A dovetail joint is a woodworking joinery technique.
A series of pins cut to extend from the end of one board interlock
with a series of tails cut into the end of another board. These pins and tails have a triangular shape.
When glued, the joint is permanent, requiring no mechanical fasteners.
Dovetail joints can be cut by hand or by machine, often with an electric router, using one of a range
of available jigs or templates. Although it is technically a straight forward process,
hand cutting dovetails requires a high degree of accuracy to ensure a snug fit and can be difficult
to master. The pins and tails must fit together with no gap between them so that the joint interlocks
tightly without movement. Thus the cutting of dovetails by hand is regarded as a mark of skill on the
part of the craftsperson.
The angle of slope varies according to the type of wood used. Typically the slope is 1:6 for softwoods and
1:8 slope for hardwoods. Often a slope of 1:7 is used as a compromise.
When cut by hand, there are two schools of thought as to whether the pins or the tails should
be cut first. For tails first, the tails are marked out and cut and then
the outline is transferred to the end grain of the pin board.
For pins first, the pins are marked out and cut,
then the outline of the pins is transferred to the face of the tail board.
Hand cut dovetails can often be distinguished from machine cut dovetails by the width of the pins.
It is possible to have pins that are almost triangular when cut by hand that are not possible when
cut with a router.
Use this dovetail template designer to get a visual idea of possible combinations of tail and pin layouts.
Print templates, fold over end of wood and either mark or cut through the paper to form tails and pins
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