Furniture Know How, In Depth Looks

The Dovetail Joint

When it comes to woodworking, there are many different methods used to construct furniture. But there is one particular technique that has been around since the time of the ancient Egyptians. This timeless method has survived for so long because of its tried and true ability to deliver time and time again.  We are of course talking about the dovetail joint.

If you are new to the furniture industry or woodworking in general, here is a brief explainer. A dovetail joint is a joinery technique that uses a series of pins cut to extend from the end of one board to interlock with a series of tails cut into the end of another board. An easy way to think of a dovetail joint is to imagine a puzzle. The pins and ends cut into the wood boards are like puzzle pieces that interlock together to form one piece.

Dovetail joints are primarily used to join the sides of a drawer to the front, to make a complete box. The pins and ends are then puzzled together and glued. Once the glue is added, the joint becomes virtually impossible to separate.

Why you might ask? Well, the shape of the pins and the ends create more surface area for the glue to cover. The larger the surface area, the stronger the hold – the stronger the hold, the longer the joint will be effective. This is the key to the dovetail’s longevity.  It’s a simple process but it works.

You know the expression, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it? That’s the dovetail joint’s motto. This joint has been found on furniture unearthed in the tombs of the ancient pharaohs and great leaders of ancient China. So clearly, it works pretty darn well if it’s still the most used technique in woodworking.

There are several different types of dovetail joints. The most common is the through dovetail. With this type, the end grain of both boards are visible when it is assembled.

Some people aren’t a fan of seeing the end grain so they use the half blind dovetail. A half blind hides the end grain by fitting the tails into mortises in the ends of the front board.

Of course there are other variations of this joint like the full blind, secret double lapped, and sliding dovetail but here at The Furniture Guild, we mostly use the through dovetail.

Why do we like it so much? Well other than the fact that it works the best, we like the look of it. A long, long time ago people were not so much a fan of the very obvious pattern a dovetail joint creates so they would cover it up with paint or stains so that it wouldn’t be seen. Now a days, a dovetail joint has become a signature for many craftsmen and a desired feature.

Dovetail joints are very difficult to make and take extreme skill to manufacture but they are incredibly strong and an imperative part of our design.

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