Dovetail Box #4: Making a Dovetail Template

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Blog entry by Eric posted 02-04-2008 12:10 PM 12025 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Almost Ready for the Dovetails Part 4 of Dovetail Box series Part 5: Take a Deep Breath »

Dovetail Template

Before I get to making the dovetails for my wife’s dovetail box, I thought I’d make this little template. The design came from the fine folks over at Homestead Heritage, where I was privileged to receive a day of hands-on joinery instruction.

I did modify the design somewhat. The original design has a square on one side and a 1:7 dovetail angle on the other, and is identical on the flipside. Since many woodworkers advocate using a 1:6 ratio for softwoods and a 1:8 ratio for hardwoods, why not have them all represented? So I have a square and a 1:7 on one side, and on the other side I have both 1:6 and 1:8. I think I’m going to follow up with my woodburner and burn those ratios on the appropriate face, just so I don’t have to guess.

I think I will get a lot of use out of this jig, and not just for dovetails. Having a tiny square can be pretty handy sometimes. I know that I have on occasion cursed my huge 12” Starrett square, nice as it may be.

[This entry was taken from my personal website, Adventures in Woodworking.]

EDIT 2/10: This thing only works if you’re a “pins first” guy. If you do tails first, the template only lets you do one side of the tail, and you’d need a bevel gauge to do the other side. If you do pins first, though, the template should be long enough to use from either side of the end.

EDIT 2/13: Wrong again! No matter which side of the end you place the template, the angle is the same. So this template really is kind of useless except for the square. But it’s given me good experience which will help when I build my next one!

-- Eric at

8 comments so far

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3790 days

#1 posted 02-04-2008 12:28 PM

Sounds like it’ll fit your needs just fine ;)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3868 days

#2 posted 02-04-2008 02:00 PM

Where is the Homestead Heritage located? Looks very interesting.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3778 days

#3 posted 02-04-2008 02:08 PM

rikkor: Homestead Heritage is not far from Waco, TX.

-- Eric at

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3816 days

#4 posted 02-04-2008 02:27 PM

Thanks for the post. This looks like something I need. I could do a post on “How Not to Cut a Dovetail” but I doubt that would be very informational, but it would be comical (especially to those who have mastered the technique).

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Mark D.'s profile

Mark D.

155 posts in 3762 days

#5 posted 02-04-2008 06:13 PM

I was playing around with a piece of red oak this weekend teaching myself how to hand cut a dovetail… Something like this would have made the layout 3x faster… I had to swap between the square attachment and variable miter gauge on my combo square(which is 12” long) to mark the dovetail on my 6” piece of oak… can we say, overkill?

-- Looking for free wood working plans? Visit us at

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 3765 days

#6 posted 02-04-2008 09:41 PM

I don’t know if you all are familiar with this…
Helps in the layout of dovetails.


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

View Grumpy's profile


23914 posts in 3845 days

#7 posted 02-04-2008 10:32 PM

Thanks for sharing Eric. Definitely food for thought.

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

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3778 days

#8 posted 02-05-2008 04:52 AM

Tom, that is very cool – thanks for the link!

I plan on posting the steps to making this in the near future, although the more experienced among you can probably figure it out.

-- Eric at

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