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Christopher Schwarz once demonstrated a time-honored trick of hand-cutting the tenon’s shoulders. After he stretched the joint, he carved straight down on the shoulder cut line, then made a V-groove by tapping inward from the scrap side. This created a channel to perfectly guide the saw for the desired cut.
I decided to try this technique for hand-cut dovetails and found that it worked just as well for starting a precise cut, which can be the hardest part of making dovetails. Regardless of whether you are “code first” or “pin first”, it is not necessary to do this when cutting the first half of the joint, but it is a smart move when making the mating part. For example, saw your board first, use it to trace the pins on the mating piece, then carve the cut lines at the end of the board before sawing the pins. It makes getting started on the cut a lot easier and ensures you are on the money. – Bill Law
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