How to Cut Dovetails

Опубликовал Admin
7-10-2016, 07:45
Although cutting dovetails is a straight-forward process, it does require some woodworking skill and basic knowledge of woodworking tools and machinery. Dovetails can be cut by machine or you can cut them by hand. Whether by hand or by machine, consider the following steps to ensure that your dovetails fit snugly and will last over time.


  1. Decide on the wood you want to use, making sure that it is flat, equally thick and has been cut to square the ends.
  2. Cut your wood into the lengths you want for your tail and pin boards, lay the pieces out and mark them as to which piece is a tail board and which a pin board
  3. Measure the thickness of your pin and tail boards, set the marking gauge to equal it, and mark a line across the face of the pin board and the face and outside edge of the tail board.
  4. Measure in 1/4 inch (0.63cm) from each end of the tail board and mark it.
  5. Determine how many tails you want across the edge of the tail board. Four tails is typical.
  6. Walk your dividers from the 1/4"(0.63 cm) line, and across the edge of the tail board until you get four evenly spaced steps across the board to the opposite 1/4"(0.63cm) line, marking each step placement by pushing the divider ends into the wood.
  7. Walk your dividers across the wood in the opposite direction from which you started in Step 6, until you get four evenly spaced steps to the other side, marking each step by pushing the divider ends into the wood.
  8. Draw a line across the edge of the wood and the holes.
  9. Draw a 35 degree angled line from the lines you just drew across each hole down to the line you drew with your marking gauge in Step 3 on both sides of your wood.
  10. Cut along the 35 degree angle of each line
  11. Chisel out the wood between your cuts, going halfway through the wood on one side, then flipping it over and going all the way through the wood from the other side.
  12. Cut along the lines again to remove any excess wood your chisel missed.
  13. Saw off the 1/4 inch (0.63cm) areas you marked on the ends of the wood.
  14. Lay your tail board on the end of your pin board, lining up the ends at a 90 degree angle.
  15. Mark the area you chiseled out between the tails on both sides of the pin board with a pocket knife.
  16. Draw a line straight down from the area you just marked to the line you marked with your marking gauge in Step 3, on both sides of the pin board.
  17. Cut along each of the lines and chisel out the waste between the pins.
  18. Finish by tapping the tails into the pins with your mallet.


  • Use a wooden coffee stirrer for spreading the glue on the joints.
  • Glue your dovetails for a stronger fit with a glue that is slow to harden such as epoxy.
  • Clamp your boards to keep them stable while marking and cutting.


  • Be careful not to over tighten clamps if you use them. This can cause your wood to bow inward and compromise the joints.
  • Always chop away from your body with your chisel to avoid injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Marking gauge
  • Saw
  • Dovetail marking gauge
  • Small square
  • Pair of woodworking dividers
  • Pencil and a ruler
  • Pocket knife
  • Small set of wood chisels
  • Mallet
  • Wooden clamp
Users of Guests are not allowed to comment this publication.