Treasure Box #4: A little more on the mitered dovetails

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Blog entry by TerryDowning posted 03-05-2014 05:11 PM 1822 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Top Panel and mitered dovetails Part 4 of Treasure Box series Part 5: Dry fit and glue up »

When I left off I had completed the first of four for this box.

I thought I would share a little more on the process of the mitered dovetails and update the progress on this project.

Something I have learned about dovetails in general is to clearly mark the waste sections to be cut away. It only takes a few seconds and really makes the difference when clearing the waste. I can’t tell you how many times I have cut on the wrong side of the line. Marking them clearly is the answer.

Additional tips for successful dovetails.

A sharp true saw is a must.
Sharp chisels with a really flat back are an absolute must. Take the time to strop often and don’t resist going back to the stone for a touch up.

Be aware of the hardness and grain properties of your wood. Poplar tools really easily compared to this plum which is very hard, brittle, and wears the tools much faster.

On the mitered dovetails DON’T cut all the way through like a standard dovetail cut on the waste side of the line at a 45 degree angle.

With the cuts complete you can resume excavating and paring the joints as described in the previous blog entry.

With all four dovetails cut I found I had to re-size the top and bottom panels. Nothing a few minutes on a shoot board could not handle.

The reddish curlies are from the plum top panel, the lighter curlies are from the poplar bottom. You can see the top panel in this photo.

Another tip. Leave any precise router table setups in place until you know the project is complete or you no longer need it. I had to re route the grooves on the trimmed side of the top and had to reshape the raised bottom panel. I used the very same router setup to cut the rebate on the bottom panel. Having the setup in place saved me a ton of time.

Now all of the joints are cut, and I’m dry fitting.

Sides, Back Top and Bottom are complete. I need to finish dry fitting the front (It’s still a little too tight)

I need to patch these joints as they aren’t as precise as I would have liked. Each one gets better though.

Once that is done, I can do the initial finishing (Finish the inside pieces BEFORE glue up!) and then proceed to glue up.

-- - Terry

5 comments so far

View terryR's profile


7348 posts in 2455 days

#1 posted 03-05-2014 05:53 PM

That plum is sure gorgeous!
Thanks for the DT tips, Terry…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View shipwright's profile


8086 posts in 2945 days

#2 posted 03-05-2014 07:39 PM

The box is looking great Terry.
Can you explain the functional reason for mitered dovetails?

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View TerryDowning's profile


1099 posts in 2264 days

#3 posted 03-05-2014 08:36 PM

Going with the mitered dovetails for lots of reason.
I wanted to make a stronger joint that a plain miter. The prototype was plain miter and I still need to repair the miter joints on the lid.

I really did not want to build a box holding jig for splines and I also wanted to stick mostly to hand tools. Running up the power tools at 7-8 AM is pretty discourteous to my neighbors. So spline or lock miters were out as well.

I have tried full blind dovetails but that experiment was more of a you need way more practice before you can do this successfully project.

This material is also quite thin at 3/8” and there really isn’t enough for full blinds with my current skill set.

Wedding is at the end of this month so I had to get on it.

If I were to do this design again, I would put the tails on the sides so they don’t show on the front and rear sides. I would also practice a heck of a lot more before committing to these. Oh Well, I’ll make what I have work.

-- - Terry

View Slyy's profile


2840 posts in 1802 days

#4 posted 03-06-2014 01:54 AM

Terry the box is coming along nicely. Can’t wait to see that plum when it’s al finished, it’s gonna look great.

-- Jake -- "Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us." - Neil Degrasse Tyson

View Mean_Dean's profile


6881 posts in 3294 days

#5 posted 03-07-2014 01:48 AM

Looks like she’s coming along great!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

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