Tablesaw Dovetail Sled

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Project by TheWoodenOyster posted 10-28-2014 03:29 PM 8184 views 17 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hey everyone,

So I have been feeling guilty ever since I began woodworking because I never use dovetails. Honestly, most of the world could care less about a dovetail, but we woodworkers have some sort of magnetism towards them. The first thing I do when I inspect a piece of furniture is see if the drawers are dovetailed. Anyway, I decided that I want to make a project or two with some dovetails, so I elected to cheat my way through and build a sled. I figured the repeatability of using a sled is hard to beat, and even if I eventually learn to cut them by hand, I’ll still use this thing quite a bit.

The sled starts as a basic bare sled with one miter bar made of some hdpe I ripped to the correct width. The rail needs to be nice and tight because only having one rail engaged makes the sled much more susceptible to racking and twisting. Next, I picked my angle and cut a 1 1/2” thick piece of mdf (three laminated layers) at the dovetail angle of 1:8, whatever that angle is. You can see this process in picture 3. I used my do it all sled and it worked great. I used one side of the cut to make the base for the tail cutting side and used the other half of the cut to set the fence angle on the pin cutting side. This pretty much ensured an angle match without having to use any measurement devices other than squaring to the blade. Pictures 1 and 2 best explain that.

Because I don’t have a specially ground blade for the sled, I still have to chop and pare out some waste to get a good fit. I have cut two joints that you can see in the last two pictures. I think the second would look great if it weren’t from a unjointed scrap that probably wasn’t square. Still looks decent and the joint pushes together perfectly. I like how the tablesaw sled gives you more freedom on dovetail size and spacing than a router jig. It allows for a more hand-cut and unique look.

Cutting dovetails with the sled is about half machine work and half hand work, which is a good starting place for me. I can learn to do layout and pare and chisel out waste with this technique without having to worry about how straight my saw kerfs are. Somewhere down the road, I’ll probably learn or be forced to learn to cut a full blown hand-cut dovetail, but this is a good stepping stone until then.

A few lessons learned:
1. I plan to use mdf for all of my sleds from now on. I have had bad luck with even high quality plywood not making an effectively flat sled base.
2. It is very important to center the miter rail dead nuts between the saw kerfs. This ensures the same depth of cut at the two mirrored angles when cutting your tails

Thanks to BricoFleur (sp?) for his dovetail sled design and blog. I used it as a reference, but did some things differently.

Comments and questions welcome!

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

8 comments so far

View DocSavage45's profile


9008 posts in 3650 days

#1 posted 10-28-2014 06:13 PM

I’m sure Serge will appreciate your use of his design.

Not too bad for plywood joints! I’d have to figure out where to store the jigs. LOL! Do you have stable humidity in your shop? how many ply in your plywood? My half inch construction grade plywood is pretty unstable but furniture grade seems to withstand changes to prevent warping?

Have you ever watched “Andyboy” cut dovetails.

Happy dovetailing!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Notw's profile


779 posts in 2561 days

#2 posted 10-28-2014 07:35 PM

I have read the blog and was very interested in making a jig like this, glad to see someone else replicate it with great results.

View DavidFisher's profile


83 posts in 4505 days

#3 posted 10-28-2014 09:30 PM

I really like that setup. I’ve been looking at dovetail jigs for years, but just couldn’t bring myself to drop the money on one. This looks like a good alternative. Thanks to you and the original designer.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6956 posts in 4002 days

#4 posted 10-29-2014 12:33 AM

Stellar job on the sled…..I’ve never cut a dovetail yet, and I have a dovetail jig I got from MLCS about 6 years ago….still in the box…..Box joints are my thing…...I’m sure you’ll get plenty of use out of the jig….I’m all about making jigs and fixtures…...

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1335 posts in 2743 days

#5 posted 10-29-2014 11:34 AM

Doc- I wouldn’t say I have stable humidity in my shop. It’s an unconditioned space, but that isn’t that big of a deal in North Texas. The warp in the base isn’t too bad, but I’d like to avoid it in the future

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Bricofleur's profile


1479 posts in 4001 days

#6 posted 10-29-2014 02:03 PM

Great job on building yours ! I like the fact you improved it, particularly by centering the rail between the saw kerfs. I still prefer my high fences though for good support. I’m sure the next generation made by another LJ will be even better since each one adds his own ideas. And you’re right, MDF is the way to go for jigs and fixtures. One more thing, I finally found a flat tooth rip blade in my arsenal and it reduces final chisel work.



-- Learn from yesterday, work today and enjoy success tomorrow. --

View geekwoodworker's profile


378 posts in 2268 days

#7 posted 10-30-2014 03:29 PM

Nice jig. I built one a while back and it works great. I am more of a box joint person but prefer to have this jig on hand should I ever need the dovetail joint.

View majwoodworks's profile


3 posts in 2915 days

#8 posted 10-31-2014 04:04 AM

Great jig. I have an idea for mitre bars. You could drill for t-nuts flush mounted on the bottom of the sled. Since it would be temporary for each side it only needs to be a few inches in length. Hope the idea helps.

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