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Swan Chisels



  Quick half-blind dovetails... the hard part by Zach Dillinger 1 of 2  


If you want to make realistic reproductions, don't listen to the modern nonsense that every surface is a show surface.


Period furniture (i.e. when things were done by hand with speed) shows many tool marks. A large number of 18th century furniture pieces I have studied exhibit deep saw overcuts on the drawer fronts.

Some of these extend an inch beyond the baseline and are quite deep into the face of the drawer. They aren't simply to release the outside corner as some posit... they are far deeper than required for that task.

Given our lack of actual written "how to-s" from the period, my interpretation of these marks is that the original maker oversawed the baseline and then continued to saw down to release the inside corner of the waste. This makes waste removal nearly as simple as it is for a through dovetail.

I holdfast my pin board to the bench, face down, for sawing.

This allows me to saw the whole pin face by simply oversawing the baseline. To start, I simply tilt the toe of my saw up, and saw as deeply as I can to the end grain line. After that, I level the saw out and take shorter strokes with the toe of the saw to release all the waste down in the corner.

Do this on both sides, pick up your chisel. I prefer to use a narrow chisel as this assists in breaking out the grain rapidly with less force needed.

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Swan Chisels


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