Handcut "Radial" Dovetail Experiment

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Blog entry by Woodhacker posted 07-27-2008 03:40 AM 11983 reads 4 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ll call this a radial dovetail (for lack of better name). This is a practice handcut joint for a future keepsake box. It’s curly maple and Caribbean rosewood.

My initial thought was to have all the sides of the dovetails in the maple point to one common perspective. However, during layout I quickly found out some of the angles would be far too severe, putting the integrity of the joinery at risk. Thus I used two perspective points for this joint.

Note there are four tails in the maple. The uniqueness of this joinery is that the angles of the maple tails are not set at a uniform and traditional 1:8 hardwood tail ratio. Rather the angles of the sides of the dovetails are determined and aligned to perspective points refered to above. If you bisect the piece of maple in the direction of the grain (horizontally in the picture directly below), I used a perspective point 3 ½” from the corner edge and 3/8” away from the center line of the maple. Thus in theory each set of tails on either side of the midpoint in the maple should mirror each other. However, because they are handcut they are not precisely mirror images.

I’m going to play around with this some more before using it in a box, because by moving the perspective points I’m using, I think it might be possible to have the two rosewood pins on either side of the center pin to be similar in shape as the maple tails. In other words these two pins would be wider at the edge than their width at the base of the tails. This is the reverse of normal pins. I slightly achieved that (which can be seen in the pictures above) in the pin just below the center pin. But the one just above the center pin looks more like a box joint…rectangular in appearance.

I rounded the sides on this piece to help accentuate the radial characteristics of the tails. I plan to use this in the actual box construction too, and also plan to add some type of inlay in the sides to further draw attention to the radial shape formed by the dovetails.

I was fairly pleased with how this turned out, but it was much more difficult than the deceptively simple appearance of the final result because the angle of each side of each tail is different than the next. I won’t be able to start on this box right away but I’m already anxious to see how it will turn out.

-- Martin, Kansas

11 comments so far

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4050 posts in 4548 days

#1 posted 07-27-2008 03:58 AM

This certainly whets the appetite for the finished box. Looks wonderful.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View Chris 's profile


1880 posts in 4475 days

#2 posted 07-27-2008 04:39 AM

Outstanding work and documentation there Martin. Very Nice!

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4299 days

#3 posted 07-27-2008 05:04 AM

That is a very impressive joint. Can’t wait to see the box!

-- Scott - Chico California

View Karson's profile


35198 posts in 4884 days

#4 posted 07-27-2008 05:31 AM

Nice looking joint and a masterful bit of engineering.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View steveosshop's profile


230 posts in 4110 days

#5 posted 07-27-2008 05:55 AM

Looks good. Very complex design, but the visual payoff is amazing.

-- Steve-o

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 4200 days

#6 posted 07-27-2008 07:10 AM

That is a very impressive joint.

-- jeanmarc manosque france

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4366 days

#7 posted 07-27-2008 12:54 PM

Very nice looking joint. The photos are excellant also. I relish your skills.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 4561 days

#8 posted 07-27-2008 01:10 PM

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4251 days

#9 posted 07-27-2008 03:00 PM

Great stuff Martin. Thank you for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 4359 days

#10 posted 07-27-2008 03:19 PM


Another GREAT-looking set of dovetails! The box will be outstanding, judging from this example.

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4306 days

#11 posted 07-27-2008 04:04 PM

That is a unique joint that you have cut. I will enjoy seeing the box that you build with this type of joint.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

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