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Thread: How I do Dovetails

  1. #1
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    How I do Dovetails

    I don't care for the look of dovetails. I think mechanically they are a great joint. I started a couple of years ago making full blind dovetails and was happy with the results. It works great for boxes but not so well on drawers where you may have to plane the face a bit sometimes. I now make drawers this way. If all the pieces are the same thickness you can use a double marking gauge for all the lines and also use it to check your socket depths. I leave the tails showing on the back of the drawer for those who question weather there are dovetails. This is my go to drawer now. Pictures are of my proof of concept I made a couple of years ago.
    Jim
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  2. #2
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    Looks good Jim. Do you make your saw cuts go a little pass the base line on the tail board to give a future restorationist a clue as to how the joint went together?

    (Roy Underhill mentioned doing that on one of his programs.)

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  3. #3
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    The drawer front top lacks a clean uninterrupted line. The drawer front would have a visible edge from the side piece.
    Do you have another clearer example of the final result?
    Here is a snap of a drawer front next to me.

    246CABEF-5B3E-4154-81E8-15B7992704CE.jpg
    The drawer back has through dovetails.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    Looks good Jim. Do you make your saw cuts go a little pass the base line on the tail board to give a future restorationist a clue as to how the joint went together?

    (Roy Underhill mentioned doing that on one of his programs.)

    jtk
    I leave the back tails showing for a clue for a possible restorer and for those who wax poetic about no dovetails.
    Jim

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post
    The drawer front top lacks a clean uninterrupted line. The drawer front would have a visible edge from the side piece.
    Do you have another clearer example of the final result?
    Here is a snap of a drawer front next to me.

    246CABEF-5B3E-4154-81E8-15B7992704CE.jpg
    The drawer back has through dovetails.
    The front goes straight across. The edge you are seeing is the end of th front. You can see the ends of the tails from the back side only. The front is on the right side inn the 4th photo.
    Jim

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by James Pallas View Post
    The front goes straight across. The edge you are seeing is the end of th front. You can see the ends of the tails from the back side only. The front is on the right side inn the 4th photo.
    Jim
    If I understand your comment and the pictures, you have the tails on the front and the pins on the side. That's backwards for drawers. Dovetails are only strong in tension one way, and that's why we put the tails on the sides. Drawers are subject to high impulse loads when someone jerks a drawer open so you want the inherent strength of the dovetails resisting that impulse.

    With the pins on the sides, the only thing holding the front and the sides together is the glue. You'd just as well use finger joints.

    But maybe I'm not understanding what you're doing.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    Dovetails are only strong in tension one way, and that's why we put the tails on the sides.
    This is something I’ve wondered about. No doubt you’re correct, but in view of the strength and
    longevity of modern glues, does James’s design have a greater risk of failure in ordinary use (including an accidental drop of a loaded drawer) than the ordinary design? At the risk of thread drift, how about box joints?

    —John
    What this world needs is a good retreat.
    --Captain Beefheart

  8. #8
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    Hmmm..
    dry fit 3.jpg
    Like this?
    real colours.jpg

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    If I understand your comment and the pictures, you have the tails on the front and the pins on the side. That's backwards for drawers. Dovetails are only strong in tension one way, and that's why we put the tails on the sides. Drawers are subject to high impulse loads when someone jerks a drawer open so you want the inherent strength of the dovetails resisting that impulse.

    With the pins on the sides, the only thing holding the front and the sides together is the glue. You'd just as well use finger joints.

    But maybe I'm not understanding what you're doing.

    Mike
    The three pieces in the photo mock up are front on the right, rear on the left, side on top. The tails are on the side. Pins on the front and back. When looking directly at the back the ends of the tails are showing. I could build the back the same as the front and no tails would show. I let the ends of the tails show for the times I get questions about "no dovetails?".
    Jim

  10. #10
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    So in the second picture the front is on the left. Your pins and tails are organized the traditional way for strength. At the very least the back is more work for something never seen. It opens up the discussion of visible dovetails versus possible machine or fixture joint. Your joints will be under appreciated! I donít mind the look of dovetails, they add character. Finger joints also can look good, adding character. What is the appeal for you of hiding the joinery?
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post
    So in the second picture the front is on the left. Your pins and tails are organized the traditional way for strength. At the very least the back is more work for something never seen. It opens up the discussion of visible dovetails versus possible machine or fixture joint. Your joints will be under appreciated! I donít mind the look of dovetails, they add character. Finger joints also can look good, adding character. What is the appeal for you of hiding the joinery?
    For me it was not liking the look of dovetails on small boxes. I worked on learning to make mitered full blind dovetails first.
    you can than have the grain wrap the corners. That doesn't work so good for drawers because you have to plane the fronts to match the case sometimes. For myself dovetails are a very good joint and I've made thousands of them. To me it's like sawing a M&T in half to show the joinery. Making blind dovetails is not much more difficult than half blinds. If the work is for me on drawers I just make blinds on the back too. You can make drawers using what I think is called a drawer joint with two narrow groves that looks about the same but is far weaker than dovetails. I don't care much for thru tenons or draw bore pins showing in the front either, except in timber framing.
    Jim

  12. #12
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    Good job..they are truly blind.....I personally like the look of DTs.....Believe it adds a look of craftmanship to the project as well as strength....In any case, well done..
    Jerry

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by James Pallas View Post
    For me it was not liking the look of dovetails on small boxes.
    Jim
    What I do on small boxes is miter the corners and put an ff biscuit in the miter. It can't be seen but provides some extra strength to the joint.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  14. #14
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    Hmmm...
    inside.JPG
    Simple miter joint..or...is it?
    opened up.JPG
    Finger joints?
    DSCF0015.JPG
    That can't seen...
    corner joints.JPG
    Nothing to it, really...

  15. #15
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    Jim,

    I also like the look of continuous grain wrapping around the corners. To that end, will you show us your technique and jigs for blind dovetails?

    Thanks

    Michael
    Last edited by Michael Todrin; 06-16-2019 at 5:45 PM.

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