Dovetailing with Baltic Birch

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Forum topic by keninblaine posted 01-17-2014 06:15 AM 1233 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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130 posts in 1630 days

01-17-2014 06:15 AM

I’m making file cabinet drawers for my L-shaped desk project, and decided to make my first attempt at dovetailing. I purchased a MLCS jig and tried it for the first time today.

I’m making my drawers with 1/2” baltic birch. In practicing my first joint today, I found that when trying to set the bit depth to 1/2”, the 14 degree bit is close to binding in the brass guide bushing. In fact, in my first couple of cuts it did snag the inside of the bushing, likely because I didn’t push the bit into the router far enough and it was flexing a little. I pushed it further into the chuck and re-adjusted the depth again to avoid that issue. But it is barely possible to cut 1/2” depth without rising the conflict between the bit and the bushing. I don’t really want to have to add a spacer between the piece and the jig.

My second problem is one that I was afraid of: no matter how slow I try to move the router, I’m still getting chunks of plywood tearing out in places. I clamped a piece of wood at the cut line, but it doesn’t prevent pieces coming off between the dovetail cuts. The straight bit isn’t as bad.

My MLCS jig is mounted on a wood base which I made of oak. I may try clamping another piece of birch plywood to the front of the piece being dovetailed to see if I can avoid the tear-out (the back side is helped by the wood mounting base of the jig). But it makes a cumbersome job even more cumbersome with all the clamping etc.

Am I fighting a losing battle with trying to dovetail Baltic birch? Is so, I may just dowel the joints. They aren’t high profile locations anyway.

-- Ken, Blaine Washington

4 replies so far

View keninblaine's profile


130 posts in 1630 days

#1 posted 01-18-2014 01:28 AM

OK, so today I clamped another piece of baltic birch in front of the work piece and it seems to help prevent tear-out. Finally got a good set of dovetails after some practice. As I started one of the actual drawer pieces I somehow caught the tapered bit on the metal jig fingers. Toast. One blade destroyed. Don’t know how I managed to allow the bushing to come out of the slot. Think I’ll put it aside for a while and focus on finishing other pieces and do the drawers last, after I get another bit of course.

-- Ken, Blaine Washington

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2066 days

#2 posted 01-18-2014 01:40 AM

I know some people dovetail plywood, but I’ve never had success with it. Maybe one of the pros who makes kitchens for a living will have a solution for that.

The bushing though is an easy fix. The lip on the bushing only needs to stick out enough to engage the fingers on the dovetail jig. I don’t know why, but on some sets the depth of that lip varies from bushing to bushing. If yours is so long that it interferes with the dovetail bit, then you might try taking it down a skosh with some sandpaper – just make sure you leave plenty of lip for it to still do its job. I had to do that on a couple of bushings.

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View Whiskers's profile


389 posts in 2055 days

#3 posted 01-18-2014 01:52 AM

I would think finger joints cut on a table saw with a jig would work better for drawers in plywood. Ply not your best wood to work with for drawers. For practice, set aside that expensive ply and go to the wood store and look for stickers. Usually the wood places will give those to you for free. Sometimes they are even usable as wood but even if ugly as heck, they make great practice pieces and backer boards.

View keninblaine's profile


130 posts in 1630 days

#4 posted 01-18-2014 06:08 PM

I agree with you Whiskers. Think I’ll give finger joints a try. I have lots of scraps to practice on.

-- Ken, Blaine Washington

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