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Thread: Hand cut dovetail

  1. #1
    Boolit Bub
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    Hand cut dovetail

    How hard is it to hand cut a dovetail for a front sight? I’m thinking I would cut yo depth and then cut the dovetail with a 45% file. How do you keep it level? Thanks for any input.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Regards
    John

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Idz's Avatar
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    midwayusa has videos on doing this. look at:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W60yBwzipKA

    I think they are a 60 degree angle though

  4. #4
    Boolit Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    I ain't ever done it but I've looked on it some. Like with a lot of things, if you're mechanically inclined it would be easy enough. If you're all thumbs, no amount of jigs and fixtures will compensate. Be easy enough to practice on a bolt or bar. Brownells sells special files for it that doesn't have teeth on one side.

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master

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    It can be done and was quite common yearsa go before the smaller cutters were readily available. I do it when needed. Its a several step process.

    First lay out the dovetail to close to depth with a sharp scribe be sure to get is square and parrallel
    Lay out the inside edges of dovetail down to bottom this shows the square groove you need to get started.
    I rough this in with a hack saw or a jeweler file. leave shallow
    file notch to depth.
    Now its simply filing in the dovetail with a safe edged file to fit the male.

    Several things to watch are 1) level and finish 2) the small files required are easy to spring bend and not cut flat 3) remember files only cut in one direction and cut alot cleaner and last longer hwen used like they should 4) clean the file often loaded files wander and dont cut good. 5) the last few thousandth clean the file and load it with chaulk this gives a very nice fine finish

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy
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    To hog out the slot stack several hacksaw blades in your saw.

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master
    Mk42gunner's Avatar
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    Most dovetail sights, that I am aware of, are 60 degree not 45. Then there are some that are 65 degree. My advice is to have the intended sight in hand before cutting the dovetail. Also not everybody's 3/8" is the same.

    Also level the barrel in a vice before ever picking up a cutting tool.

    Good luck,

    Robert

  8. #8
    Boolit Bub
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    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	272101 i cut this dovetail because the ramp on my win.94 was too hi and so I filed it down and recut a dovetail. I could not get the ramp off. I used those 2 files and a 24 tooth hacksaw. I cut several crosscut to depth with the hacksaw, filed out a notch then the triangle file from there. I was sure I could not get a dovetail with proper taper from side to side and just trial and error from right to left til. I could drive it in. I had no jig or any special tools and am not a guy who should really be taking on a job likee this but it only took about over an hour so I didn't run out of patience

  9. #9
    Boolit Bub
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    A triangle file is the right angle whatever that is. I have heard you can get one with only 2 cutting sides but I didnt have one, just a little hobby set file. I put more pressure up so it wouldn't cut the dovetail deeper when I was trying to widen it

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master

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    If you dont have a file with a safe edge use an arkansas or india stone on one side. some light oil and stone until teeth are flat not sharp. You also want a small knife edge file with a thin edge to clear the radius or lightly under cut the corners to the flats bear on the radius on the corners. A set of fine jewelers files has what you need

  11. #11
    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    There is a manual female dovetail cutting tutorial with pics in our own sticky section:

    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...etails-by-KSCO


    .
    Experience is a wonderful thing - It lets you recognize a mistake, when you make it again.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruts View Post
    A triangle file is the right angle whatever that is. I have heard you can get one with only 2 cutting sides but I didnt have one, just a little hobby set file. I put more pressure up so it wouldn't cut the dovetail deeper when I was trying to widen it
    60 and 65 degree dovetails are the most common on firearms but I have seen a couple of 55 degree dovetails on European guns. Triangle files are 60 degree.

    http://www.texas-mac.com/Measuring_D...imensions.html
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruts View Post
    A triangle file is the right angle whatever that is. I have heard you can get one with only 2 cutting sides but I didnt have one, just a little hobby set file. I put more pressure up so it wouldn't cut the dovetail deeper when I was trying to widen it
    60 and 65 degree dovetails are the most common on firearms but I have seen a couple of 55 degree dovetails on European guns. Triangle files are 60 degree.

    http://www.texas-mac.com/Measuring_D...imensions.html
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    "Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of different perspectives? Because if not, there’s absolutely no point."
    – Amber Veal

    "The Highest form of ignorance is when your reject something you don't know anything about".
    - Wayne Dyer

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Country Gent - great description! My ventures into this were disappointing.....quite difficult to keep the front sight in the same plane as the rear. I did eventually figure it out, however. Sage advice about having sight in hand also - supposedly USA sights are 60-65° - unless they're not.

    Sent from my Pixel 5 using Tapatalk

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master

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    even in the trades hand work and fitting is becoming a dying art. Its becoming a lost skill. A good hacksaw, files,chisels hammer punches used to be considered precision tools.

    At work one day I made some finger indicator mount stems. I cut the 1/4" dovetails by hand with a set of jewelers files I did cheat and mill the starting groove. The newly carded tool maker came by looked at them said they woudnt work. actually sent one to gauge and layout to be "certified". Came back as excellent fit and well with in specs. He got ribbed for several weeks by the old timers in the shop.

    Any thing that can be done in the lathe, mill or surface grinder can be done by hand just not nearly as fast. but it can be done. I did hand scraping refitting parts for a few years, I could hold .0003 in 24" square and parallel. The steel surface plates were ground close then brought to me to be brought in to flat.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    There is a dovetail filing guide available from Dixie Gun Works, maybe Track of the Wolf that provides a guide for filing and is hardened to limit size of dovetail. It is sized for the 'standard' 3/8 60* dovetail. It is about forty bucks but saves time and prevents serious damage to barrel from slips... Works on octagon and with careful leveling, round barrels. A 'three-square' file or 60* file is used. I have a file that I made safe by carefully dulling a flat against a grinder.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    I have cut some by hand and also with my milling machine. With the hacksaw I used a level on top of the barrel and I have an old hacksaw with a small bubble level epoxied to the top of the frame to try and keep both level. Mic both sides of the front sight to see if there is any taper. Decide which side the sight is going to come in from and I always made that side just a hair larger to allow me to get the dovetail started. With filing and cutting by hand I ground the teeth off one side of a triangle jewelers file to prevent cutting the slot deeper. Finally cut away material away SLOWLY as it is really hard to put any back!
    John

  18. #18
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    I have cut them and made my own safe sided files , hacksaw and file and take your time , remember the old saying easier to take it off harder to put back on .

  19. #19
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    Just an additional couple of thoughts:

    1. Sights are supposed to drifted in from the right side of the gun, out from the left.

    2. If for some reason you have to shorten a barrel on a gun that is basically round, i.e. and old .22, level it with the original dovetail before cutting the new one or lopping it off. This trick is handy for marking shotguns for bead sights also.

    Robert

  20. #20
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mk42gunner View Post
    Just an additional couple of thoughts:

    1. Sights are supposed to drifted in from the right side of the gun, out from the left.

    2. If for some reason you have to shorten a barrel on a gun that is basically round, i.e. and old .22, level it with the original dovetail before cutting the new one or lopping it off. This trick is handy for marking shotguns for bead sights also.

    Robert
    ^^^^This is excellent advice^^^^^^

    Sent from my SM-A716U using Tapatalk

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