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Thread: Dovetail Bit Size

  1. #1

    Dovetail Bit Size

    I'm getting ready to make some drawers with dovetail joints for the first time. The sides and back will 1/2" ply and the front 3/4" ply. I have a 1/2" diameter dovetail bit but it would seem that would be too large to use for 1/2" ply. Is my thinking correct? Do I need to use a 1/4" or 3/8" bit? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2018
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    Lancaster, Ohio
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    32
    what dovetail jig are you using and what is recommended in the manual?

  3. #3
    Ron:
    I'm not using a jig but will do it on the router table.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    Carrollton, Georgia
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    Edward, since you're designing you own dovetails and not relying on a standard template, I would think the bit size is your own decision regarding how wide you want your dovetails.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Columbus Ohio
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    374
    Good luck in not destroying your plywood. The dovetail bit may completely tear out the ply.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Florida
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    498
    1/2 inch dovetail bit is fine for half-inch plywood. You were only using a portion of the bit approximately a quarter or 5/16 inch deep. You can increase or decrease the depth of the bit to make equally spaced dovetails fit properly. But since you were not using the full depth of the bit half inch is not too big.

    Dan

  7. #7
    The issue at hand is, if I route the dove tail groove (female) on the drawer fronts with a 1/2" bit, and I use 1/2" ply for the sides and route the male component (taking off at least some small amount at the widest part of the male insert), won't the male component be too loose in the female groove (which has a full 1/2" at the floor of the groove)? Since I haven't done this before, perhaps I don't understand the process.

  8. #8
    Matthew:
    Thank you for the alert. The drawers are for a cabinet in the shop, so I won't mind a little tear out. I'll do a test piece and see how it comes out. If there's significant tear out, I'll get some pine boards.

    Dan:
    Thanks for the explanation of how it works.

  9. #9
    Edward - I agree with Dan. A 1/2" bit will work fine in 1/2" material. I just finished some shop storage drawers with half-blinds using all 1/2" baltic birch. With my jig the pins extend pretty deep into the fronts and backs (see photo), but came out OK. To avoid the tearout issue on the pin boards, make an initial shallow pass across the width.

    Dovetail.jpg

  10. #10
    Thanks for the photo Mark.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    Evanston, IL
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    1,231
    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Weingarden View Post
    The issue at hand is, if I route the dove tail groove (female) on the drawer fronts with a 1/2" bit, and I use 1/2" ply for the sides and route the male component (taking off at least some small amount at the widest part of the male insert), won't the male component be too loose in the female groove (which has a full 1/2" at the floor of the groove)? Since I haven't done this before, perhaps I don't understand the process.
    Edward,
    From your description, it sounds like you are using a sliding dovetail joint rather than the type of dovetails that others here are thinking of. If so, you are correct that a 1/2" dovetail bit is going to route a groove too wide to be filled by your 1/2" thick sides. Even if you could cut the male side of the joint so that you removed nothing from the sides at the end of the joint, which would be a very tough task, your 1/2" plywood is probably not a full 1/2" thick to start with. Use a smaller bit.
    Jon

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Nuckles View Post
    Edward,
    From your description, it sounds like you are using a sliding dovetail joint rather than the type of dovetails that others here are thinking of. If so, you are correct that a 1/2" dovetail bit is going to route a groove too wide to be filled by your 1/2" thick sides. Even if you could cut the male side of the joint so that you removed nothing from the sides at the end of the joint, which would be a very tough task, your 1/2" plywood is probably not a full 1/2" thick to start with. Use a smaller bit.
    Jon
    Jon:
    You are correct; it is a sliding dove tail I plan on doing. I should have clarified that in my original post.

  13. #13
    Since you've identified that you are using sliding dovetails, as Jon points out, your half inch bit will be too large. A smaller bit is called for here. In addition, I would suggest that you hog out most of the waste in the sockets on the drawer fronts with a spiral upcut bit. This will make cutting with the dovetail bit easier and safer.

  14. #14
    Edward,

    First, you need some king of jig to do DT's with a router safely.

    I recommend doing through DT's. Make the entire drawer out of 1/2" material, then apply a front.

    Either way is fine but I suggest doing the tails first since your dt router bit will establish the pin angles. Use a backer board on both sides to reduce tear out.

    I usually make the drawer bottom grooves first, although you can do it either way. The reason I do this is so I cut the back down before doing the rear side DT cuts - just eliminates an error.

    Just a note: I've really abandoned DT's in plywood. For utility drawers I use plywood but I do a rabbet on the sideds and 1/8" dowel pins or screws and plugs.

    I think you're going to find for just a few drawers, the set up time and aggravation factors are not going to be worth it.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Engel View Post
    Edward,

    First, you need some king of jig to do DT's with a router safely.

    I recommend doing through DT's. Make the entire drawer out of 1/2" material, then apply a front.

    Either way is fine but I suggest doing the tails first since your dt router bit will establish the pin angles. Use a backer board on both sides to reduce tear out.

    I usually make the drawer bottom grooves first, although you can do it either way. The reason I do this is so I cut the back down before doing the rear side DT cuts - just eliminates an error.

    Just a note: I've really abandoned DT's in plywood. For utility drawers I use plywood but I do a rabbet on the sideds and 1/8" dowel pins or screws and plugs.

    I think you're going to find for just a few drawers, the set up time and aggravation factors are not going to be worth it.
    Robert, did you see that Edward is talking about sliding dovetails?

    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Weingarden View Post
    Jon:
    You are correct; it is a sliding dove tail I plan on doing.

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