of his dovetail practice joints. Apparently it took him 38 tries to become proficient in the skill.

I liked the idea so I’ve been taking pictures of all of my work. I definitely need more practice, but I hope it won’t take me 38 tries.

Dovetail #1


I’m not sure if this one counts as a practice joint, but I did learn a valuable lesson; be sure to mark what is waste and needs to be cut out, and what should be left alone.







Dovetail #2


Another failed attempt. The pins were too wide and when I forced it together the tail board split.





Dovetail #3


It’s hard to tell from this photo, but I cracked the tail board. At least it wasn’t a full split! So making progress.









Dovetail #4


Another day another cracked board. At this point I’m beginning to think it’s the wood I bought. It was some really soft cheap wood form my local corner hardware store. Besides the bad wood, at this point I still haven’t found the best way to clear the waste out. If you look closely the waste section is very uneven.




Dovetail #5


I think this counts as my first official dovetail. A lot of gaps, I still need to figure out the best way to remove the waste, but at least it didn’t crack.





Dovetail #6


I finally bought some nicer, and harder wood. I can’t describe how much nicer is was to work with. I watched a Paul Seller video which has a pretty good overview how to clean out the waste with a chisel. Their is a bit of a gap in my final work but at least it’s straight.








Dovetail #7


This one took me a long time, but that was because halfway through the chisel slipped and I ended up chiseling my finger. My big learning on this practice was I need to build a vise to hold the wood while I work, but that’s a post for another day.

I used Paull Seller’s chisel method again, definitely pretty clean. The main downside to his approach is it’s very time consuming.

I also tried making everything flush with the hand plane after it was all put together. Because the joint isn’t perfect it wiggled while doing this, but overall I was pretty happy with the result.

Dovetail #8


I’m finally starting to get the hang of this. You can’t tell from the picture but the tails are a little asymmetrical, I need to keep practicing sawing at the angle I want.

I also adjusted my waste clean out method. A lot of tutorials recommend using a coping saw to remove the waste, but I use a hybrid method that works pretty well. I use the saw to remove about 90% of the waste, and then switch to the chisel to remove the remaining bit and clean up the joint.

Dovetail #9


Except for the gap on the right this on came out really well. The top looks a little weird in this picture but that’s because I was playing around with shaping the edge once the joint was made.






Next Steps

My joints definitely aren’t showroom ready, but I think they are good enough to finally get started on my first project, the sofa arm rest coffee table. I’ll keep you all posted on the progress of that project, as well as my dovetail joints in general.

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