Dovetail Joint Instructions

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    • 1). Adjust the marking gauge to be slightly less than the thickness of the boards that are to be joined. Mark a line with the gauge across the face and sides of the boards. As an example, if the boards are ½ inch thick, the lines will be a slightly shy of ½ inch from the end of the board.

    • 2). Set up the sliding bevel to mark the angles for the pins and tails. An angle ratio between 1:5 and 1:8 will provide the best results. To set a 1:5 angle, use the straight edge of piece of scrap wood and measure over 1 inch from the edge and 5 inches down. Draw a line between those points to connect the triangle and use that line to set the bevel.

    • 3). Using the marking tool, lay out the tail lines with the bevel. The dovetail joint gets its name from this part of the joint as the upside-down triangular shape of the tails is reminiscent of a bird's tail. The width of the pins and tails is up to the woodworker so the desired appearance should be considered before marking any lines. When the tail angles have been marked on both faces of the board, use the square to connect the lines across the end grain.

    • 4). Cut the tails with the dovetail saw. It is important to make the cut parallel to the floor so both sides of the tail will end at the depth line marked earlier.

    • 5). Use a chisel or coping saw to remove the waste material between the cuts. Most craftsmen prefer to start from the depth line and remove material toward the end of the board to reduce the risk of chipping the material past the joint.

    • 6). When the tails have been cut and cleaned up, these boards are used as a template to mark the pins. By doing this, any slight imperfections that were cut in the tails can be transferred to the pins for a perfect fit. Lay the cut end of the board over the end grain of the pin board and transfer the cut angles with the marking tool.

    • 7). Make the pin cuts with the dovetail saw, again making sure that the saw only cuts down to the depth lines. Using a chisel or the coping saw, remove the waste between the pins and clean up the sides of the pins.

    • 8). Test the fit of the joint by matching the tail board to the pins and firmly pushing the joint together. Use a sharp chisel to slowly trim the components until the joint fits snugly together. The joint should go together with hand pressure; if you have to use a mallet the joint is cut too tight. When the boards are finally assembled with glue, it will swell the fibers and tighten up the joint.

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