During the past few years 360 Woodworking has taught and posted a couple of different techniques for creating dovetail sockets. We’ve shown chopping by hand, standing the board in a vise and running a router while set on the end of the board (yes, we used a sacrificial fence to help balance the router). I’ve even showed how you can use a drill press to hog away the waste. This post adds yet another technique. I’ll again turn to a router with a straight bit installed – it’s actually a spiral up-cut router bit.
There’s a bit of setup required for this method, but if you’re working on case sides, for example, then the setup is worth the effort. The first step is to set a fence that allows you to bump up against it as you cut the waste out. The boundary set by the fence allows you to achieve a dead-flat baseline for your sockets. The depth of cut of the router bit allows you to achieve a dead-flat socket bottom. And that’s why setup is worth the effort.
Measure from the edge of your router to the shank of the bit, then set your fence that amount behind your baseline. I suggest that you test the setup before plowing away. Extend the router bit a cat’s whisker below the tool’s base and cut over the waste making sure to rub against the fence. When you examine your work, you should see the cut directly at the scribeline. If you’re off a smidgen, make an adjustment to the fence and try it again.
After everything is setup and ready to go, clean out the sockets. It’s a free-hand operation. Work slowly taking most of the cut while moving left to right. Right-to-left movement (climb-cutting) is when your router can become aggressive.
When the socket is cleaned out as much as it can be using the router, you need to go back and remove the remaining corners. Of course, there is another option that allows you to completely clean the sockets without any added work – use a dovetail router bit to hog out the waste. We’ll discuss that in another post.
One additional note: I had to adjust the base of my router so that I had a round surface to knock against my fence and so I could see the action while working. And thank you Adjust-a-Bench. Being able to raise the bench saved my back considerably (see below).