Building a Credenza #3: Hand Cutting Dovetails

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Blog entry by Blake posted 05-13-2010 05:44 PM 10427 reads 2 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Milling the Main Parts Part 3 of Building a Credenza series Part 4: Completed Dovetail Joinery »

I am hand-cutting the dovetails for the case joinery. Its the first time I’ve ever really done this. I’ve been playing around with dovetails a little lately for practice but haven’t used them for a project.


First I had to figure out how I wanted to lay them out. This took quite a bit of time actually. I started by looking at the two pieces to be joined.


I have a little dovetail sample that I use for a reference so I don’t get confused as to how the tails and pins go, how many marks I need, etc. The dovetail sample was one of the practice pieces that I cut off.


This is what the process looked like for figuring out the dovetail pattern. Basically trial and error with sharpie on masking tape until I liked the spacing. The spacing you see here changed before I settled on one I liked.


Marking the depth:


I love my Japanese marking gauge. In fact, I love the tools I work with as much as I love doing the work.


Cutting the Tails

I am using a Veritas Dovetail Saw Guide with my Japanese rip saw to cut the dovetails and man is that a sweet combination. Veritas claims that there saw guide ”lets amateurs achieve professional results” and I can tell you its true. It just arrived in the mail a few days ago so this is the first time I’m using it.

I know if I practiced enough times I would eventually split my pencil line every time without the guide. But this is just a jig that holds the saw and I can get perfect results in a joint as critical as this one right in the top corners of my case. So call me a cheater if you want, but I am still hand-cutting the dovetails. No power tools, just the “zip zip” of my saw and John Coltrain in the background.


Here you can get an idea of the spacing I finally decided on. There are three sizes of tails, the widest in the middle, two mid-size on either side of that one and three small tails on the ends:




Sorry, thats all I had time for in the shop and this weekend I’m going camping in Big Sur so you’ll have to wait till next week to see the finished dovetails.

Total building time so far: 14 hours

-- Happy woodworking!

7 comments so far

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 4315 days

#1 posted 05-13-2010 08:24 PM

Sweet Blake. Like the dt layout you ended up with. Have fun camping.

View degoose's profile


7257 posts in 3863 days

#2 posted 05-13-2010 09:47 PM

Very well executed and explained..Look forward to the next instalment.

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3794 days

#3 posted 05-13-2010 10:12 PM

Looking good Blake



View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4181 days

#4 posted 05-15-2010 04:01 AM

Looking good, Blake.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3623 days

#5 posted 05-16-2010 06:00 PM

looking good sofare
thankĀ“s for the tip with maskingtape
remember to relax even on a campingtrip out of the shop


View a1Jim's profile


117722 posts in 4085 days

#6 posted 05-17-2010 02:47 AM

A interesting start on the dovetails

View rbterhune's profile


176 posts in 3729 days

#7 posted 02-04-2011 04:35 AM

I know it’s been awhile since the original thread was posted but i had to make a comment…John Coltrain…now that is serious shop music! The best.

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