Dovetails (pairing pins… splitting?!?!)

Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Woodworking Methods and Techniques Dovetails (pairing pins… splitting?!?!)

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Author
  • #138722

    I am working on a trestle table for my kids and have just completed the first dovetail joint. It came together decently, but when paring one of the pins it split out. My sawcut was just inside of the knife line on the endgrain that marked the pin. I set the chisel in the knife line and cut straight down. It split towards the pin about a 1/16″ and looks really bad. After doing this I fit the rest of the joint and it looks pretty good. I then glued the split piece back in and will attempt to pare the fit on that pin again tomorrow.

    So the question is, how do you pair down a pin when the grain is working against you? Do I start at the bottom and work to the top instead of starting in the knife line, or do I have to take baby shavings? Or do I grab a file?



    Richard Senior

    You need to anticipate the chisel diving into the good wood and keep control of it so that it doesn’t. That means reading the grain (but not always trusting it), having a sharp chisel that will sever fibres rather than follow them, choking back on the blade so it doesn’t run away with you, watching the line and the progress of the cut, and controlling the angle of the chisel with the pushing hand. So baby shavings if necessary, but mostly having control over the cut.

    Try a file on a practice joint and see if you are still tempted. 😉

    Matt McGrane

    Another thing you can try, if you have knife lines on the sides of the board, is to chisel in from the sides rather than paring from the end grain. You can control the grain diving into the pin this way, but it could be tough to follow the lines.

    Otherwise, maybe you could try paring straight down as you did, but start near the bottom of the recess and work your way back up.

    Try it on scrap first, if you can.

    Matt, Northern California - Started a blog in 2016:


    I’m with Matt, pare across the grain if you’re having trouble with tearout. Sharpness helps, taking baby shavings as well, but a chisel is a wedge and in some cases you can’t counteract this effect.


    Southampton, UK

    Philip Adams

    If there is enough material, it can be worth using a very fine saw to remove the excess, although that can be difficult.
    Best, Phil

    I work alongside Paul to plan and produce the videos for Woodworking Masterclasses

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.