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This Post Contains All You Want to Know About the Dovetail Joint

The Dovetail Joint
A proper dovetail joint is the mark of an excellent woodworker. To learn the art of making the dovetail joint, read the following article.
HobbyZeal Staff
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
Dovetail joint is the most commonly used technique in the woodworking joinery. They are very strong and attractive joints, traditionally used in woodworking. They are supposed to be the strongest corner joints used for making boxes, drawers, and other such strong quality furniture articles. Dovetail joint got its name from the shapes in which the two pieces of wood are joined to create it. There is an interesting method used to make these joints. A series of pins on one board is interlocked with a series of tails on the correspondent wooden board. Interestingly, the finished joint is called a shoulder. The pins and tails have a trapezoidal shape, which once joined, can stay together even without the mechanical fasteners.

Types of Dovetail Joints

There are three basic methods in which the wood is cut for making dovetail joints. These methods are - using a jig, a router, or a dovetail template. Using jigs is the most popular amongst the three. Most woodworkers also claim that it is always best to make these by hand. For that, you need a correct layout and proper tools. The instruments that are used, primarily include, a measuring tape, marking gouge, dovetail saw, T bevel, coping saw, chisel, hammer, and a vice. Using these materials, one can make various types of dovetail joints. Here are some of the popular types.

Full Dovetail Joints
This is a joint with multiple tenons and mortises, which provide a solid structure to the whole width of the wood panel. In this joint, the end grain of both the wood pieces is clearly visible. This type of dovetail joint is commonly used for making boxes, drawers, cabinetry, and constructing the carcass. Full dovetail joints are traditional kind of joinery which were primarily used as a feature of various buildings. One can rarely find full dovetail joints in contemporary wood works.

Blind Dovetail Joints
There are two types of blind dovetail joints - full-blind dovetail and half-blind dovetail. In the half-blind dovetail joint, the end grains of the woods are not visible because they are concealed in a socket. Such joints are used for attaching drawer fronts. On the other hand, full-blind dovetail joints which are also called double dovetail joints, are used for emphasizing the strength of the joints and at the same time, to hide the visual intrusion of the pins and tails. Such joints are used for stronger constructions, for instance fine cabinets or small boxes, etc.

Sliding Dovetail Joints
Sliding dovetail joints are used for joining two wooden boards at right angle. This joint is assembled by sliding the tails into slightly tapered sockets. Sliding the woods is easy, until they do not reach their final position. Once you join them together they can hardly be moved. This type of dovetail wood joints are multipurpose, and can be used for a variety of things from joining shelves to cabinets to joining neck and for the body of some guitars as well.

Instructions to Make Dovetail Joints by Hand

You can use the previously mentioned tools. Here are a few simple instructions for you to make the dovetail wood joints by hand.
  • You need to mark the depth of the joint by marking cuts on one of the boards which will serve as the tail piece. Use the marking gouge and draw around all four sizes of the tail board. Now lay out the tail marks by setting the T-bevel at the desired angle. But, make sure all the marks are equal in size.
  • To receive the pins, allow at least one quarter inch distance between each of the tails. Now, clamp the tail board in a vice, and cut the open area between the tails that you have previously drawn. You should use the dovetail saw, coping saw, chisel, and a hammer to do the job.
  • When you are done with the tail board, put the socket board into the vice vertically, and place the tail board horizontally on one end. Use the try square and pencil and trace the open area in between the tail pieces. Cut out the sockets, just the way you cut the tails.
  • Now, take a trial of your dovetail joint for making any last minute adjustments. Lastly, add some glue, and clamp both the wooden boards together. Let the pieces dry, and then use a sandpaper to give it a professional touch!
Along with the above instructions, you must always follow a few woodworking basics for your safety like moving the tools away from you and never towards you. Remember that making a dovetail joint is a skill that only a few people can get right at the first attempt. But, one can always master this art with a lot of persistence and patience.
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