A dovetail photo diary

I’ve written about how I cut dovertails previously in some detail, and to be honest my method has not changed in the nearly-three years since I took the Anarchist’s Tool Chest class with Chris. I’m dovetailing the Policeman’s Boot Bench at the moment, so rather than recount a detailed step-by step of how I dovetail (because the internet definitely need another how-to-dovetail blog post) here’s a photo diary of the first corner for the boot bench.


Laying out the tails with dividers. On the boot bench I started with equally spaced tails and then tweaked the outermost tail at each end for a bit of visual interest and to accomodate the haunch for the rebate on the backboards.


Marking out the tails. I like a strong 1:4 slope for my tails, and the Sterling Tool Works Saddle Tail is the Rolls Royce of dovetail makers.




That’s all the cuts for the tail board done


The cleaned up tail board, with haunch at the left-hand end for the backboard rebate.


Laying out the pin board from the tails. A heavy plane or weight on the tail board stops things shifting around during this critical step.


Cutting the pins. I cut one side of each pin, then work my way back across the board for the other side. This helps maintain the correct body position for the angled cuts.


Hogging out the waste with the Knew Concepts coping saw


The coping saw has removed most of the waste. Now to chop and pare.


Chopping the pins. Work back to the baseline on the face of the work, only going halfway through the thickness of the board, then flip the board over and remove the rest of the waste from the back.


Keep on choppin’. I tend to use me 1/2″ chisel for most of this work.


With the waste chopped out, I carefully pare any remaining stray fibers using a 3/4″ chisel. I aim for a flat baseline, with just the hint of undercutting in the centre of the socket.


This skew chisel by Blue Spruce Tool Works is a luxury purchase, but very handy for cleaning up the base of pins and tails. The skewed cutting angle gives a slicing action to difficult fibres while the long edge registers against the side of the tail.


Checking for a flat and true baseline with the Sterling Tool Works Double Square


Moment of truth – test fitting the joint with help from a 24oz mallet to knock things together. Normally I wouldn’t fully test fit a joint, but oak can be a cruel mistress with crumbling tails or sudden splitting, so I wanted to be sure this time around.


2 thoughts on “A dovetail photo diary

  1. Pingback: Sterling Saddle-Tail® Dovetail Marker and Dovetail Square | Sterling Tool Works – Fine Tools That Inspire!

  2. Pingback: Back to the Book Bench… Part 2 | Over the Wireless

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