Dovetail Joint: Become a Master with a Dovetail Saw
Learn hand-cut dovetail basics as Glen shares the secrets he's learned from years of professional experience
Learn how to make complex dovetail joints for your next project
Charles Bender shows you the simplest, easiest way to cut dovetails by hand quickly and with great results
Four Things You Can Do With a Dovetail Saw
By Dan Farnbach, Online Editor
The dovetail saw is one of the first few hand tools that you are likely to buy for your growing hand-tool kit. It is highly useful, and not only for cutting a basic dovetail joint. It’s a tool that takes your woodworking skills and projects to the next level. Here is the range of uses that we have explored over recent years here at Popular Woodworking, dovetails and beyond.
1) Making Dovetail Joints for Larger Pieces
The basic dovetail joint is great for larger pieces of furniture because it is strong and, because it’s also a design feature for the eye, you don’t have to worry as much about face framing. We have some period furniture makers on staff, so needless to say we have been creating a number of dovetail furniture projects lately. Some of these, such as Glen Huey’s Carolina Cellarette, are quite complicated. Others, like Christopher Schwarz’s Monticello Bookcases, take a little less time. If you’ve been thinking about dovetail joints as a small detail of a bigger project, you might find that the visual impact as a main feature is worth trying.
2) Learn Dovetails Inside and Out: Drawers
Dovetailing is still one of the best methods for making drawers that are strong and good-looking. After you have mastered the basic dovetail joint, consider learning the half-blind dovetail joint and incorporating that into your drawer design.
3) Using a Dovetail Saw to Cut Accurate Miters
The dovetail saw may become your best friend in cutting small, accurate miter joints. After all, once you know how to cut accurately to a line with this handy little saw, you don’t need to limit yourself to the joint for which it is named.
4) Have Some Dovetail Fun
Everyone needs to air it out every now and then. It can be fun and informative to try cutting some of the more elusive dovetail joints, such as single- and compound-angle joints or the so-called “rising” dovetail. These fun applications are not just tricks for the eye – they also teach you more about woodworking geometry. And that’s something you can apply to future projects.
Now that you have your dovetail saw in hand, start learning how to make dovetail joints with Chuck Bender’s “Dovetailing Apprenticeship.” When you’re ready to move into more complex dovetail joints, try the next video in that series, “Dovetail Mastery.” Complete your education with Glen Huey’s “Cheating at Hand-cut Dovetails,” another great DVD that takes you to greater depth by showing you how the hand dovetail saw fits in with other dovetail-cutting options, including power tools.
And keep coming back here to our store for the latest projects that incorporate dovetail joints. We’re always finding new angles on this part of the woodworking craft. Enjoy!
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Dan Farnbach is the Online Editor of Popular Woodworking. He's into sports, making things, and being way out in the woods. At seventeen he designed and built a footbridge in the Idaho wilderness, and realized this craft was pretty satisfying. Since then he has learned custom cabinetmaking and dabbled in fine furniture, working for two professional shops. Connect with him and other woodworkers on the Popular Woodworking Facebook page.