Full blind hand cut dovetails, why?

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Forum topic by TopamaxSurvivor posted 03-08-2014 07:26 AM 8622 views 0 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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16454 posts in 2715 days

03-08-2014 07:26 AM

Topic tags/keywords: dovetails full blind hand cut

I just received this advice in my inbox: its time to try full blind dovetails. Why? If I hand cut dovetails I want to be able to see and admire them! What do you say?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

32 replies so far

View Dallas's profile


3556 posts in 1527 days

#1 posted 03-08-2014 07:53 AM

Hmmmm, elegant joint but I’ve never seen one in campaign furniture. Most of what I’ve found is rabbeted, although it might actually have hidden DT’s, I don’t normally get to take it apart.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View grizzman's profile


7619 posts in 2343 days

#2 posted 03-08-2014 02:16 PM

im with you bob, if im going to hand cut them, i want to see them, i cant imagine doing all that work to not see them, nope, there going to be seen…

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

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Don W

16664 posts in 1607 days

#3 posted 03-08-2014 02:19 PM

Although I agree 110%, I guess there are times when it just doesn’t fit the style. Remember the DT is one of the strongest joints you can make, so there was a day when it was more about function then presentation.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5489 posts in 1332 days

#4 posted 03-08-2014 02:25 PM

I agree with Don W—function over presentation in a time before biscuits and dominos.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 1424 days

#5 posted 03-08-2014 02:50 PM

Yep, It’s a good joint because it (1) has the strength of dovetails (stronger than biscuits), and (2) is hidden. I chest made this way would last hundreds of years if done well.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View shipwright's profile


6189 posts in 1837 days

#6 posted 03-08-2014 02:59 PM

I used full blind dovetails in a recent project (blog here) but they were a little different than these. I understood that the intent was to have the structural strength of a dovetail without any end grain showing to telegraph through a veneered surface.
The way I did them, they appear to be a mitered corner rather than a lap joint. Mine, however gave the illusion away when you looked at the ends (top and bottom) of the joint.
Patrick Edwards corrected me in a comment telling me that the last pin on each end should be mitered to complete the illusion of a mitered joint. His blog is much better than mine.

You can find his blog on them here

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees.

View stefang's profile


14706 posts in 2374 days

#7 posted 03-13-2014 11:45 AM

Good question Bob. My only reason would be just to cut them as a challenge. I have found through experience that glued miter joints are more than sufficient for a small box unless it is expected to get some very abusive handling. A miter cut is after all part side grain and part end grain, so it holds a lot better than many think. Blind or half blind dovetails were used in the past for furniture case goods which were heavy and needed a strong but invisible joint as visible joinery is not always a good attribute on some designs.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View iminmyshop's profile


214 posts in 1033 days

#8 posted 03-13-2014 12:20 PM

There are many ways to put joints together including miters. Most of the support given is more than adequate. Most fine furniture is over-engineered. So while it is true that there is terrific strength in hidden dovetails, an L shaped laminated spline would also give a ton of strength, be lots easier to make while still remaining hidden and be lots easier to do. In short, I agree that if I am going to all that trouble, I literally want something to show for it. A quiet self-pat on the back just wouldn’t do it for me.

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1053 posts in 2435 days

#9 posted 03-13-2014 03:05 PM

Mike, pardon my ignorance, but I have always regarded the miter joint to be 100 percent end grain.
Please educate me. How does the miter cut reveal any side grain?


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


12052 posts in 1658 days

#10 posted 03-13-2014 03:25 PM

Paul, that link to Mr. Edwards does indeed show what I considered a full-blind dovetail, or “A secret mitered dovetail joint”. What Mr. Schwarz is doing is a full-blind rabbeted dovetail per “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery”

Good stuff in this post!

Would I do one? If the furniture style required, yes.

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

View bigblockyeti's profile


2448 posts in 760 days

#11 posted 03-13-2014 03:40 PM

I would certainly want to see my work also if taking the time to hand cut.

View bondogaposis's profile


3378 posts in 1391 days

#12 posted 03-13-2014 06:58 PM

I could definitely see using these for carcase construction. I think difference between visible dovetails and blind dovetails is like the difference between a mortise and tenon and a through mortise and tenon. The blind one is not seen so could be made faster with les concern for the visual aspects.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


16454 posts in 2715 days

#13 posted 03-14-2014 01:26 AM

Hmmmmmm! I did not know this discussion was happening. Just because you are getting notifications, doesn’t mean you are getting all of them. I guess I’m with Mike, started getting this one today.

Bondo Gaposis, Not as much pride of accomplishment and bragging rights in M&T as there is with DT ;-) at least IMO.

Is there a way to do full blind; either secret mitered dovetail or full-blind rabbeted with a machine? Seems to me the only way to do them is by hand.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2687 days

#14 posted 03-14-2014 01:56 AM

Well, I wouldn’t do them unless I had a specific reason to do them
for structural or stylistic reasons. They look pretty easy to do
compared to making clean through dovetails by hand. Realistically
one can make quite a mess of them if they don’t show.

... I think with some ingenuity some power tool method could be
devised to remove a lot of the waste in these sorts of joints,
but establishing the final geometry would probably involve
hand work. I haven’t thought about it more than a little as
most woodworking clients would never care or care to know.


View bondogaposis's profile


3378 posts in 1391 days

#15 posted 03-14-2014 02:07 AM

Topamax, maybe my point wasn’t clear. When you make a normal M&T joint none of it is visible and it is fairly easy, but when you make a through M&T joint you have to be much more careful because the tenon and mortise is visible on one side. My thinking is that a full blind DT joint maybe a lot easier than a half blind as none of it is visible. I will have to make a few to know for sure.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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