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Where to Find Tools for Handcutting Small Dados - Miniature Straight Chisels


A miniature flat chisel beside a 1/16 inch dado it was used to clear.

A miniature flat chisel from Lee Valley tools used to cut a 1:16 inch dado in basswood for dolls house furniture.

Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.
Question: Where to Find Tools for Handcutting Small Dados - Miniature Straight Chisels
Small straight chisels are a necessary item for the miniature furniture maker. Although scale dados can be cut with a miniature table saw, a router table, or a drill press and a rotary tool with a dental burr, a sharp straight miniature chisel can help you do the job by hand, or clean up the cuts made by machine tools. Finding them requires checking woodcarving and jewellery tool suppliers.

Quality straight chisels for fine dados (through housing or trench joins) for miniature furniture can be found in speciality Japanese produced sets of carving tools or as gravers from jewellery suppliers. The tools are most often sold in metric sizes. A 1.5mm straight chisel, available from Lee Valley Tools (catalogue # 44D14.15)is close to 1/16 in. in http://miniatures.about.com/od/cuttingtools/fr/mission-models-micro-chisel-review.htmwidth, making it ideal for finishing hand cut dados for assembling miniature cabinets, bookcasees, boxes and shelves with dado joints which give added strength over standard butt joins. Micro Chisels with changeable tips, mainly designed for scribing or removing mold lines from plastic, resin, and soft metals, are available from Mission Models. As micro chisels have metal handles and removable tips, they are not for use on lathes. Micro chisels are available with 1 and 2mm spade shaped tips as well as round cut tips.

Dados are slot joints cut across the grain of the wood. In miniature furniture they are cut halfway through the stock, usually with a sharp carving or craft knife to cut either side, then a straight chisel is used to clean out the trough or dado. Dado joins are much stronger than butt joins, and are much better for making shelves and adding drawer supports than are simple butt joins. (In a butt join the wood is butted together and joined with glue where the two pieces meet).

Suitable miniature straight chisels for cleaning out wood joins can also be purchased from jewellery or rock shops as 'gravers' which are designed to cut patterns in metal, mainly for lettering and backgrounds. Quality jewellers gravers suitable for chiselsare available as Swiss-Grobet flat gravers, in sizes ranging from 0.2mm (European #2)to 2.0 mm(#20) and at all .2 divisions between these sizes. Made of high speed steel, these flat gravers cost roughly $12 each and require a handle fitted to the stock. There are a number of brands of gravers available, some with quick change hand pieces. Choose a graver which is made of material you can easily sharpen, and avoid gravers mass produced in China.

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