I was on a quest to make the long time feared, hand cut dovetail joint.  Matt Cremona was nice enough to volunteer to be my chancellor of chisels.  I have always had an incline to expand my techniques and procedures in the hobby of woodworking.  Basically, I like learning new stuff.  Many hobbyists I have spoken with seem to talk about the hand cut dovetail as some sort of folklore comparable to unicorns and pots of gold ending rainbows.  The ones that have mastered the dovetail, speak of it as child’s play.  Why such the bridge between the two groups?  I was about to find out.


I left links to all the tools used at the bottom of the article.


Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 01

I was lucky enough to have Matt teaching and showing me the basics.

Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 02

He started by milling and re-sawing some cherry to 1/2″.  This thickness seem to be great to start with because it was big enough to not make the material too small while ensuring I didn’t have too much material to remove.

Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 03

If all goes well enough I was planning on turning my learnings into a keepsake box.  A couple of passes on the table saw made a nice home for the eventual top and bottom panels to reside.

Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 04

After Matt gave me a quick demonstration on the process involved, it was time for me to jump in.

Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 05

Starting off my journey I laid out some guide lines to mark where my cuts were to placed.

Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 06

The saw I got online wasn’t all that bad for the price.  I would imagine I could upgrade to a nicer saw if my career in dovetail making makes it past one box.

Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 07

The coping saw made bulk material removal a snap.  I just made sure to leave my layout lines.

Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 08

Using my freshly sharpened chisels, I cut away the waste using the layout lines as a guide.

Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 09

For the (non-through) pin portion, I removed the bulk of the material using a forstner bit.


After chiseling out the remaining material from the pins & cleaning up the joints bit, this is what I ended up with.  These two pictures show both sides of the box.  In the first picture you can see I didn’t make the pins deep enough but I’m happy with it for my first attempt.  My goal was to get people to try something new that they may not have thought of before.  If you take away anything, it should be to just try it, heck you might enjoy it!

Make Hand Cut Dovetails Journey 10

I also figured I would help Matt “finish” his cherry secretary he has been working on for the last couple of years, lol.


Tool list:

Coping Saw

Dovetail Saw


Marking Gauge

Marking Gauge

Marking Knife


Select list(s):

Let me know your thoughts