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Dovetails

For more box images please go to bespoke handmade boxes

As the dovetail joint is such an integral part of my boxes here is a more detailed look at how I create this joint.

This is the start of a mahogany jewellery box.

Click on the images to enlarge

jewellery box dovetails
I set the dovetails out on paper first. This is where I make adjustments until I like the layout. A general rule is to have smaller dovetails towards the outer edges where there is likely to be more wood movement.
I use a tite-mark marking gauge to mark out the depth of the dovetails. I set the gauge up to be 0.5mm wider then the work pieces using 2 steel rules.When the box is glued the pins and tails protrude 0.5mm. This is planed away level with the box sides.
jewellery box dovetails
jewellery box dovetails
The marking gauge in action. I lightly score the fibres on the outer faces until I know the exact position of the pins and tails. Deep score marks in the wrong place are extremely problematic.
I cut the tails first. Here I have marked out where the tails are positioned on the end of the board.
jewellery box dovetails
jewellery box dovetails
I use a simple block of wood cut on an angle as a guide for the tail saw cuts. It is critical that these cuts are perpendicular to the face of the wood, although the block does not guarantee this, it is a helpful guide.
The block is cut on a one in eight ratio. For thinner stock such as tray parts I use a block with a one in six ratio.
jewellery box dovetails
jewellery box dovetails
All the tails are cut waiting for the waste to be removed.
Here the waste has been removed just shy of the marking gauge line.
jewellery box dovetails
jewellery box dovetails

Normally I angle the chisel cut slightly in towards the middle of the wood (known as undercutting) to make sure the dovetails seat properly.

As this box is going to be glued up complete and the lid cut off afterwards, the walls of the joint where I make the saw cut to remove the lid have to be perfectly square to the face. I use a block as a guide to insure this.

Here I am cleaning out any waste from the corners where the pins will go. I have a very thin homemade chisel which enables me to do this.
jewellery box dovetails
jewellery box dovetails
Paring away the waste on the shoulders. It is critical that I don't undercut here or there will be an obvious gap when the box is glued up.
This is what the tails should look like after removing all the waste material.
jewellery box dovetails
jewellery box dovetails
The next step is to mark out where the pins go in relation to the tails. I set the corresponding pieces at right angles to each other and cramp them down firmly. I then use a scalpel to scribe around the tails. I have to make sure the blade is kept tightly up against the tail walls, but I must make sure not to cut into the tails.
Once the pins are marked out on the end of the board I use a homemade square with a one in eight angle to mark the faces of the pin board down to the scribing line I made at the start of the process.
jewellery box dovetails
jewellery box dovetails
Here the waste has been removed just shy of the scalpel blade marks and scribing line.
This image shows the lines left by the scalpel blade.
jewellery box dovetails
jewellery box dovetails
I use a very sharp chisel to remove the waste up to the scalpel lines. If I don't remove all the waste here the joint will be too tight and the wood could split when the joint is tapped together.
Here is the moment of truth. If I have gone through all the previous processes diligently then the joint should tap together nicely.
jewellery box dovetails
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Testimonials
Home
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Commissioning
Construction
Personal boxes
Gallery
Dovetails
Workshop news
The work bench
Jewellery trays
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Veneering
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Wood
To make a box (1)
To make a box (2)
To make a box (3)
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