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Three Essential Dovetails

with Kyle Kwiatkowski
Three Essential Dovetails
Add three impressive dovetails to your woodworking repertoire. Expert woodworker Kyle Kwiatkowski demonstrates the half-blind, through and canted joints.

Advance your craft and learn techniques to achieve three functional and beautiful dovetail joints. Join expert woodworker and instructor Kyle Kwiatkowski as he guides you through wood selection and material preparation for through, half-blind and canted joints. Get helpful strategies for cutting these dovetails, approaching shoulder lines and cleaning out waste. Learn a variety of chisel techniques for pristine waste removal and confidently cut your pins using the tails as your template. Successfully define shoulder lines and true up your pins on all three joints. Then, use graphite or learn to spot signs of burnishing to find areas where you need to shave the wood to achieve a perfect fit. Plus, get troubleshooting tips and helpful tricks for achieving a snug join for strong, handsome dovetails you’ll proudly showcase in your workshop or home.

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Lesson plan


Lesson 1. Introduction & Doevetail Planning

  • Meet your instructor, woodworking expert Kyle Kwiatkowski, and learn more about the three kinds of dovetails you'll be making in class: through, half-blind and canted. Kyle discusses wood choices and how to mill your boards by machine or by hand to prepare them for dovetailing. Then get started with marking your boards for each kind of dovetail.


Lesson 2. Cutting & Saw Control: Tails

  • Kyle goes over the types of saws commonly used for dovetails and demonstrates their use, first with practice cuts, then with cutting the dovetails themselves. Learn how to cut at an angle to the shoulder line accurately and how to make side cuts. Kyle also discusses strategies for cutting half-blind and canted dovetails.


Lesson 3. Waste Removal: Tails

  • With your saw cuts made, it's time to remove the waste wood in between the dovetails. You can use a coping saw or mortising chisel, then clean up your lines with bench and dovetail chisels. Kyle shows you how, sharing safety and troubleshooting tips along the way.


Lesson 4. Transferring Layout & Cutting: Pins

  • Your dovetails will now serve as the template for cutting the pins. Kyle demonstrates how to transfer the lines you'll need and how to cut them. You'll learn how to cut the half-blind and canted pins as well. If you make a mistake, a shim might save the day.


Lesson 5. Waste Removal: Pins

  • With a coping saw or chisels, you'll remove most of the waste from between the pins. This fairly straightforward process on through dovetails becomes trickier when you're negotiating the angles of the half-blind and canted dovetails, where only chisels will work. Kyle walks you through it.


Lesson 6. Cleaning the Shoulder Lines

  • Learn how to put a razor-sharp tip on your chisels before beginning the delicate process of defining the shoulder lines and truing up your pins on all three types of dovetails. If you run into a problem such as a small split in a pin, Kyle shows how to make repairs.


Lesson 7. Final Fit

  • The moment of truth arrives as you test the fit of your dovetails and pins. Using graphite or signs of burnishing can help you find the areas where you need to shave the wood to achieve a snug join. Once you're satisfied, you'll plane your surfaces for a smooth finish. Kyle can help you troubleshoot any gaps to produce perfect dovetails.

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