Box Joints

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Blog entry by Joeshop posted 12-27-2011 09:47 PM 1053 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Why aren’t box joints used more often for drawers ?

Are they not as strong as dovetails or other joints ?

Thanks in advance.

-- ~You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.~ - Joe

7 comments so far

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2407 days

#1 posted 12-27-2011 11:06 PM

In my own woodworking there are about 3-4 joints that I use as common joints. Not that any one is better than the other, just a matter of familiarity of the joints. I like box joints, but like other joints its often overlooked in favor of a more popular or familiar joint.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2656 days

#2 posted 12-28-2011 12:01 AM

I would think the flare of the dovetail would make it more resistant to torsional forces, not to mention pullout when compared to box joints. Having said that, if you are exposing a drawer box to the sorts of forces a properly glued box joint can take, you are trying to force the joint apart anyway, so it is really a non issue..

Other than that, the decision to use dovetails over box joints would be one of cosmetics. Some projects box joints are drop dead sexy, some call for a dovetail… The skill to accurately and repeatably make either will make for a good woodworking repetoire. A musician isn’t really a musician until they can play the notes, and put them together in a pleasing manner. Same goes with woodworking. It becomes are when you can arrange the joinery, lines, and grain in the most pleasing manner…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View gfadvm's profile


14932 posts in 2114 days

#3 posted 12-28-2011 04:10 AM

I use box joints for almost all my drawers. As far as strength is concerned, the box joint was stronger than dovetailed joint when Wood magazine tested joinery. Their explanation is more glue surface area in box joints as there are more boxes per inch than dovetails per inch.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Tootles's profile


780 posts in 1926 days

#4 posted 12-28-2011 07:02 AM

It depends on how tightly the fingers of a box joint fit together and how well the glue holds. Tight fitting box joints glued with modern glues should be strong enough.

That said, dovetails would be more traditional for drawers because:

  1. They are quicker to make (by hand) because they have fewer tails and pins
  2. They only come apart in one direction – the tail pulls out of the pin. This can be exploited in a drawer by always having the pins on the front (and back, though a half-housing joint is also common at the back) and the tails on the sides.
  3. They are less dependent on tightness of the joint or good glue to make them work. Even with poorly fitting joints and no glue, you can never have a situation where the front comes off in your hands and the rest of the drawer stays behind

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3001 days

#5 posted 12-28-2011 08:33 AM

It’s all a mater of choice. DT seem to be what folks look for to prove that a piece of furniture is made by a good woodworker who does quality work, this is not necessarily so because box joints are just as strong IMO. Joints are made strong by having a lot of glue surface ,both DT and box joints have a lot of glue surface.

-- Custom furniture

View derosa's profile


1568 posts in 2260 days

#6 posted 12-28-2011 08:38 AM

In my head box joints are meant for more utilitarian items which is why I will be using them in my tool storage design while dovetails are more flair. They are meant to show off skill and add to the appearance of furniture or decorative objects. Doesn’t mean any of it is true, just how it appears in my head.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View Joeshop's profile


49 posts in 2541 days

#7 posted 01-01-2012 02:43 AM

Thanks for the replies. They sort of agree with what I thought !

-- ~You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.~ - Joe

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