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I spent a few hours this weekend (5-8-04) practicing hand cut through dovetails.  I used an inexpensive Stanley dovetail saw, a marking gauge, a 1/4" and 1/2" chisel, a mallet, a sliding bevel gauge and a combination square.  Here's how it worked out, using some scrap poplar.

All told, I'm pretty pleased with the results.  It takes me a little too long to make a joint, but the more I do, the faster & easier it gets.  I tried "tails first" and "pins first".  I've decided that "pins first" works best for me.  There's more room to trace the pins onto the tail board than the other way around.  I had heard that cleaning the glue squeezeout with lots of water helps make good joints, and it's true.  Seems like the water swells the pins & tails, closing up any small gaps, and the glue holds them that way when it dries.

After my first attempt, I sharpened the saw - something I had never done before.  It really helped.  It was easier to start the saw cut on the forward stroke, stay on the line, and it cut much faster than before.  I was really surprised.

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