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Review 15


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7 Piece Standard Dovetail Set   From The CraftsMan Gallery

The Craftsman Gallery have a deserved reputation for selling quality equipment but are aware that there are those customers that have to balance their wish list with a limited budget. They offer this dovetail set for those that have to keep a tight control on finances but want  reasonable quality.

So, how do these dovetail bits perform? I have a set and have been using them for a while now. Read on to hear my views.

Box set Here they are presented in a crude but effective wooden storage box. Each bit was well wrapped in anti-rust paper.
Chinese made and ground from M2 High Speed Steel.
M2 is a standard tool steel which has a good balance of edge retention and toughness. Do not confuse this with cheap ultra budget carbon steel. The highest grade bits are made from M4 steel.
These are long shaft (45.7mm) 1/2" bits. All the bits in this set had shanks 0.498 inches in diameter and are very round and straight with a good clean ground finish.
I found them to be an excellent fit in the XL Quick Chuck with no vibration or discernable run out.
In fact I found the shanks to be rather better than some more expensive British Made bits I have. The long shanks give greater depth of cut of course.
The bit diameters and angles are listed on the box lid.
I found each diameter to be spot on but disagree with the stated angles. I cut a couple of test sockets in some acrylic. One with this set and one with carbide tipped bit that I have already proven to be correct at 8 degrees.
Angle 1
Angle 2 I checked, retested, re-measured and checked again. The 9 degree bits are as near as I can prove to be 8 degrees.
They perfectly match an 8 degree socket.
I did the same checks with the 7 degree bits. Mine are not 7 degrees but very close to 8 degrees. In fact they very closely match the WoodRat ones which have a slope of 1 in 7. This is not a problem providing you remember when setting up your scales for dovetail cutting. Maybe a manufacturing tolerance but I doubt it as the other measurements are so good.
These bits are not finished with the sharpest edge and are not relieved. Compare the left one with a relieved (WoodRat) bit on the right. Things start to get complicated with shear angles and edge retention as hand plane enthusiasts will know well. Different density and grain patterns of wood suit varying pitch angles to work best but we can't adjust that on a router bit. In simplistic terms a relieved edge will be sharper and clear chips more effectively but blunt quicker. The non-relieved edge like in this set won't be as sharp but will keep its edge longer. However, it will run the risk of over heating (blueing) and losing the steel temper if pushed too hard or not allowing the wood chips to clear.
Extra grinding costs more of course.
Finish This close-up shows the fine neck which is not possible with carbide tipped bits and so are suitable for narrower dovetail pins which always look better and closer to hand cut ones.
The lighting has exaggerated the grinding  but I can assure you that the finish is not bad.
The key to success with non- carbide bits is to keep them sharp. This is easy if you have a 'credit card' diamond sharpener.
Lay it on a raised surface such as a book like this and place the flat INSIDE face of the bit down on the diamond face. Place a finger on top of the bit and keep the face FLAT on the abrasive . Give it four or five strokes and repeat the same number of strokes on the other side to keep the bit balance.
DO NOT be tempted to 'sharpen' the outside circumference of the bit.
That's all there is to it. Lubricate the card with water.
I will take an awful lot of sharpening to reduce the bit diameter.


I have used these bits in hard and soft woods and found no problems. The chips are fine and the cut finish acceptable plus I have not needed to sharpen them yet. Swap to much higher priced bits and you will notice a quicker, smoother cut but you get what you pay for. Strong shafts and narrow necks enable good joints and long life provided you don't push them too hard. Not suitable for abrasive materials like plywood and MDF which will blunt them quickly.

At $75 for seven bits in a box aint bad. Not the best but certainly not cheap budget items either. Ensure you buy them with a sharpening card to keep the edge finely honed and they should provide a long life. These are not ground with the stated angles but so what?! Eight degree angles are fine for general purpose work.

 7 Pc Standard Dovetail Set
Price: $75.00
Quantity in Basket: none

Made in China from M2 tool steel, the industry standard for HSS bits. If kept sharp these bits will perform well in natural wood. All have 1/2" shanks 1-3/4" long

Fine Credit Card Diamond Hone
Price: $10.00
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Quantity in Basket: none
Fine (25 micron) grit, pocket-sized, DMT diamond sharpening card. Excellent for sharpening flat sides of router bits. Uses only water for a lubricant.

The monocrystalline diamond structure of these 2" x 3-1/4" DMT cards provides an unbreakable, oil-free, clean cutting, super-fast, always flat, sharpener.


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