DOVETAIL JOINTS: WHAT TOOLS DO I NEED?   

AUGUST 19,2021

👋 The way two pieces of wood fit together is a thing of beauty — and a great way to spot a quality piece of furniture. So nailing dovetail joints is a must when you’re looking to up your woodworking game. Precision is the name of the game here, and the right tools make all the difference between a bummer project and a win. Learn in this post all about the tools you need for dovetail joints!  

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  • " The reason dovetail joints has been used for centuries is because of its simplicity and strength." 



" The reason dovetail joints has been used for centuries is because of its simplicity and strength." 


WHAT TOOLS DO I NEED?

The tools for dovetailing are not expensive but it’s important to have the right ones. It’s also important to have them well-tuned.


Before cutting a dovetail you’ll need to do a bit of measuring and marking, commonly referred to as layout. Good layout is essential


Remember: Dovetailing is the simple act of sawing and chiseling to a line; if the line is inaccurate the joint won’t fit together.

Dovetail Square


A dovetail square is a straight-edge tool which is set at an angle and used for marking out dovetail joints. 

Marking Gauge


One of the most important tasks is marking baselines. The baseline is created with a marking gauge – a simple tool that consists of a head, beam and cutter. The head slides along the beam and locks in place with a thumbscrew. Some gauges use a steel pin for the cutter while others use a tiny wheel. Either type of cutter will work so long as it’s sharp. 

Saws


You need a saw with rip teeth for dovetail work. This means the cutting edges of the teeth are approximately perpendicular to the length of the saw. Two saws that do the trick are a Japanese dozuki (top) and a Western backsaw. Don’t use a crosscut Japanese dozuki saw, which will slow you down and mess up your joints, too. A coping saw will help you to cut out the waste between dovetails. The thin blade can also fit into even the tightest pin socket and make a turn along the baseline, removing the waste in seconds.

Chisels


The best chisel for chopping waste from between the tail and pins is a short one. A short chisel provides the control you need when driving the chisel with a mallet; long chisels are designed for paring. Although it may sound odd, reducing the handle length greatly improves the balance of a long, top-heavy chisel. And the improvement will be reflected in the quality of your dovetails. 

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Knives


Marking out the pins from the tails is super important for making dovetail joints. To do this, many woodworkers use a thin single-bevel knife, such as the V-point knife. If you’re working on fine-pore woods like pear wood, where it’s easy to see the knife line, use a chip carving knife and sharpen it to a single broad bevel on each side. For other woods, you can use a simple point scriber.  

Mallet


Having the right mallet is important, too. A round, 12-ounce mallet works best. Heavier mallets are tiring to use and the extra weight just isn’t needed. Also, the head of a square mallet must always be aligned to the chisel before striking. Not so with a round mallet.    

Dovetail Bits Set


If you don’t have time or patience to make dovetails by hand, then you should take a look at a dovetail bits set. This tool will help you to quickly produce classic dovetail joints in no time!   

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Dovetail joints are strong and beautiful but look intimidating to cut sometimes. With the right tools and practice you'll be cutting dovetails all day.


Josh J. Gur - CEO

CEO of Sanrico

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