You can also view my gallery at Designs en Bois.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

So you want to learn how to hand cut dovetails?

Now that I have your attention...I'm not a dovetailing expert. But I am living proof that pretty much anyone can do it. Like almost every aspect of woodworking, dovetails are an exercise in patience so any deficiencies in technique, skill, experience, or confidence can be more than compensated for just by taking a methodical approach. In this episode of the tool chest project, I finally start cutting the joinery - beginning with the case assembly itself. These tails will be the most visibly joinery in the project, so I made sure to take the time to get the best fit. And for me, getting the best fit is all about careful transfer of tails to pins, and fine tuning to the marking lines. Layout is important as well since it's sort of hard to go back and add in a half pin or half tail after the fact.

I'm going to take a week off for the Fourth of July, but when I get back I will introduce a new locking dovetail joint that might be my most inspired idea ever (aside from that idea for the Hyperbole Awards).

Right click to download the HD version of this video (all the cool kids are doing it)


Jeff Branch said...

Nice work. I have a goal of being a dovetail expert someday, so I enjoyed your video

Rich Friess said...

Impressive dovetailing work Rob. Thanks for video. Looking forward to the next one as always.

Rich Friess

nr said...

Thanks for the excellent video, good pace, great content. I was wondering about the total elapsed time from layout to assembly for the four corners of the case? I know the more you do it the more quickly you can do it, but I'm trying to gauge what this type of joinery takes for someone like you.
Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Rob Bois said...

Good question about the timeframe nr. It's difficult to tell, since everything slows way down when you are shooting video. But I'd say the layout probably took about an hour, and then roughly 30 minutes for each pin or tail board. So probably around 5 hours of work for the whole case. It would be significantly less if the joinery weren't going to be exposed, as I wouldn't spend nearly as much attention to detail on cleaning up the pins. Maybe when I get to the drawers, I'll shoot a full drawer beginning to end Roy Underhill style.

Kip said...

It seemed to me the DTs fit a tad loose to me but difficult to tell

Rob Bois said...

Kip, I know I said I never delete any comments, but I might need to make an exception here :)

Luke Townsley said...

I just found your blog. I added it to the blog aggregator on my site at

When you make a new post, within about two hours, the headline will automatically appear on my site so woodworkers everywhere can click over to your site and read it.

If you ever have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

I usually try to get blogs that are at least 50% woodworking hand tools or of unique interest to hand tool users.

A link to my homepage or blog is always appreciated, but hardly necessary.

Luke Townsley

Rob Bois said...

Thanks Luke. I'd say this project in particular will likely be heavy on the hand tools, so I'm hoping I'll fit the criteria!