Perfect Tapered Sliding Dovetails in Wood… by Hand–Part II
“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.”
— Winston Churchill
Early this week I posted images of our way to make perfect sliding dovetails by hand. And I do emphasize perfect.
Sliding dovetails have an enormous upside and traditionally have been possible primarily using the powered router. Our approach uses the versatile HP-6 Mini-Multi Plane. Making the male dovetail has never been that hard, although adding a taper complicates things.
The tapered female is a beast by hand, and I venture to say the vast majority of woodworkers have never made this joint by hand. Now it is easy–we use the HP-6v2 dado kits to remove the bulk of the channel and then come back using the exact same settings that we used to cut the male dovetail to cut the female–with this system, we ALWAYS cut the male dovetail first. (If you have two HP-6v2 bodies which of course we recommend…you can do this without breaking stride.)
In order to maximize the efficiency of the 10 degree beveled cuts (by removing as little material as possible), the initial dado cut should be as wide as possible. To do this you need a way to determine the EXACT width of your tapered male dovetail and our new dovetail gage does this in spades. This is really cool.
All that said, when you work using centerlines as your anchor, stock width variations can cause havoc. We needed a way to precisely make variable width dado cuts using a fixed width cutter (in this case either 3/8″ or 1/2″). Hence the AF-26 Adjustable Fence was born.
The AF-26 is, 26″ in length and is adjustable in 0.001″ increments up to .5″ either side of zero, for a total adjustable range of 1″.
Pictured below is a routine setup to cut the initial dado cut clamped with a caul to a workbench.
Loosen the two lock knobs and the reference face can be adjusted in either direction as seen below;
These adjustments are fast, accurate and fun. More important, you can come back to wherever you were if need be. I wish I would have had this device 40 years ago–tap,nudge, tap back… what a time waste. The tapered, sliding joint is smooth and solid. Did I mention how FAST this is?
The aluminum base fence is drilled so you can attach your own wood fence which will make this tool useful on router tables, band saws, free hand powered routing applications and many more situations where repeatablity and accuracy are required.
Lastly, there are many misinformed folks out there proclaiming that working to tight tolerances in wood is a waste of time, and I would like to believe they are talking about house framing. Without tight tolerances the tapered sliding dovetail does not exist.
The comments so far–as always–are welcome and insightful. Keep up the good work!