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A Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest part two

DSCN3296Continuing along with the toolchest build, this video shows the process of cutting the through dovetails for the carcase front and sides.

I begin with the ‘140 trick’, a technique where a small shoulder is cut into the back of the tail board before the dovetails are laid out. This small shoulder makes transferring the tails onto the pin board much easier and more effective.

You’ll notice I used a sliding bevel gauge to mark out the dovetails instead of a dedicated dovetail marker. This is because I wanted a dovetail splay somewhere between a 1:6 and 1:7 angle. My dovetail marker is set for either of those two angles and sometimes, for the aesthetic of the design, I prefer a dovetail angle that falls somewhere between the two. The sliding bevel gauge makes this easy to accomplish and lay out.

From there it’s over to my favorite 12-in. dovetail saw from Bad Axe Tool Works. I prefer the longer plate on this saw for 90% of my dovetail work.  The waste is removed with a fret saw and the base lines are refined with a chisel.

I maintained the same dovetail layout as is on my original tool chest with two groups of three tails and skipping the center. This is a pattern I enjoy using and find it gives the chest a bit of flair.

Until next time- enjoy!


Here are some links to a few of the products used in this video:

Veritas Skew Block Plane

Veritas Sliding Bevel Gauge

Lee Valley Dividers

Veritas Bench Chisels

Veritas Cabinetmaker’s Mallet



  1. Posted by Chris Lindsay on Jan 24th, 2013

    Really nice video, Tom. I like the blending of aesthetic and the technical. I’m sure you have seen it, but your short films are in the same league as that great Palo Alto chair video — they are kinda trippy and they invite you to keep watching. Cheers!

  2. Posted by Adam Weil on Jan 24th, 2013

    Thanks again for the wonderful video & song! You site is definitely one of the best quality & production value video/ written blogs I follow regularly.

    A part that I was surprised i liked so much was the sped up coping sawing (looks like a classic coping saw not a fret saw but i could be wrong). Your sawing speed with the increased video speed make it look like the saw almost glides right through the stock. Just a fun little bit that tickled me.

    Keep up the great work. God Bless

  3. Posted by bob nicks on Jan 24th, 2013

    you need to get a router & dovetail jig

  4. Posted by Ted Beyer on Jan 24th, 2013

    Hi. I always learn something on your site. I have seen a lot of dovetail videos. This one is really good. I recently bought a Knew concepts fretsaw for taking dovetail waste out. It works great. That was after I couldn’t get 3 coping saws to work well. Your saw seems to work great too. Don’t plan to replace mine but I did a lot of research before and don’t recall seeing yours. What is it? Thanks. Ted

  5. Posted by tom on Jan 24th, 2013

    Bob- thanks for noticing! ; )

  6. Posted by tom on Jan 24th, 2013

    Ted, thanks for the comments-
    I’ve heard really good things about the Knew concepts fretsaws. This one was a $5. saw I purchased almost 10 years ago! It has served me well and I’ve never had a need to upgrade. I think the key to Fretsaws are the blades and I buy the best ones I can. You know what they say- if it ‘ain’t broke then….
    when and if I do upgrade, I think the Knew concepts is at the top of the list.

  7. Posted by tom on Jan 24th, 2013

    Adam, thanks for the comments. I checked out your blog this morning…good work my friend! Happy shavings!

  8. Posted by tom on Jan 24th, 2013

    Chris- always good to hear from you. ‘Kinda trippy ‘ Love that comment!

  9. Posted by stephen melhuish on Jan 24th, 2013


    just watched this wonderfully hypnotic video… is so refreshing to watch this dovetail work without all the usual yabbering that goes on over the top of other you tube woodworking videos. To watch a craftsman at work and see the approach with choice of tools and your own little personal touches is all you need to learn by. Teach and learn by good example and this video certainly does it all without the natter.

    The music helps to focus your attention on the visuals….a perfect production……well done.
    Tom i just bought a Knew concepts fretsaw back in the Autumn last year and it’s by far the best that i’ve used to date, beautifully balanced and strong where it needs to be and a lovely ergonomic design too….go get one you won’t regret it.

  10. Posted by tom on Jan 24th, 2013

    Thanks for the comments Steve- the Knew concepts is at the top of the list!

  11. Posted by Dan Barrett on Jan 24th, 2013

    You mister Fidgen are fast, I did not know you could move that fast. Fun to watch. Did you have to use water cooling or did you just leave the wood in the fridge for a while to ward off the ensuing fire?
    Hey how is it going? Happy New Year and all that, we are finally coming up for air for the first time since we last talked.

  12. Posted by Jim B on Jan 25th, 2013

    Love the “140” trick as well! Learned that from Rob Cosman a few years ago…who learned it from Alan Peters! Thanks for sharing! What type of blade are you using in your fret saw?

  13. Posted by John Hippe on Jan 25th, 2013

    Hey Tom,

    Another awesome video! I really appreciate you sharing your skills and talents. I also enjoy checking out the tools that you use. Thanks for posting the list of tools. I always go check them out and add some to my ever growing wish list.


  14. Posted by runningwood on Jan 25th, 2013

    really enjoyed this video. The quality of the video almost rivals your woodworking skills. It almost looks like you have a cameraman in the room with you with all those angle and perspective changes. If you are alone even more impressive that you are doing great work with all the stops and starts to move the camera !

    Keep up the great work.


  15. Posted by Stephen on Jan 25th, 2013

    Excellent video. I just cut some blind dovetails last night for the first time ever. Not perfect but not bad. I need to get better at marking them and use a knife NOT a pencil.

  16. Posted by tom on Jan 25th, 2013

    thanks for the comments. I actually use a special blend of Saskatchewan seal fat I render down and rub on the saw plate to deal with the heat and friction. It’s an old family recipe I’d be happy to share with you in exchange for say, one of your plow planes !??
    ; )
    hope you’re well- gotta give you a call one of these days to continue on with our master plan for world domination. talk soon-

    thanks for the comment. I use a skip tooth pattern, 14 tpi, 5-in. fret saw blade. They cut really fast and seem to last me awhile. You can find them here:,42884,42904

    thanks for the comments. I too have a growing wish list-; )

    David- I wish I had a camera man! (or woman) I try to keep the camera angles changing and with this type of work, there’s so much repetition, I can change the shot every time I repeat the technique. It’s pretty quick to do and the fun is in the editing!

    Stephen, thanks for the comment. Working to a knife line makes all the difference. Keep practicing but keep in mind- a dovetail with gaps is still an incredibly strong joint.


  17. Posted by Marc on Jan 25th, 2013

    Hi Tom,
    Great video as usual. Love waiting to see each update. I don’t remember seeing you use that portable vise before. Did you make that? It’s a great idea that seems beyond useful. I’m going to have to look into creating one of those.

  18. Posted by tom on Jan 25th, 2013

    thanks for the comments. I did make the vise you mention and full plans and construction details will be in my new book. You’ll find most people these days refer to it as a ‘Moxon Vise’ but I came to know it as a ‘Lying Press’. I first came across it in a local book binders studio and thought it would be perfect for wood working applications. It’s a great addition to my work shop appliances and I use it all the time- especially when sawing dovetails and working on drawers~

  19. Posted by Patrick on Jan 26th, 2013

    Hey Tom, great technique to watch with neat tips and tricks. What caught me is how does the “self-healing” mat work out versus a backer board. The chisel does not penetrate to mar bench ?

  20. Posted by tom on Jan 27th, 2013

    thanks for the comments. The self-healing mat works great and no, I’ve never gone through it.
    A great way to protect the bench and the work.


  21. Posted by Richard on Jan 28th, 2013

    Hi Tom, It is good to watch a craftsman creating. I am happy to know what I do is not far removed from how you cut and chop dovetails. I took a half day class 20 years ago and now I know it was all good. Once you have the idea how to proceed then just proceed – often. I learn more by doing than by reading but watching is great too. I have your book and look forward to more of your words on paper. Please keep working and sharing.


  22. Posted by tom on Jan 28th, 2013

    Thanks for the comments Richard-

  23. Posted by David Gendron on Jan 29th, 2013

    Man, how did I miss that one???? But I find it and enjoyed it like all the other one!
    Good work!

  24. Posted by Anthony Wilson on Feb 1st, 2013

    Hi Tom,

    Is that an Olfa self-healing mat? I was thinking of investing in some Olfa gear to cut paper – have you had any experience using it to cut paper, or just fabric?

    Looking forward to your new Taunton Press book!


  25. Posted by tom on Feb 1st, 2013

    thanks for the comments and question. It is a self-healing mat and I use it all the time for cutting on. Be-it veneer, paper, fabric etc..
    I also use it to protect my project as I’m not one to keep my bench top very clean!

  26. Posted by Brian Martin on Feb 19th, 2014


    Great website with so much usable information. Sorry I’m a little late to the party, but I was wondering (seeing you cut your tails first), why you don’t cut through both tail boards at the same time?

  27. Posted by tom on Feb 19th, 2014

    Brian, thanks for comments and question. I don’t like ganging up parts for sawing dovetails anytime the material is over 3/4-in. as was the case for the tool chest carcase. I sometimes will saw them together when it’s thin drawer parts or something similar with thin material.

  28. Posted by Hias on May 9th, 2015

    Bonjour Tom,
    j’écris de Paris,

    the videos are fine.
    the project is really interesting to start, how to find the plane of the tool box?

  29. Posted by tom on May 9th, 2015

    Bonjour Hias,

    merci pour la question.
    Vous trouverez des plans pour le coffre à outils dans mon livre ‘Made by Hand’ disponible ici:

    Merci pour l’intérêt-
    ( sorry my French isn’t great-; )

    all the best,

  30. Posted by Hias on May 9th, 2015

    un grand Merci ! (ton français est fine)

    à bientôt

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