Dovetail Drawer Bottom?

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Forum topic by Maveric777 posted 09-04-2010 03:40 PM 6857 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3046 days

09-04-2010 03:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question joining dovetail bottom

Ok… I know this sounds like a dumb question, but I been racking my head for weeks over this dilemma. I am attempting hand cut dovetails in my latest project for the small drawers. I am confused as to how to hide the dado on the back of the box using a through dovetail. I am going to use a half blind for the front so that is no issue. Just that dern back is kicking my butt.

I am thinking on the back panel of the drawer I should leave a key (I don’t know a technical term) that will slide into the side of the drawers dado to fill it. Is this right? I been looking at countless pictures and can’t see a good example as to how it is done.

I know there are countless ways to skin a cat. I just want to figure out the tried and true way to do it….lol

Thanks for any heads up….

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

9 replies so far

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3878 days

#1 posted 09-04-2010 04:29 PM


Rule #1.. Don’t worry about it. The rear DT’s/dado can not be seen unless you remove the drawer.
Cut your drawer bottom dado in the sides and front piece such that the dado is fully within the pin/tail. You don’t want overlap.

Rule #2... you are using full through DT’s for the back to side joint. After you cut the dado for your sides and front pieces, raise your dado blade enough to fully cut through the back piece. Now, when you make your bottom for the drawer, you can slide it into the frame from the back. Cut a small screw slot centered in the rear edge of the drawer bottom. Use a small screw to support the rear edge of the bottom to the back of the drawer. That way the bottom can expand and contract with changes in humidity and it wont hurt your drawers. FYI, if you are using ply wood, it’s not an issue. If you are using solid woods, make sure the grain runs side to side, not front to back. Front to back grain will cause most of the wood movement to be to the sides which could be come a significant issue.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View BertFlores58's profile


1694 posts in 2891 days

#2 posted 09-04-2010 04:29 PM

When I do dado for the bottom board, I normally route exactly to the board by using a tounge and groove bit. I pre-assembled the drawer and route it. In assembly, you will never see even the groove because the dado is exactly fitted with the bottom board. For the front panel, I normally adjust the height of the bit depending on the recess of the side to the bottom of the front. If you use a straight bit for dado, be careful not to cut through the end of the back and sides. In your case, using a table saw for dado.. then you need to plug those cuts on the end…with a square shape dowels .. no other way. Hope this will help.

-- Bert

View jsdnnoanybtr's profile


24 posts in 3027 days

#3 posted 09-05-2010 05:54 AM

Nope not a dumb question. I asked that very question a few years ago. It seemed to me “Traditional” drawer making was a bit obsessed with replaceable bottoms or nailed or glued on bottoms for small drawers. I suppose for big old honkin drawers with thin bottoms a person might, maybe, probably not, want to replace a bottom every now and again.

I couldn’t see myself ever needing to replace drawer bottoms on my stuff so this is what I did. Doesn’t really answer your question. This drawer is made with only hand tools. Yah I don’t make money from this kind of work. Just furniture for me.

My best advice is to look into hand tools for the parts of the project that is giving you problems and where ever you don’t want wood removed ( ends of dado ) then don’t remove wood there.

Yes ?

When you are able to build the drawer that you seek, then, it will be time for you to go Grasshoppa.
: )

-- jsdnnoanybtr but you can call me jr

View jsdnnoanybtr's profile


24 posts in 3027 days

#4 posted 09-05-2010 06:29 AM

Mav. Dan,

I was just looking at your home page there and saw :

>(believe it or not with my wives blessing…lol)<

How many wives do you have ? I can see now why you’re pretty happy that way. Must get complicated when the in-laws get together.


-- jsdnnoanybtr but you can call me jr

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3046 days

#5 posted 09-06-2010 12:10 AM

Thanks for all the information everyone. I still haven’t 100% made up my mind exactly how I am going to pull this off. My big hang up is the drawers are small ones in a jewelery box. These drawers will most likely be pulled completely out upon use. With that in my head I didn’t really want to see the gap in the back. I have until tomorrow to make up my mind, because I am really running out of time on the project…..

Decisions… Decisions….lol

@ Jsdnnoanybtr – Yea I only have one wife. Looks like my spell check needs a good stern talking to….. I guess I am such a trusting guy I believed it’s suggestion. Oh well, I never claimed to be a English major. My line I use all the time “I can fix anything…. I just can’t spell it”

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View jsdnnoanybtr's profile


24 posts in 3027 days

#6 posted 09-06-2010 01:34 AM

I have the same schpeling defect. I tell everyone I have a water cooled extra heavy duty industrial grade spell checker but sometimes it still overheats and kicks off line.

My saying is I can fix anything given enough time, tools and money. Limit me on any one of those and it could, quite easily, all end in tears.

Wishing you great success with the drawers. Post pics if you have a chance.

-- jsdnnoanybtr but you can call me jr

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3617 days

#7 posted 09-06-2010 02:41 AM

I always leave the back of drawers open to slide in and out the bottom easily, and just screw/nail it to the back of the drawer (allows wood movement, and easier assembly of the drawers) – so in RE to your question, the rails are visible on the back, which is of no concern as it’s the back of the drawer, and is inside the cabinet.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3046 days

#8 posted 09-06-2010 03:53 AM

There lies one of my hang ups Purple. I want to pull this off with using only wood. I thought about the back like you mentioned. I even thought about doweling it (then realized that would be odd). Then I got to thinking just make it as I would if I mitered the corner on the drawer with the dado.

I’m about made up my mind to go along with what Bert mentioned and try a square peg to fill the gap. The drawer will be made of walnut and sycamore (walnut being the front and bottom), and I’m thinking the walnut peg in the back may be a nice little touch. Then again I just got back from dinner with my bride and I may have hit the sake to hard tonight… lol

And @ Jr…. I need me one of those water cooled spell checkers myself….. Ebay?

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View swirt's profile


2659 posts in 2941 days

#9 posted 09-06-2010 04:41 AM

If you really want no fasteners, and you are good enough to cut your dovetails by hand, then you are good enough to make a stopped dado and have it fall in the tail. Though I think Purplev’s method is better, but if you’ve got your mind set on the challenge you set up for yourself a stopped dado is not all that difficult, just be careful not to lever out the stop as you are cleaning it up with the chisel.

-- Galootish log blog,

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