1. Brilliant video! All the high quality photography we have come to expect from this team. Great sounds from VERY sharp tools paring crisply. Makes it all look so easy.

    I am going away to have a serious sharpen-up before looking for some meranti or similar…

    Thanks Paul!

  2. Thanks – it’s almost a shame to glue up and cover the crisp well executed dovetails – I never get tired of watching what a sharp chisel is capable of delivering!
    I appreciate the reuse of material destined for the landfill. The next time Paul does a “dumpster dive” (as we call it here in the US) I’d like to suggest taking a camera along and documenting the path taken to recover lumber and turni it into the four-square gorgeous stock such as the Meranti used in this project. Such an episode would demonstrate how we can be better stewards of our natural resources.

  3. Happy New Year and may it become healthy and peaceful.

    I like this project very much, because it’s a brilliant gift for those people who store their pens and pencils and things like that in mugs. Thank you! 🙂


    1. While Meranti is sometimes called Philippine Mahogany, there is no botanical relationship between the two woods other than the superficial color similarity. As Paul noted, it is considered a nice wood in its own right.

  4. Paul, many thanks for all your presentations.

    As always, you prefer to chop out the waste. Will you say why you do not first fretsaw it close to the line, and then pare away the last millimetre? In my experience, the sawing offers a saving of work – both methods involve chopping at the line, but the chopping only method also requires additional paring/chopping towards the line. I am curious why you choose to chop throughout.

    Best wishes for 2020

    Derek Cohen

    1. Hi Derek,

      I passed your question on to Paul and his answer is below:

      As a boy, I was taught to use a coping saw to remove the bulk of the waste. I found it problematic because in the mid section, the grain often tears out where the chopping of the final breakthrough comes together. Usually this occurs because sawing away from the line leaves elongated sections that have leverage and the grain pulls out instead of paring. This never happens with my method, because the outer edges of the waste wood are supported to the edges of the very last cut. I think it’s also good to note that many novice woodworkers have difficulty working with coping saws and fret saws and cutting near enough to the line.

      Kind Regards,

      1. Thanks Paul and Izzy

        In my experience (30 years sawing and cutting dovetails), if there is a problem with the fretsaw method, it is a consequence of using a coping saw with very coarse teeth. On the other hand, a fine-toothed fretsaw (18-24 tpi) can produced a very different result.

        In addition, I use a method that involved sawing only after the baseline has received a knife/chisel wall. This undercut at the baseline ensures that there will not be any spelching, and that the baseline does not move.

        Pictorial here: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furniture/ThroughDovetails3.html

        Best wishes from Perth, Australia


        1. Thanks Derek!

          I took your advice and got me a 5″ fretsaw with swivel function. Compared to the taller blade of my coping saw, its blade turns much easier in the kerf, saving me a lot of time – to say nothing about the risk of sawing below the line.

          1. I sometimes chop dovetails as Paul teaches, but sometimes I use a coping saw to cut out waste to about a mil from my line and then pare down taking half a mil each pass. I have not tried a fret saw. Derek above and folk such as Rob Cosman (I think) like fret saws. Chris Schwarz somewhere or other makes a case for coping saws. The main advantages of the fret saw for dovetails are two. First, the narrow blade turns easily in the kerf made by the dovetail saw as Sven-Olof says. This means you can drop the blade right to the bottom of the kerf and saw straight across just a bit above your knife wall. Also, the fret saw makes a much finer cut than does a coping saw. Great. But people who use a coping saw do not try to turn the saw in the kerf. Instead they do two cuts. The first swoops from the top, say top right. down to the opposite side, in this case bottom left. It takes out a nice arc of wood which then makes it possible to put your coping saw bade near the bottom left so you can slice across just above your knife wall. Since it has coarser teeth than the fret saw, the two cuts are pretty fast, maybe as fast as the single cut from a fret saw. (Hm . . . I wonder if anyone has timed these things.) And the coarseness of the coping saw blade is not much of a problem if you plan to pare away the last mil anyway. Given the price of a fret saw compared to a coping saw, I am not sure whether the advantages, if there are any, are enough to warrant it, if your main interest is in clearing out waste from dovetails. On the other hand, it might be worth having both a coping saw and a fret saw for other things. Coping saws are much better for coping molding and fret saws are much better for more complex cuts such as the fancy designs cut on the inside of a board.

            Oh, do take a look at Derek’s link on dovetails in his post if you have not done so. It and everything else on his website (as well as his postings at various other woodworking sites) are always very good.

      2. I’ve done something that is a mixture of Paul’s technique and a coping saw. The waste is sawn out with a coping saw, staying about 1/16 to 1/8″ off the layout line. Next, I work to the layout line with a chisel in a number of passes, usually around three, but I work from both sides going only about 1/2 way through the thickness from either side. This way, there is always material supporting the chiseling so that the tear out that Paul doesn’t like doesn’t occur. On the other hand, since I’ve used the coping saw to take out the bulk, the chisel won’t move the line. Regarding the broken fibers, It’s not as foolproof as Paul’s method but seems to work reasonably well. The most important thing is to have the chisel define the final dimension via the knifed layout line.

  5. Paul, great weekend project. What is the brand of that lovely saw (looks like a Gents saw) that you are using for the dovetails? Could the same saw also be used for small tenons? Thanks, Bill

  6. Hello everyone,looking at the drawings there is a discrepancy with the dimensions on page 1 of the drawings and the cutting list. Should the 11 1/2 be 10 1/2 or the 12 1/4 be 13 1/4. It may stop someone being too. eager and cutting their pieces too short

    1. Hi,

      Paul says:
      Both measurements are correct.
      If you look at the drawing on page 1 it says 10 ½”, then it add ½” to each end making it 11 ½”. The overhang to each side of the box is ⅜” making the lid and base 12 ¼”.

      Kind Regards,

    1. Hi Carlos,

      I passed your question on to Paul and he said:

      I have a pair of skewed chisels as described but never use them because they’re so unnecessary. I certainly would never buy one and technically you would need to buy two to get into the two opposing corners.

      Kind Regards,

    2. Hej Carlos,
      1:4 (14 degrees) dovetails are apparently en vogue. For those, skewed chisels are perhaps of some relevance.

      Though by no means necessary, fishtail chisels are quite handy for clearing out the corners of both the tails and, particularly, the pins. One does not need them in pairs.

  7. @charliez
    You may do so and some people do in fact use chisels that they have ground to a skew-shape.
    But think about it – you’ll need two chisels, one left and one right, plus one ground straight. That’s three chisels to do some simple cuts – Is it worth it?

    The secret to cutting into a sloping corner on a dovetail is to have a narrow bevel edged chisel that is as thin at the bevel-end as possible. Sharpen straight across and ensure that the corners of the cutting edge are pin sharp; next clean the edges of the sides of the chisel on each side for the first inch or 25 mm on your sharpening stones so that you have a crisp clean edge that slides into the corner of the dovetail and pare across in a straight line on your final cuts.

    Good luck!

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