First dovetail ever!

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Blog entry by Uffe posted 03-09-2012 07:34 PM 1295 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Took a woodworking class last fall (for the first time since I was in high school). That was A LOT of fun – I should have done it long ago. I made this simple shelf (not finished in the picture) using a dovetail joint for the top shelf and a dadoed joint for the shelf underneath. (The lower shelf is not seen in the picture, the only thing you can see are the plugs for the screws, not yet trimmed flush.) This is my first ever dovetail joint, but I have to admit I had to practice three times before I made this one. And I can tell you the first three weren’t pretty! This one though turned out quite ok, right?

Can’t wait to set up a little workshop in my garage once I can find the money to buy the tools/machines!

God bless you all!

13 comments so far

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2679 days

#1 posted 03-09-2012 07:58 PM

Looks great to me. Is this shelf going to be hanging one a wall or sitting on something?

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Uffe's profile


17 posts in 2294 days

#2 posted 03-09-2012 08:05 PM

My first thought was to use it for shoes, but maybe that would be sacrilege? ;-)

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 2445 days

#3 posted 03-09-2012 08:39 PM

That looks great! My first dovetails started out with wide pins like that and then I realized how awesome thin pins looked and now most of my pins are thin, ala Rob Cosman. Be careful, dovetailing by hand gets addictive and before you know it, you will be going out of your way to somehow put that element in pieces that doesn’t necessarily need them for any reason other than the visual. It’s the joint in woodworking I’m obsessed over and truly enjoy cutting by hand. Mortise and tenons are fun to cut by hand too, but not nearly as fun as dovetails! Keep up the good work!

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

View Mike DeCarlo's profile

Mike DeCarlo

40 posts in 2783 days

#4 posted 03-09-2012 09:09 PM

Now that you are a pro at dovetails, which do you cut first the tails or pins?


View Cecilia's profile


8 posts in 2294 days

#5 posted 03-09-2012 10:58 PM

I really need to learn that. You did such a great job :-)

I have been asked to make a furniture piece with that element…what if I can’t get a jig and router? Yes, I’m a novice woodworker and eventually will learn but too afraid to mess this up.

So grateful for this site and YouTube…Keep up the great work!

-- Cecilia, NYC

View ranwood's profile


4 posts in 2295 days

#6 posted 03-09-2012 11:13 PM

Hey, I made my first dovetail today too. Had a customer making some noise about dovetail drawers and figured I should learn how. Used a rockler jig and it took me three tries too.

View OldKranky's profile


138 posts in 2357 days

#7 posted 03-09-2012 11:36 PM

Excelent job! I on the otherhand wimped out and bought a dovetail jig :-)

-- Better looking at it than for it....

View Uffe's profile


17 posts in 2294 days

#8 posted 03-10-2012 12:16 AM

@Mike: I seem to gravitate towards doing tails first. I made them using a Japanese pull-saw, and then trimming everything snug with a pair of chisels. It took me quite a while though! =)

View Uffe's profile


17 posts in 2294 days

#9 posted 03-10-2012 12:22 AM

ranwood & OldKranky: Dovetail jigs are FAST! If or when I can get the money, I may buy one. It was nice though managing the joint without a jig. Now I know I’m actually able. But I was never under pressure timewise; no one paying by the hour, so… =)

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 3777 days

#10 posted 03-10-2012 12:29 AM

Thats your first? Cheater!

Just kidding of course.

View Uffe's profile


17 posts in 2294 days

#11 posted 03-10-2012 12:30 AM

@BerBer5985: I agree on the thinner pins, but I was afraid my chisels wouldn’t fit in there. Maybe next time with more tools in the arsenal? ;-)

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2679 days

#12 posted 03-10-2012 05:14 PM

Shoes would work great since loading the top shelf puts pressure on the right part of the joint, if you hung the shelf you would want the DT to go the other way to resist gravity.

Personally, when it comes to dovetails, I fall in a weird camp. I like tails first for drawers and smaller casework and pins first for large carcase assemblies (the transfer is easier this way). It’s nice to have both approaches under you belt though so you can decide what’s going to work on a given piece.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2865 days

#13 posted 03-12-2012 01:35 AM

Nice job. Now you have the skill and you will look at every project and the thought to dovetail it will run though your mind. They are nice. Thanks for sharing.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

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