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.