Dovetails: Should I make the tails on the front or on the sides?

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Forum topic by ChesapeakeBob posted 08-13-2015 12:14 PM 840 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ChesapeakeBob's profile


366 posts in 3508 days

08-13-2015 12:14 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jay tray dovetail tool tote tool tray dovetails tails pins

I will be making thru dovetails in 5/8” stock. This is my first time using my Peachtree dovetail tail jig that I purchased many years ago, but never opened until recently. My test joints have gone well in both 3/4 and 5/8” material. I am making tool tray with a very similar design to my Jay Tray and Dave Tray that I have posted in the past.

My question is: Do I make the tails on the long front and back pieces or on the shorter ends OR does it not matter in this case?

I am looking at one of my test assemblies and I think I like the look of the face of the tails showing on the face of the long front and back pieces.


-- Chesapeake Bob, Southern Maryland

4 replies so far

View johnstoneb's profile


2939 posts in 2198 days

#1 posted 08-13-2015 12:57 PM

You’re making it put the tails where you think it looks best.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View JayT's profile


5675 posts in 2236 days

#2 posted 08-13-2015 01:15 PM

Dovetails are designed so that the tails help hold the piece together in the direction they will take the most outward stress. Look at a dovetailed drawer and the tails are on the side piece so that the tapers help hold it together when pulling and pushing on the drawer front.

Which way will have more stress pushing out with your tool trays? That’s which side they would be on for a traditional look. Looking at your projects, to me that would mean tails on the end pieces.

Now, all that said, the design for strength was largely a result of needing the mechanical advantage with early glues that didn’t hold as well. With modern glues, it’s kind of a moot point. The wood will break long before the glue joint, so you can realistically put the tails on whichever side you think looks best and you aren’t sacrificing hardly anything in strength. They would definitely be more visible and attractive on the side pieces.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View rwe2156's profile


2965 posts in 1506 days

#3 posted 08-13-2015 02:22 PM

Its a matter of taste.
I think the tails look best on the long side.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 1450 days

#4 posted 08-13-2015 02:30 PM

After all that work to make them, it is nice if you can see it when you open the drawer. If you are adding drawer fronts, you probably want them to show after they are completed.

Be creative, I have build drawers with no fronts and left ALL the joinery exposed!

-- Brad, Texas,

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