dovetail joints

Everything you need to know about Dovetail joints

A dovetail joint is one of the most common woodworking technique of joining wood with good tensile strength. the joint is appealing and effective at joining two pieces of wood at the right angle. There is a different method of making the joint and it can be cut by hand which must be done by an experienced woodworker. However, power tools such as table saw or a router and jig make the process easier and faster.

dovetail joints

Today we’ll be looking at the definition, application, types, advantages and disadvantages as well as how to make dovetail joints.


What is a dovetail joint?

A dovetail joint is a process of joining pieces of wood in at a right angle in order to put them together and give good tensile strength between them. The joint is often use on modern furniture and cabinet and timber framing though it has been in existence for many now. With the pins and tails shape, it is difficult for the joint to be pulled apart. Glue can be used to strengthen the joint but it requires no mechanical fastener.


Below are the applications of dovetail joints:

  • The joint is used to join the sides of a drawer
  • It is used on a small box-like jewellery box
  • For joining shelves to cabinet sides
  • And other furniture joints where strength is required
  • The sliding dovetail is used for joining neck and body in violins and some guitars
  • Used for joining horizontal partition to shelves
  • The joint is also applied to adjacent sections of expandable table frames

Read: Different types of wood joints and their working

How to cut a dovetail joint:

Dovetail joints are available in different types which will be further discussed in this article, but the most popular is half-blind and through dovetail joint, in the half-blind version the dovetail will not show the end grain of the joint from the front making it suitable for drawer faces. Whereas the through dovetail joint shows the end grain of the joint from both sides.

Knowing how to make dovetail joint is very competitive when cut it is hand-cut but will also help to increase the experience of the worker. The joint consists of an interlocking and snugly fitted series of pins and tails. The tails are cut on one piece of the wood which is called a tailpiece These tailpieces are generally used as a template for marking and cutting the pins on the pin piece.

The dovetail explained is a diversity of a typical through. in the making of through dovetail, it is dressed up with a mitred corner which will be best achieved by hand cutting. There are many other types of dovetail joints with subtle variations.

The video below shows how to cut a dovetail joint:

Types of dovetails:

Below are the different types of dovetails perform by woodworkers:

Through dovetail:

A through dovetail is also known plain dovetail joint which common in carcass and box construction. In the joint, the end grain of both boards is visible when the joint is assembled. The joint is often referred to “English dovetail”.

Half-blind dovetail joint:

The half-blind joint is performed by craftsmen to fasten drawer to its sides which is an alternative of through dovetails. The end grain is not visible to the front of the joint as the tails fit into mortises in the end of the board that’s the front of the item.

Secret mitred dovetail:

These types of dovetail joints are called a mitred blind dovetail, full-blind dovetail or full-blind mitred dovetail. It offers same strength just as other dovetail joint but it faces is totally hidden from both outside. This is achieved by forming the outer edge to meet at a 45-degree angle while hiding the dovetails at the inside.

Secret double-lapped dovetail:

The secret double-lapped types of dovetail joint are similar to the previously explained type. Their different is that a very thin section of end grain on one edge on the joint shows. It is also used for carcass and box construction which completely unveil the dovetail.

Sliding dovetail:

The sliding types of dovetail joints are used to join two boards at right angles which the intersection take place within the field of one of the boards. The joint is achieved by sliding the tail into the socket which is tapered. Sliding dovetail offers interlocking strength of dovetails. The tapered socket makes the joint slightly tighter towards the rear which allows the two parts slides easily. The joint became much tighter as it reaches the end.

Advantages and disadvantages of dovetail joints:


Below are the benefits of dovetail joints:

  • There are different types of dovetail
  • It can be performed in different ways
  • It has good tensile strength
  • A dovetail can slide over each other
  • It is fast and easier when perform with power
  • Tighter and invisible joint can be produce


Despite the good advantages of dovetail joints some limitations still occur. Below are the disadvantages of dovetail joints:

  • Skill worker needed to cut a dovetail
  • It takes time if the cutting is done by hand
  • Mistake easily occur while cutting the tails and pins

That’s it for this article “Understanding dovetail joints”. I hope the knowledge is attained, if so, kindly comment, share and recommend this site to other technical students. Thanks!


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