Sloppy dovetail joints

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Blog entry by Marvin posted 02-17-2008 10:54 PM 7464 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am new here and can’t find info. on this subject, so I will stop looking for the answer and ask the question. How do you correct sloppy dovetail joints?

-- Marvin, Vermont, school teacher

9 comments so far

View dlgWoodWork's profile


160 posts in 3753 days

#1 posted 02-17-2008 11:19 PM

I have never made any, so I probably wouldn’t be any help except to ask for more information. By slopply, what exactly do you mean, pins fitting loose or what? What are you using to make the dovetail joints, what jig? The more info you can give about exactly what you are doing, the better answers you can probably get.

-- Check out my projects and videos

View knothead's profile


163 posts in 3947 days

#2 posted 02-17-2008 11:37 PM

I am assuming Hand Cut Dovetails Right?

If they are simply a liittle loose, (meaning very small gaps between the pins and tails but generally snug fitting) you can make a mixture of glue and sanding dust and fill the gaps while sanding them flush…..the endgrain will be easier and less noticeable than the face grain. you can even look on very old antique drawers and see small fitted wedgesplaced there by the original craftsman if you look closely enough.

I am by NO MEANS proficient with dovetails, but to this date I have only cut them by hand….the jig and router thing, for me anyway detracts from the “Craftsmanship” that I strive to achieve. Having said that, many of my first attempts at dovetails looked like they were cut by a beaver and the more I cut them the better they get. As with any skill, practice and patience will deliver the result you seek in time.

There are more than a few rescources you can look at, type “Hand Cut Dovetails” into a Google search window and there will be more info than you could hope for, also go to and there are literally hundreds of articals and many videos there on this subject as well as anything else you might want to research, but be aware that that is a subscription type web site but worth EVERY PENNY.

I hope I have been at least a little helpful… of luck and keep on cuttin’

-- So Much Wood - So Little Time! --

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 3770 days

#3 posted 02-17-2008 11:43 PM

If by sloppy, you mean loose. you can fix them. I’m assuming you overcut the cheek of the pin or the tail. Using a “very” sharp chisel, clean and flatten the cheek of the tail of pin. Trim and fit a piece of slightly oversized wood you are using and glue in place. After a few hours, flatten the faces to the board and trim to length with the pins.
Once that is done, restablish your layout lines and cut the tail again…

Nice thing about this repair, is it looks perfect when done right. You will either get very good at cutting dovetails of very good at repairing them.

Good luck,

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 3887 days

#4 posted 02-18-2008 12:26 AM


There is nothing epoxy would not fix. If you have large gaps, you can mix sawdust with epoxy and fill in the holes. Once the epoxy is dry, you can do whatever you do to wood with it. In a pinch, you can mix regular glue with sawdust and push it into the cracks. Alternatively, you can mix some interestingly colored stuff with epoxy, not saw dust (like a gridded blue stone). Woodturners use this trick to fill in the cracks. I was surprised when I heard this but customers pay more for “fixed” turnings than for uncracked turnings.

Alternatively, of course, you can redo the joint. Practice makes perfect, you know

-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View Grumpy's profile


23928 posts in 3850 days

#5 posted 02-18-2008 12:53 AM

Practice makes perfect Beaver. If you are not happy with it now you probably never will be. There are fixes like my fellow Jocks recommend but if they are really sloppy I would do it again. Welcome to Lumberjocks and good luck with the dovetails.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 3770 days

#6 posted 02-18-2008 01:00 AM

Be careful with epoxy… It will not finnish like the surrounding wood and stand out.

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3798 days

#7 posted 02-18-2008 01:30 AM

I usually fill my woodworking mistakes with blood and chunks of skin I cut off… ha ha… just kidding

To really help, it would be nice to see some photos of the goof. There are a multitude of fixes from simple fillers to creating inlays that add to the beauty of the joint… hard to say without a visual.

-- making sawdust....

View Les Hastings's profile

Les Hastings

1305 posts in 3772 days

#8 posted 02-18-2008 01:35 AM

West system marine epoxy will take stain and finish, You can also get a brown colored powder to thickin it.

-- Les, Wichita, Ks. (I'd rather be covered in saw dust!)

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3783 days

#9 posted 02-18-2008 02:36 AM

Sloppy dovetail joints scream “hand-cut” so leave them sloppy! :^)

-- Eric at

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