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Forum topic by richgreer posted 11-01-2011 03:17 PM 963 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 2492 days

11-01-2011 03:17 PM

Dovetail joints are both strong and attractive. I also feel that there are other joint options that may not be as strong as dovetails but they are strong enough for many applications. For me, I use dovetails when I want the dovetail look.

Of course there are hand made dovetails and dovetails cut with a router and jig. There are half blind dovetails, through dovetails and even sliding dovetails.

I’ve never made a handmade dovetail I was happy with but I practice on scrap wood on occasion to try to improve my skill.

I like to use my Leigh jig to make through dovetails that are not evenly spaced and look like they could have been hand made.

How about you? Do you use dovetails and, if so, how do you like to make them?

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

10 replies so far

View pmayer's profile


845 posts in 2483 days

#1 posted 11-01-2011 03:32 PM

I am like Rich in that I don’t use them for strength but rather for a particular look. My typical cabinet drawer joint is a locking rabbet, which is plenty strong for typical cabinet drawers.

When I cut dovetails I do them by hand. Dozuki saw, Marples chisels.

-- PaulMayer,

View grizzman's profile


7780 posts in 2721 days

#2 posted 11-01-2011 04:04 PM

i have not perfected my dovetail skill as of yet, and use my router and jig, but i do have a goal of improving my skill in that joinery, and will be happy with myself when i master it….i always like A1 JIMS out look on wood working, whatever the wood workers likes to do, whatever tool or skill he or she likes to use to get the job done, but i have a feeling that i will work at it this winter…and will emerge from my shop with the ability to hand cut dovetails.

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13569 posts in 2036 days

#3 posted 11-01-2011 04:09 PM

Use them, certainly, and have only hand-cut them. My only router is a 60s Craftsman with a 1/4” shank… Bought a 1/2” dovetail bit years ago, it sits in the box. Don’t know if I’ll ever try a powertool dovetail, but I’d like to use the bit for sliding dovetails…

I did the ‘30 dovetails in 30 days’ exercise to get comfortable with the joint, and at about 24 was very comfortable with what I was able to produce. I use a Disston #4 backsaw and Stanley SW 750 re-issue chisels.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 2476 days

#4 posted 11-01-2011 04:28 PM


I don’t have anything as fancy as a Leigh Jig, so, my options have been to either choose a different type of joint or to cut dovetails by hand. I have used the box joint frequently with excellent results. It is an attractive and strong joint and easily made. For dovetails, I have a 1/2 dovetail jig that works reasonably well and if I am making lots of joints, with the same setup, I will go to the trouble of setting it up and get going. For through dovetails, I cut those by hand. I have mixed results. Sometimes they look great, other times, not so much. Even if I had your Leigh Jig, if I only had a few to cut, I would still probably do them by hand just to avoid the trial and error setup of the jig. The jig is great, once you get it right, but most of the jigs that I have used, are time consuming to set up. Therefore, they are pretty efficient when making lots of joints. When only making a few, it is quicker for me to just cut them by hand. My method is to cut the shoulders with a dovetail saw, then remove most of the waste with a coping saw and finally to pair to fit with a sharp chisel. I don’t chop out the waste. That is, IMHO, less acurate and ultimately more time consuming.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

8084 posts in 2846 days

#5 posted 11-01-2011 05:01 PM

Although I have a few dovetail jigs, I prefer to use the Kehoe spline jig.
Hand cutting dovetails is enjoyable, too.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View a1Jim's profile


115167 posts in 2995 days

#6 posted 11-01-2011 05:16 PM

I have 5 difference Dove tail Jigs and wish I had one more and use dove tails on projects that I think are appropriate for their use whether it’s for appearance or strength or both. I do ,do hand cut dovetails but only on very special family projects or where customers ask for them. I agree they lend that perfect look for many projects.

-- Custom furniture

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 1893 days

#7 posted 11-01-2011 06:16 PM

It all depends on the customer, the ones who are paying well get dovetails and solid wood fronts, all by hand. The one who wants the cheap melamine kitchen gets the dado and rabbet locking joint. For personal stuff sure, I use dovetails when they are suitable, but lets face it is such a pretty joint it looks right in almost all the projects.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2492 days

#8 posted 11-01-2011 06:29 PM

I agree with JGM that a dovetail is a pretty joint.

In some (perhaps most) of my work I like to deemphasize the design and focus on the beauty in the wood. In those situations, I think a dovetail joint can be a distraction.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2340 days

#9 posted 11-02-2011 02:26 AM

Okay, I cheat…I use an Incra LS-25 with a super fence. I have a couple of other dovetail jigs but the Incra is my favorite.

-- Life is good.

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3066 days

#10 posted 11-02-2011 02:42 AM

I find the joint to be mechanical sound and for that it works in certain situations, but I’ll only use it when needed for the application. So far been only doing them by hand. When I make anything I never really make 100 items so using a jig and setting it up might take me just as much time as it takes me to handcut a one-off or a 2-off.

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

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