The Dovetail Joint Is a Strong Woodworking Joint


| 1/19/2015 9:37:00 AM


Tags: woodworking joints, tools, Bruce McElmurray, Colorado,

I prefer to use the dovetail joint whenever possible on boxes and other projects I make. The joint is attractive and reflects craftsmanship. Even though it appears difficult, after doing it a few times it becomes far easier. I like this joint because it can be accomplished by only using hand tools. The tools in the photo are all the tools needed to make dovetails. A fine tooth trim saw, sharp chisel, mallet and the dovetail marking gauge. The gauge I use to lay out the tails and pins for the joint is made of steel and brass and is adjustable. The most difficult aspect is measuring and laying out the dovetail joint which requires some precision. That is why I choose to use a good adjustable marking gauge to obtain that precision.

tools 

A Dovetail Gauge

I purchased the gauge in the photo from a specialty woodworking store and by following the original directions that came with it the gauge has worked extremely well and been consistent. Some old timers make their own layout gauge but I kept losing mine so I purchased this one and have liked it for its precision and utility. It is made in England by Collett Engineering.

Hand-Cut Dovetails vs. Machine-Cut Dovetails:

The dovetail joint is mechanically strong and attractive and represents craftsmanship. There are products made now that can make dovetail joints by machine. Personally I still prefer to make them with hand tools and do not use the machines even though they are very accurate and faster. To my eye the dovetail machines lack that hand made look which I find appealing. When making them with hand tools you can run the risk of making a measuring mistake which means that you will have to cut all the tails and pins off and start over again. The box will be a few inches shorter but that is usually the worst possibility. If one tail or pin is laid out a fraction off it will also affect the remaining tails or pins. The machine dovetail takes much less time to accomplish but the hand made dovetail provides more satisfaction when complete and most woodworkers can tell the difference between the two techniques. There is also less opportunity for making an error when using machine dovetails.




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