I used to worry about cutting dovetails.

Especially when they were really important, and really noticeable, I’d sometimes get a knot in my stomach.

I suppose that was due to lack of confidence, and/or a lack of skill.

Probably a bit of both!

In the last video post, the Architect’s Table part ten, the cross supports were dovetailed into the side supports.

Are you like I was, and allow yourself to get worked up at the thought of cutting dovetails?

The good news is, I have a couple of tips that should help you.


Half blind dovetails in table supports.

Half blind dovetails in table supports.



So, the first tip?


I know-

it sounds obvious doesn’t it?

You’d be surprised at how many people don’t practice sawing dovetails. ( or any other joint for that matter )

They’ll wait until they’re well into a project, and then jump into an area where the dovetails really matter.

Maybe they’re structural, so they’ll need to be properly executed, but don’t have to look all that good.

Or, maybe they’re visual, and they’ll be a prominent feature in the design.

This brings me to my second tip-

knowing when they matter.

The Architect’s Table only has four dovetails. So, I made them count.

No, you’ll never see them once the table top is attached, but they’re structural and will have some stress on them.

Make sure you don’t make them too deep or you may weaken the supports and stays.

If this was the valet project, and knowing that it only has one drawer-

and knowing that you’ll see the dovetails every time you open that one drawer-

and still knowing that the style of that piece screams for people to take a closer look at them…

in that case, try to make them look as good as you can.

They’re not only structural, they’re a design feature.

Remember that.

What about my Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest?

Do they have to look good?

Not at all-

I always tell my students-

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] ‘Even an ugly dovetail is a strong dovetail.’    [/inlinetweet]

It’s a tool chest-

they should be strong, but they don’t have to be pretty.



Always consider where the dovetail is going.

Is it a structural component that will never be seen or, is it more of a decorative joint?

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter, they’d always be perfectly executed.

But, until then-

practice sawing and always consider where they’re going.

That knot in your stomach will let go and before too long, you won’t worry so much about cutting dovetails.


Do you practice cutting joinery before you get into a project?

Does the thought of cutting a dovetail stress you out?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join the conversation and leave me a comment below.