Review By Dean Bielanowski  AWR Website -

AWR Dovetail Master
By Dean Bielanowski

If you prefer your woodworking to be of the hammer and nail variety, or the block plane and chisel variety instead of the noisy power tool type, chances are you might have also already tried to cut your own dovetail joints with a hand saw, or would like to give it a try in the very near future. One of the keys to successfully mastering hand-cut dovetail joints is in the marking and preparation of your timber pieces, and there is no finer mark of quality in a hand-built project than the presence of hand-cut dovetails. It's not for the faint-hearted, but with a little practice and the right equipment, the task can be made much easier. Apart from a good fine-toothed hand saw or a dedicated dovetail saw, you will also need some way of marking out where to cut your dovetails. This can be done with just a simple ruler and a protractor, but that will take half the day just to do the marking! Enter the range of dovetail markers now readily available on the market. These simple tools make marking out dovetails a relatively simple affair, and best of all, your day will be spent actually working wood instead of fiddling around with pencils, scribes and flimsy rulers.

The AWR Dovetail Master is just one product on the market. We picked up one to take a closer look. It is made and offered by the folks at Australian Wood Review Magazine, one of Australia's leading woodworking magazines. The Dovetail Master can be ordered either completely assembled and ready to use, or as an unassembled kit. The unassembled kit (AUD$39 delivered to Australia and AUD$45.50 delivered around the globe) is roughly half the price of the assembled kit (AUD$69 and AUD$85 respectively), which is reasonably priced for a nice brass and quality wood hand tool.

If you purchase the assembled kit, it will come shipped ready to use. If you opt for the unassembled kit you will need to assemble the dovetail master yourself. This involves various steps, including gluing, drilling, screw-driving, filing and sanding. Full assembly instructions are provided on a well laid out and detailed printed card which leaves no doubt as to how to assemble the dovetail master (as shown below).

Whether you purchase the assembled or unassembled version, you will have the choice of numerous species of wood to form the "base" of the marker. Species available are as follows:

The brass components are all CNC milled from solid brass for ultra accuracy and a smooth finish. Once assembled, the Dovetail Master will allow you to mark lumber up to 2 7/16" thick (62mm) so it will be able to handle pretty much all of your marking needs. I measured the slope roughly and it comes to about 1 : 7 3/4 which makes it more suitable for use with hardwoods than softwoods, although from some articles I have read online, the slope doesn't seem to make a huge amount of difference (unless you are talking about very large slope angle differences) if the joint is constructed using a good quality wood glue as well and the joint itself is relatively firm fitting. Once correctly assembled you not only get a reference edge set at the correct angle for marking dovetails on the end of a board, but a perfect right angle reference for marking the straight depth lines for the dovetail on the face of the board. I won't go into how you exactly go about spacing and marking the dovetails as it is beyond the scope of this review, plus, there are probably hundreds of books and several websites that show you how to do this, but the AWR Dovetail Marker will ensure very accurate marking of your workpiece in preparation to hand-cut your dovetail joints.

I'll admit that I have never really been much of a hand tool fan, but the combination of solid brass and nicely finished wood is always appealing to me and, sometimes, woodworking the "old-fashioned" way just gives you that sense of accomplishment and 'hard work' you often miss when speeding through a project using power tools.

If you are planning to have a go at hand-cutting dovetails, grab yourself a marking tool like the AWR Dovetail Master. It makes the marking task that much simpler and easier, plus it looks the part too. A nice addition to your range of hand tools.

For more information on the AWR Dovetail Master, head on over to the Australian Wood Review website.

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Dovetail Master Photos
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The unassembled dovetail master kit

The dovetail master shown here fully assembled

It not only works great, but looks great as well!

Marking out dovetails ready for sawing


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