How To Cut Dovetails

Dovetail joints are used to create both functional and elegant hand-joined pieces such as drawers.Dovetails consist of a tail board, which has bird tail-shaped pieces of wood cut into the end, and a pin board with skinny pins that fit between the tails on the other board.Carefully measure the tails and pins with a marking gauge, dividers, and square, then cut them out using a dovetail saw and join them together with wood glue.

Step 1: Pick wood that is flat, thick, and has square ends.

Look along the side of the wood to see if it is flat.To make sure the ends are square, use a carpenter’s square to check them.Start with pieces of wood that are not curved or cut in different ways.

Step 2: To mark which side will face out, choose 2 tail boards and 2 pin boards.

Two tail boards and two pin boards are the same length and width.To mark the sides that face inwards, use a pencil.To face out, choose the prettiest sides.The sockets for the skinnier “pins” to fit in will be created by cutting between the bird tail-shaped pieces of wood.It is up to you which board to use, just make sure that the tail board and pin board are the same length.

Step 3: Measure the thickness of your pins and tail boards.

To measure the thickness of the boards, use a ruler and set a marking gauge.You only need to set the gauge once because the thickness of each board will be the same.A marking gauge is a tool used in woodworking.This can be done on the pin boards as well.When you cut out the pins, you will need the same line.

Step 4: Use the marking gauge to write a line across the face of the boards.

To create a thin line across the whole face of the board, slide the gauge along the face and outside edge of each board.The correct thickness of the tails is determined by the line you cut towards them.A spur is a small pin that can be used to create a lightgroove in the wood that you use as a guide for cutting.The space between this line and the edge of the board is the same thickness as the boards.

Step 5: Take 4 in (0.64 cm) from the end of the tail board and mark it.

Measure from one end of the tail board to the other using a ruler.To see where your first tail cut will go, make a mark with a pencil.The space for the top pins will be created by removing these end pieces.

Step 6: To create the number of tails you want, set a divider to the right width.

It is up to you and the aesthetic you want to make 4 tails.If you want a more intricate look with more pins and tails, make a larger number of skinnier tails.If you want 4 tails that are each 2 in (1.3 cm) wide, then set your divider to 2 in.A metal instrument with 2 legs is called a divider.To use the points to measure different distances, you can shorten or lengthen the space between the legs.

Step 7: Mark 4 points out the tails with the tips of the divider.

You can walk the divider from the 4 in line across the board to the opposite line.The marks can be created by pushing the divider points into the wood.The marks will show you where to start.The divider width is set to the tips of the tails.

Step 8: You should draw 35-degree lines from the points you marked.

You can use a carpenter’s speed square to measure the 35-degree lines and draw them straight along its edge from the points you marked at the edge of the board.To see which part of the wood you need to cut out, use an “x” between the lines.The thinner part of the wood is what you are going to cut out.The pins will go in this space.There are 8 lines because you created 4 tails with 2 sides.Half of the lines will be going in the same direction.

Step 9: Cut along the 35-degree angle lines.

Use a saw to cut the lines.You should not go past the thickness line on the board.A tenon saw with a small blade and fine teeth is used for cutting joints.You can get one at a home improvement center.

Step 10: Cut the wood between your cuts.

The wood has a mallet halfway through it.The chisel can be tapped through the wood from the other side if the board is flipped over.A set of chisels can be used to cut different sizes of dovetails.You can get a set at a hardware store.

Step 11: You marked areas on the ends of the wood.

You have already cut along the 35-degree lines.The spaces for the pins at each end of the tail board can be created by cutting in along the 90-degree line you made earlier.If you want a smooth fit later on, you can sand away any imperfections at the end cuts.

Step 12: The tail board should be on the end of the pin board.

Put the tail board against the end of the pin board at a 90-degree angle so that the tails are on top of each other and you can see the space between them.To mark the pins you need to cut, trace the space between the tails you already cut.To make it easier to mark the end, set the pin board in a vice.

Step 13: The area you chiseled out is between the tails of the pin board.

If you want to mark all the pins, hold the tail board against the end of the pin board.To mark the outlines of the pins, use a marking knife.Use a pocket knife or utility knife if you don’t have a marking knife.

Step 14: Remove the waste between the pins by cutting along each line.

Cut along the lines you marked with a knife.To chisel out the waste, use small chisels.Think of this step as the opposite of what you did for the tails.The space between the pins will be created by removing chunks of wood the same size as the tails.

Step 15: Wood glue can be applied to the pins and tails.

To keep the wood glue from touching another surface, wipe it on.Use a rag to wipe the glue off.If there is glue on the surfaces that will be exposed, make sure to wipe it away quickly.You can sand off any mistakes later.

Step 16: The tails can be tapped with a mallet.

Align the tail and pin boards after applying glue.The boards will fit together if you tap the tails into the pins.The boards may have some glue in them.Let the boards dry together after wiping this away.30 minutes to an hour is how long it will take for the glue to dry.The pieces will be ready to use or install in 24 hours.