The Woodworking Art of Dovetailing

Connected dovetailed wood pieces

Connected dovetailed wood piecesWhen examining cabinets, frames and other wood furniture that would require interlocking joints, you may see dovetails.

Dovetailing is one way to secure two pieces of wood together (without the use of nails), while at the same time adding a creative touch to your projects. Dovetailing means that corner joints fit together like a jigsaw puzzle that provides tensile strength.

You can create a dovetail joint by cutting a series of pins that will interlock with a series of tails, extending from one end on one board into the end of the other board that you wish to connect.

Dovetailing is a tell-tail sign of the age of a piece of furniture. The older the piece of furniture, the wider spaced and larger the dovetails are. Basically, the older and cruder the woodworking tools were, the older the furniture is.

A dovetail joint creation is made easier by a dovetail machine. These joints, which are shaped like the rear feathers of a dove, secure two 90-degree wood angles together.

It is both wonderful and sad that the advancement in the woodworking industry allows for more accurate precision, and wood furniture can be made more quickly.

In recent years, many furniture companies are mass producing furniture, and to save money and labor, many parts are interchangeable (hence they need to be identical). For this reason alone, dovetails are no longer a common practice in making furniture.

Types of common dovetails include:

Half Blind dovetailHalf-blind dovetail

Craftsmen use half blind dovetails when they want to hide the end grain from being seen from the front of the project. This type of tail is commonly used to connect the sides of drawers to the front of the drawers. These are also known as, “false fronts”, to cabinets.

Secret Mitered Dovetail

These are also commonly referred to as “mitered blind dovetails”, and they are used in high quality cabinetry, adding strength to the project, yet are totally hidden from sight.

Sliding dovetail

Sliding dovetail joints are one of the most versatile of the dovetails. This is used when you are looking to add shelving to a bookcase or some other type wooden structure requiring the interlocking strength of the dovetail. Two boards are joined together at right angles at the intersection of one of the boards that is not the end.

These sliding dovetails are built simply by sliding the tail into the socket that is usually tapered to make the rear of the joint tighter. However, the joints slide easily together. When completed, this tighter joint will add more strength to the finished product.

Full-Blind dovetail

This are also known as “French dovetailed” when used in the construction of drawers to provide strength.

The dovetail is now considered the sign of a craftsman, no matter the type, whereas in the past, a dovetail would have been covered in veneer. With a new piece of furniture, a dovetail is a sign of quality, and that a craftsman put the time into creating it, with an older piece it can be used to guess age.

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