Roll Around Tool Cabinet #13: Dovetails Cut on Table Saw is Possible but Time Consuming

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Blog entry by HappyHowie posted 02-13-2017 05:13 AM 1744 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: Sixteen Hinge Mortises Routed Part 13 of Roll Around Tool Cabinet series Part 14: Cut Dovetails with My Leigh D4R JIG »

I have spent several hours attempting to cut dovetails on my table saw. I have been using spare milled lumber milled to the same dimensions of my 3 inch tall drawer parts. Cutting the side board dovetails was straight forward. The process was okay. I tilted my saw blade to 8 degrees based on my Wixey digital angle gauge. This angle will be used to cut the dovetails in the side boards. Eight degrees will also be used to angle the fence that will be used to cut the pins in the front and back drawer parts.

Cutting the pins in the front and back parts was a more complicated process for me. The first major issue I discovered was that even though I had not lower or changed the height the attempt to clean out the waste between the kerf edges did not clean out well. I had to use my hand chisels. After working on this it still requires more work. I will work on perfecting this joint more tomorrow. However, I am thinking that the use of a table saw to cut dovetails so the narrow pins can look like their were hand cut will not be a good use of my time.

I own a Leigh D4R dovetail jig. I have used it often. At this stage of this project, I am inclined to abandon the table saw and pick up my router to cut dovetails for these seven drawers. I will sleep on this tonight and confront my issues on this subject tomorrow.

-- --- Happy Howie

2 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


6032 posts in 3413 days

#1 posted 02-13-2017 04:08 PM

I tried that technique as well, based on an article in Fine Woodworking. I quickly abandoned the idea, because it took far too long, and didn’t feel safe. You are also cutting to a pencil line for each part, so no more accurate than hand cut dovetails. Well, I suppose you are more likely to get plumb cut pins, but no real control of the pin width.

I have a P.C. 4210, Leigh Superjig, and an Akeda. I use the Akeda.
It makes dovetails that look just like your photo, but they are fun and easy to make.
Rout one, or rout a hundred… it doesn’t matter, they all come out great.

Thanks for posting.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View HappyHowie's profile


473 posts in 2545 days

#2 posted 02-13-2017 06:59 PM

Although I work in a one-man shop, I do not feel like I am completely alone when I can get great feedback to mu blog posts, like the one above.

So I am not the only one experiencing an extreme learning curve using the table saw jigs to cut dovetails and pins. Hey, for me the dovetail cutting went easy. Cutting the pins though was a different matter. I am not sure what went wrong. More and more practice would reveal what I did, but I am going to reserve that practice time for a later date.

It is puzzling to me why the blade dropped a fraction of an inch after cutting the first saw kerfs on each side of the pin locations. Not being able to clean the waste out with the table saw blade added a lot of time to this machine method. Of course, after noticing the drop I could have adjusted the blade height, but at the time I figured I would proceed with removing the waste with my hand chisels. That is the method I would use if cutting the dovetails by hand. Well, that is exactly the experience I got: “the feeling and extended time of cutting dovetails by hand”. There is nothing wrong with doing dovetails by hand. It is just that I was hoping to find a machine process that looked like hand cut dovetails, but without all the time it requires to cut them by hand.

Narrow pins and wide tails is the “hand cut” look for dovetails. They look great, but probably only appreciated by other woodworkers. The strength of a dovetail joint is in the natural forces of the joint holding together by opposing forces by the mating angles of the joint. The strength of the joint does not care or matter if it was made by machine or by hand as long as the joint fits well together.

I have my L-fence JIGs made. I will experience or practice more using this method, but for now I am going back to my tried and true and faster process using my Leigh D4R dovetail jig and router bits. I can knock-out seven drawers in an afternoon. That is what I will do here with this tool cabinet build. Frankly, this project is not breaking any speed records; nor was I trying to set any record. I am just trying to perfect my wooworking techniques and learn some new processes. Time, though, is becoming a factor. I am getting more pressure to start that dining table my Annie has asked for and expecting for the past two years.

Before I start the dining table I not only want this tool cabinet completed, but I was hoping to organize my floor drill press station with a roll around base for it.

Let’s go…

-- --- Happy Howie

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