First Dovetail Joint

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Project by Doug B posted 04-13-2007 06:44 AM 5400 views 2 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
First Dovetail Joint
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I wasn’t lying when I called myself a newbie. This is truly my first dovetail joint. It will be fun to look back on this in years to come. It took me around 30 minutes to make this joint. I measured and cut the tail. Then I measured the pin, but cut yet another tail. Then I cut the pin, and 10 minutes of rasping and sanding later, here it is. : )

-- Doug B

22 comments so far

View PanamaJack's profile


4483 posts in 4106 days

#1 posted 04-13-2007 07:03 AM

Looks like a great start to me. Good luck with your woodworking endeavors.

-- Carpe Lignum; Tornare Lignum (Seize the wood, to Turn the wood)

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4189 days

#2 posted 04-13-2007 12:10 PM

you are one dovetail ahead of me!!
it looks like it fits beautifully.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View markrules's profile


146 posts in 4144 days

#3 posted 04-13-2007 12:27 PM

One ahead of me too. Good work!

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4328 days

#4 posted 04-13-2007 12:48 PM

Nice job, I wish you well in your future projects ahead of you.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View lclashley's profile


244 posts in 4143 days

#5 posted 04-13-2007 02:47 PM

I think I’ve read, the thicker the stock the harder the joint making. For dovetails anyway.

There is a cool video on about making practice dovetails. I’ll try to find it again and post the link here.

View coloradoclimber's profile


548 posts in 4097 days

#6 posted 04-13-2007 04:37 PM

The joint looks great. It looks clean and tight.

I cant tell because of the rounded edges but how is the edge to edge offset, the centering of the tail ?

View Buchanan's profile


3 posts in 4106 days

#7 posted 04-13-2007 06:00 PM

Nice Job! It look like you used a 2”x 4” to try this. It’s not easy to use framming lumber to make joints like that by hand.

-- Buchanan, New Jersey,

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4275 days

#8 posted 04-13-2007 06:48 PM

A whole lot better than my first dovetail. jockmike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4190 days

#9 posted 04-13-2007 06:55 PM

I have not made one by hand, and probably will not. I will rely on my Leigh jig for my dovetails. But, congratulations on the joint. Good job.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Quentin's profile


47 posts in 4175 days

#10 posted 04-13-2007 07:36 PM

Very nice dovetail Doug. Could you list here the exact tools that you used to make this? I’m also interested in starting to hand-cut some dovetails and would like to do as you have done.

View Karson's profile


35126 posts in 4429 days

#11 posted 04-13-2007 07:45 PM

Great start. The first step on a long trip. Welcome to the wonderful world of woodworking.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4247 days

#12 posted 04-13-2007 07:51 PM

That looks darn good to me!

Personally, I’m a jig person. I wonder if the people who like to hand-cut dovetails are the same ones who like to drive a stick shift?

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4206 days

#13 posted 04-14-2007 12:44 AM

Doug, congratulations on doing this. I also kept my first dovetail joint and dated it as well. It sits in my office behind me as I type this.

But it wasn’t long before I learned that making dovetail joints was simply a matter of practice. Once the mystery was taken out of it, it became relatively easy to make them – and the quality kept getting better.

I’ve never tried making dovetails in 2×4’s. I’m not convinced that this is the best way to practice, either.

I would suggest you use hardwood no greater than 3/4” thick. Make sure that you have a good sharp dovetail saw and sharp chisels. After getting the standard dovetail down pat, go on to making them different sizes and at different angles. It’s lots of fun.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Doug B's profile

Doug B

4 posts in 4091 days

#14 posted 04-14-2007 04:22 AM

Thanks for all the nice comments. Yes, I used 2×4 cutoffs lying around the shop. Not ideal, I agree. I have some nicer shorts on which to practice the next round.

lclashley: I got the idea from Gary Rogowski’s 5-minute dovetail exercise on, so maybe that’s the video you referred to. If there are more out there, I’d love to see them.

Quentin: I used a backsaw (dovetail saw) to make the initial cuts. I cleaned out the tail with a coping saw and fine tuned the joint with some various files I had lying around.

Don: Great post on your dovetail. Good motivation for me to continue.

Coloradoclimber: I think the joint just looks offset because It’s not as tight or straight as it could be. Not intentional.

-- Doug B

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4121 days

#15 posted 04-14-2007 05:22 AM

Dip it in bronze and make a base for it. Well, at least keep track of it. Great stuff Doug. Something you will always remember. Keep us posted on your next effort.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

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