Amazing Dovetail Joinery at Ft. Ross

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Blog entry by Blake posted 09-21-2008 12:53 AM 6166 reads 3 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I wanted to share some photos from my summer vacation with you… A few weeks ago I drove past Ft. Ross on a Northern CA road trip.

Fort Ross is a CA state part and historic Russian colony. It is actually a fort, with huge fortified walls, towers, and cannons pointed out in every direction.

What caught my eye was the amazing joinery used in large scale all over the fort. I suppose a fort is something you would want to build as strong as possible, and they used tried and true joinery methods.

Most of the fort has been recreated (using a lot of the original timbers) but in the visitors center there was photos of the original fort and it is identical.

The first thing that caught my eye was the kiosk where you pay to enter the park:

I said, “Hey, those are DOVETAILS!”

Here is the outer wall of the fort. I think it was about 20 feet tall:

Look closer at the wall: Pegged mortise and tenon joinery…

One of four corner towers:

Another tower:

Here is the water well (more dovetails):

Here is the outside of the largest building, the “stronghold…”

From the outside wall, you can see where the tenons of the inner wall come through:

Here is that wall from the inside:

Here is how they splice the timbers together (scarf joint) when they need them longer:

Here is what the upper corner of any door or window looks like:

Here is the window from the outside:


I forget what this is (pegged through mortise and tenon)...

Check out this door (tapered sliding dovetail):

Window shutter (tapered sliding dovetail):

Stair railing (pegged half-lap joinery):

Ladder (pegged dovetails):

Even the latch on the door has some seriously complex joinery:

-- Happy woodworking!

26 comments so far

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3000 days

#1 posted 09-21-2008 01:03 AM

I guess those carpenters had a lot of time on their hands, ummm, hand tools. Beautiful work they did.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 2898 days

#2 posted 09-21-2008 02:05 AM


These are great photos thanks for sharing. Do you know if they also used glue on those dovetails joints or just the joinery. Just kidding! Goes to show you that good joinery has many uses.

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 2814 days

#3 posted 09-21-2008 03:16 AM

Blake this is a good one for “You Know Your A LumberJock…” You go on a vacation and all you notice is the joinery. I did the same think this past summer when my wife & I went to Maine & New Hampshire.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View Karson's profile


34994 posts in 3491 days

#4 posted 09-21-2008 03:17 AM

And also that good joinery will stand the test of time.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 2996 days

#5 posted 09-21-2008 03:20 AM

Too bad craftsmanship like that is fading fast. I favorited it and hope to visit some day. Thanks for the pictures.

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 2859 days

#6 posted 09-21-2008 03:41 AM



View SPalm's profile


5186 posts in 2973 days

#7 posted 09-21-2008 03:42 AM

That is so cool. Thanks Blake, I love it. Someone had a lot of fun rebuilding a few of those too.

Major amounts of lumber.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 2814 days

#8 posted 09-21-2008 04:27 AM

Blake, thanks for sharing these pictures. They are fantastic!...very interesting…makes one appreciate what was done with hand tools at that time.

-- Martin, Kansas

View Napaman's profile


5439 posts in 3168 days

#9 posted 09-21-2008 04:31 AM

I went to fort ross about 4 years ago…it is really amazing…pretty far up the coast…now with your photos I want to go AGAIN…unfortunately this was before I started wood working…and so I never notice all the joinery! It is truly an amzing place…its pretty big…I was impressed as a History teacher…Now I am impressed as a wood worker…so cool…thanks for sharing these…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View TomK 's profile


504 posts in 2965 days

#10 posted 09-21-2008 07:43 AM

Thanks for sharing these photos, Blake!

-- If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free! PJ O'Rourke

View Tony's profile


978 posts in 3121 days

#11 posted 09-21-2008 09:37 AM

The big bad wolf is not going to blow that structure down. Built to last all sorts of things.

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

View toyguy's profile


1459 posts in 2928 days

#12 posted 09-21-2008 11:34 AM

Great Post.. and pictures… Thanks for sharing.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View goldenhands's profile


142 posts in 2630 days

#13 posted 09-21-2008 12:45 PM

Thank you Blake, to do such big job for us – taking photos, load them to the web, writing.
Very interesting and inspairing.
Sounds like a bunch of crazy dowtailers have done it – in a good sence.
Very precise and skillful job they did.
Honesly, thank you very much.
Can not come over to your land to see it so very apriciate your effort.

-- The way I work - the way I live. goldenhands

View matt garcia's profile

matt garcia

1853 posts in 2763 days

#14 posted 09-21-2008 02:08 PM

I love joinery! This is a feast for my eyes!! Thanks for sharing, Blake!!

-- Matt Garcia Wannabe Period Furniture Maker, Houston TX

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

714 posts in 2709 days

#15 posted 09-21-2008 02:54 PM

A timber framers dream! Thanks for sharing.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

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