Building a Credenza #4: Completed Dovetail Joinery

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Blog entry by Blake posted 05-18-2010 08:13 PM 9525 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Hand Cutting Dovetails Part 4 of Building a Credenza series Part 5: Curvaceous Legs »

This is where I left off last time:


Chopping the tails

I cut most of the waste out with a coping saw and then clamped down the tail board to my bench to chop out the rest:


First it is necessary to test the sharpness of your chisels… yep they are sharp. (I accidentally grazed my chisel when I reached across my bench for a pencil)


After chopping the tails:


The two sides of my case:


Transferring the tails to the pins

I had a little bit of a dilemma trying to figure out how to transfer the lines from the tailboards to the pins. Finally I devised a way to hang the side piece from the ceiling with string so the tails would rest on the edge of the top piece, which was secured in my vice.


With a little creative clamping I was able to secure it until I could transfer the lines with a marking knife. This photo was taken by holding the camera against the ceiling.


Cutting the pins

Then I used my saw and guide to cut the pins in the end of the six-foot top piece while standing on my shop stool (I know, this is the wrong photo)

The coping saw was getting a little tedious on this very hard Jatoba so I used my scroll saw to hog out some of the waist… (perhaps the biggest board a scroll saw has ever seen?)


Chopping the pins

And then chopped the pins on my bench:




Fitting and dressing the dovetails

I swear this is the first time I’ve done this (it was a perfect fit).


A little clean-up with my Stanley No. 62 to smooth out the joint:






I still need to cut the pins and fit the joint on the other side of the case.

Total building time so far: 18 hours.

-- Happy woodworking!

20 comments so far

View dlmckirdy's profile


199 posts in 2972 days

#1 posted 05-18-2010 08:28 PM

That’s a great looking joint, especially for a first try! I wonder how many of the old pros actually used home-made jigs similar to yours to guide their cuts. It seems as though freehand cuts leave too much room for error. I can’t wait to see the finished product (and more progress shots).

-- Doug, Bakersfield, CA - I measured twice, cut it twice, and it is still too short!

View Bill Akins's profile

Bill Akins

425 posts in 3537 days

#2 posted 05-18-2010 08:35 PM

Outstanding dovetails. Usually when I come out of the shop with a bandaid on (or blue tape) my wife goes into a tizzy and I have to explain to her that I nicked it on a chisel or something, not the tablesaw.

-- Bill from Lithia Springs, GA I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View SPalm's profile


5305 posts in 3721 days

#3 posted 05-18-2010 08:42 PM

Very nice Blake. I like the ingenuity also. You gotta do with what ya got.
It is looking really sweet.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View lumberdog's profile


244 posts in 3107 days

#4 posted 05-18-2010 08:45 PM

Damn! those are some sweet looking dovetails, and i didn’t see any blood on them.

-- Lumberdog.. Morley, Michigan

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3713 days

#5 posted 05-18-2010 09:09 PM

The blood is in them, along with the sweat and tears.


-- Happy woodworking!

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10876 posts in 2954 days

#6 posted 05-18-2010 09:17 PM

sure looks great that layout of the dovtails
but was it a first try :-) or was it the first time they fit perfect :-)
anyway they looks awesome
and good to see you have a lot of fun in the shop
I realy look forward to see the end result

but cuoldn´t you just have placed the short board in the vise
and the long board flat on the bench

you are lucky if your wife don´t make any complain when you show a nick with blood

my wife allways said if I ever got heart one more time she will hire proff. from the town
to do the jobs in the future


View Billp's profile


804 posts in 4039 days

#7 posted 05-18-2010 09:18 PM

Blake great job on the dovetails. I am glad I don’t have to help move it when your done. I am inbarrased to say I just stuck a chisel in my arm severed 4 tendons. I have been on a self destruct lately. All of your work is first class keep up the good work.

-- Billp

View CharlieM1958's profile


16272 posts in 4058 days

#8 posted 05-18-2010 09:45 PM

That impresses the heck out of me, Blake. I can’t imagine myself cutting joints like that.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Tony's profile


982 posts in 3869 days

#9 posted 05-18-2010 10:39 PM

Very nice joinery

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View degoose's profile


7223 posts in 3194 days

#10 posted 05-18-2010 10:46 PM

Well I am certainly impressed.. that is a great blog and I do like the spacings…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3506 days

#11 posted 05-18-2010 11:27 PM

Nice work committing to hand cutting these joints with little previous experience on such high dollar stock. That is the type of commitment needed to master the craft. Will be an excellent addition to the portfolio.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 3646 days

#12 posted 05-19-2010 01:46 AM

damn dude, those are some fantastic looking dovetails. Great blog so far Blake. This is truly inspiring work.

View blackcherry's profile


3336 posts in 3662 days

#13 posted 05-19-2010 02:16 AM

Your starting to shine like some of napa valley best vintage Blake, excellent work will take time blood sweat and tears…BC

View a1Jim's profile


116592 posts in 3416 days

#14 posted 05-19-2010 02:23 AM

Very nice blake

-- Custom furniture

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13347 posts in 3512 days

#15 posted 05-19-2010 11:38 AM

Those are some great looking dovetails.

showing 1 through 15 of 20 comments

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