Pins rule?

Some time back Glen Huey, Senior Editor for Popular Woodworking Magazine, reviewed some current DVDs about dovetailing (mine included) in a few different blog posts. In these various posts, Glen made it clear he thought “pins rule”. I’m here to show you that while pins rule, tails aren’t bad either.Whenever I’ve taught people how to cut dovetails, including when I’ve done dovetailing demos at shows and events, I’ve always said “it really doesn’t matter which part you cut first.” I would then proceed to demonstrate cutting them pins first. Let’s face it, pins rule. Actually, that is the way I generally tend to cut my dovetails…generally.

There are plenty of times where I need to cut tails first. After all these years of saying that you can cut them either part first, I figured it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. So, with only a bit further adieu, I’ve created a video showing that I can (and do) cut dovetails both ways (and hopefully with some practice you can too). The video is done in real time so you can see the time factor isn’t dramatically longer one way over another. It’s not a race against the clock. I wanted cut two decent sets of dovetails in a reasonable time frame (in other words, I wanted the video to be short enough that I can put it on YouTube at some point). This means each set is cut in three to four minutes and there’s still time for me to ramble on at the beginning and end of the video. So, sit back, hit play and enjoy. Let me know if you can tell the difference.



So, now that you’ve watched the video you ask, “how does this settle the debate?” The answer is quite simple, learn how to saw to the line and when you have to saw either pins or tails first it won’t be a problem. Woodworking isn’t based on a rigid set of rules to be followed at all cost. It’s a mental exercise in problem solving. Once you learn the basic techniques, it becomes all about how to apply them in various combinations to get from the beginning of a project to the end in the least amount of steps while still producing a high quality product. With a little luck you might even enjoy the journey.

About Chuck

11 Responses to “Pins rule?”

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  1. Kerry Drake says:

    Hey, that’s ME in intro!

  2. S says:

    I took an informal poll and we all agree that this post is exactly why you should post more often than every blue moon. Nice work Chuck! So the big question is: which one was pins first? I guess the left one.

  3. So now that you’ve settled that, is your next move to take on the different uses of the saw nib :) ? See you on the 21st!

  4. Matt Garcia says:

    I’m thoroughly impressed!! The last time I tried to cut hand cut dovetails, I cut away the wrong pieces!! I need more practice!! Oh, well. Nice job, Chuck.

  5. Yeah Chuck! We need to see more of you on the little screen like this! What a treat!

  6. Derek Olson says:

    Great Video Chuck, but I want to know if anyone else caught a little after 10 minutes in when you let your Jedi powers show when you made the correct chisel roll along the bench and right into your hand.

    An amazing woodworker, a great teacher, and a Jedi Master!!! Now that’s just not fair. :)


  7. Corey Megal says:

    Chuck, smacking the bottom of the hold down is genius! I can’t believe I never thought of that.

  8. Pins first are on the right.

    Great video, Chuck. You are a dovetailin’ wizard!

  9. Well mr Bender thanks a lot for sharing this vid, I guess you didnt noticed that I posted to my facebook wall a sentence which really impacted my mind from you: ‘ It’s a mental exercise in problem solving ‘
    About pins rule, I absolutly agree it doesnt matter which is cut first but there are some small details that have made of me a ‘Tails-first-Flamingo’: Fine tails are harder to pair when cutting pins first. Another, You can cut two boards of tails at the same time getting advantage of a solid endgrain surface to straighten the kerft and saving time. I only cut pins first at mitre secret dovetails. I hope you will be so kind as to see my coming to soon thesis on ‘dovetailing’ at my blog.
    Best thoughts


  10. Dave says:

    Who listens to Huey? :)