Dovetail Joints


Sliding Dovetails
Learning the correct technique for a Dovetail Joints will payback dividends for the long-term, with quality looking, will built pieces.



Dovetail vs. box joint strength

When I built the stand for my homemade band saw I joined the corners with dovetail joints that I cut on my bandsaw.  I later made a few more joints while shooting a video demonstrating my technique. So then I had some sample dovetail joints that I didn't have any use for. I figured I might as well break them to  see there strength.


Half-Blind Dovetails

This page builds on the techniques demonstrated on the "Through Dovetails" page.  Some techniques demonstrated on the Through Dovetails page are not repeated here so the reader is advised to review the Through Dovetails techniques before starting on Half-Blind Dovetails.  It's not that half-blind dovetails are harder to make than through dovetails - I actually find them easier.  It's just that I did the through dovetails page first and I didn't want to repeat some of that information here.  The tools and equipment for making half-blind dovetails are essentially the same as for the through dovetails.  Refer to my page on through dovetails for the list of tools, and a discussion of each.


Through Dovetails

This page, and the one on half-blind dovetails, are intended for the students in my hand cut dovetails class.  The instructions here are intended to supplement the classroom instruction and, therefore, may not be sufficient for someone to learn how to make hand cut dovetails, just from these pages.  Dovetails are a woodworking skill that improves with practice.  Your first dovetails will likely have a number of problems, and you may feel disappointed with what you produced.  Just about everyone experiences the same thing.  But your second set of dovetails will be better than your first, and your tenth will be outstanding compared to your first.  Sure, there'll still be things you'd like to do better, but even the "expert" feels the same way.  Keep practicing and your dovetails will be as good as anyone's.


How to Make a Dovetail Joint

The use of a dovetail joint can help you to create a strong bond between two pieces of wood, which can be of great assistance in the construction of an item. To ensure that it is properly effective, it is essential to be aware of the correct way to make the joint.  The first step is to prepare the wood that you intend to connect using a dovetail joint. They must be at least 12 inches long, 3 inches wide and 1/2 an inch thick. Use a pencil to mark each side with numbers, symbols or words so that you always have the wood correctly faced. For example, you will need to know the front from the back and the left from the right.


Dovetail Case Joints

Dovetail joints are among the most aesthetically pleasing joints, and if correctly constructed they can also be the strongest. The strength of the dovetail joint comes from two things: the mechanical interlocking of the pins and grooves, and the incredibly large gluing surface that the crenelated ends provide. The joint has incredible resistance to racking (bending of the joint), and even without glue the two boards can not be separated, except in the direction the pins were first inserted. This makes the joint ideal for high-stress uses such as attaching drawer fronts to the drawer cases: Every time the drawer is pulled open or slammed shut, the drawer front is undergoing extreme stresses. The dovetail joint ensures the drawer front can never separate from the case under normal usage.


Cutting Dovetail Joints With A Jig

Dovetail joints are often used to make the corners of drawers or cabinets, and could best be described as a 'finger locking' joint. They resemble two pieces of a puzzle that are put together. These joints are strong and attractive, but require practice to make well.  The locking of the pins into the tails provides a very strong mechanical joint that has many advantages. Dovetail joints also allow for the expansion and contraction of the wood, without compromising its structural integrity. When joining large expanses of wood, such as for case sides, this is extremely desirable. The dovetail joint also allows woodworkers to create projects that are made entirely of wood, with no hardware visible.

Dovetail Joints



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