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The Basics of Dovetail Drawer Making

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Cutting the Tails & Pins
Cutting the Dovetails

Cutting the Dovetails

(c) 2007 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
Once the sides of the drawer are cut to the appropriate lengths, we'll turn our attention to cutting the dovetails. While traditional dovetails are cut by hand with a dovetailing saw and chisel, we're going to use a dovetail jig and a router.

TIP: Be sure to follow the step-by-step instructions that accompany your dovetail jig for perfectly fitting dovetails, as each dovetail jig has a different set of steps for cutting the tails and pins.

When cutting dovetails, for best results, always cut the tails first. It is much easier to take a bit more off of the pins than to adjust the tails. Set up your dovetail jig for cutting tails, and place the end of one of the two side pieces into the jig. Center the jig appropriately and cut the tails (again following the instructions that accompany your dovetail jig).

After the first tail has been cut, turn the stock 180-degrees and place the opposite side into the jig. Be certain that the side of the board that was facing you when you cut the first set of tails is the same side of the board that faces you now. (While this isn't critical when cutting the tails, it is vitally important when cutting the pins, so it is advisable to get into the habit early.)

Once you've finished cutting the tails on both ends of one side piece, complete the opposite side piece in the same manner.

Next, change your dovetail jig to a pin configuration. You'll also likely need to change the bit to a straight-cutting bit. Align the back piece of the drawer box into the jig at the appropriate location and cut the pins.

Remove the piece from the jig and test the fit with one of the tail boards. If you are satisfied with the fit, rotate the stock 180-degrees, and cut the opposite pins.

Cut the pins into the fourth side of the box in the same manner.
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