Simple Box - First Time Half-blind Dovetails

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Project by CanadaJeff posted 05-23-2009 04:47 AM 3226 views 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Just playing around with my new dovetail jig. Grabbed some cheap pine and decided to give it a shot. Not bad for a first try I think, however, the pine did tend to tear out. I’m guessing its the wood and not the techniques. A few more test boxes and off to making some drawers!

I stained two sides of the box a dark walnut colour to make the joint more obvious. I love the look of dovetails!

16 comments so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5716 days

#1 posted 05-23-2009 05:09 AM

Those look pretty good to me. With a jig, it’s all about the setup. Once you get everything set right, it’s a snap.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4839 days

#2 posted 05-23-2009 05:21 AM

just keep moving forward , everything gets worked out after all the trials !
looks real good .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View AaronK's profile


1512 posts in 4962 days

#3 posted 05-23-2009 05:45 AM

what jig did you get – have you reviewed it here?

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 5088 days

#4 posted 05-23-2009 06:37 AM

Looks great!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 4928 days

#5 posted 05-23-2009 07:58 AM

Nice joints. Great little box.

Keep it up. Only better things in your future.


-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View degoose's profile


7287 posts in 4852 days

#6 posted 05-23-2009 09:47 AM

A good start.. keep it up.

-- Be safe.

View Julian's profile


884 posts in 5023 days

#7 posted 05-23-2009 05:18 PM

To remedy the tearout problem, all you need to do is to make a light pass along the entire edge of the board before routing into the tails. This will eliminate almost all tearout while routing.

-- Julian, Homewood, IL

View CanadaJeff's profile


207 posts in 5107 days

#8 posted 05-23-2009 07:00 PM

Yah I did the light pass and still got tear out. I really do think it is the fact I used pine. I will try it on a harder wood and see what happens.

View CreekWoodworker's profile


409 posts in 4796 days

#9 posted 05-23-2009 11:48 PM

I agree, I love the look of dovetails also.

-- Mike ...Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction

View Griffindork's profile


44 posts in 4807 days

#10 posted 05-27-2009 03:51 AM

Very nice, just did a set of handcut test drawers myself, practice makes perfect.

View a1Jim's profile


118334 posts in 5075 days

#11 posted 05-27-2009 04:01 AM

Looks good nice. The tear out problem can be dealt will in a number of ways depending on the type of jig.
you can do a light climb cur before you cut in the correct direction,you can make your stock thicker than you need it so you can plane or sand of the tear out, you can place sacrafical boards on top the wood to be dove tailed.


View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 4933 days

#12 posted 07-29-2009 08:48 PM

Read your post that you want Honest feedback eh?

Looks great, but I will say that how I learned half blind dovetails they are usually cut so that they are 2/3 of the thickness of the joined wood, not 1/2. They may pass and everything, but to my eyes look stuby!

No hard feelings you asked for it! ;-)

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5146 days

#13 posted 07-29-2009 09:02 PM

I’ll second Nicholas in terms of height of tails at 2/3 of the thickness of material. other than that – it looks great. I like the stained pine!

one more think that you can try in regards to the tearout (even though it’s pine – it’s a good technique to master) in addition to the light passes, is to come back to the cut from the otherside where you usually get the tearouts (climbcut) just go clean off that corner, then do the rest of the cut as normal from the “proper” side. this is similar to chamfering edges before you hand plane the surface to avoid tearouts on the edges/ends

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View CanadaJeff's profile


207 posts in 5107 days

#14 posted 07-29-2009 09:18 PM

Nicholas, and Purplev,
Thanks for the feed back, I did ask for it and your comments are very useful. I am going to attempt a dresser in the future and will be using dovetails for the drawers. I wasn’t aware of the 2/3 guideline, I thought the dovetails looked stubby too, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until you pointed it out.


View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 4933 days

#15 posted 08-11-2009 03:51 PM

Classic style dovetails Because you asked for them and I can not figure out how to email pics to your email, I just posted it here, then anyone who is curious can read it.

I hope this clears up any questions, sorry it took so long…. let me know if there is any thing else.

Step 1: figure out number of parts

this is a general way of calculating approx the number of parts
needed, but is just a guide. I usually take a number a little less
than what the formula comes out with, and with time you can guess
with the eye and gut feeling.

Number of parts is wood width to be joined divided by
1/2 the thickness of the wood, + 1 part.

Or take a multiple of 3 (3 represents 1 part pin and 2 parts tail) and add

This will result in the tail part being double so wide in the middle as the pin part
and this is considered the classic style and often the most pleasing to the eye.

For example: if we wanted to join 2 pieces of wood 150 mm
wide and 20 mm thick


Step 2. Once you have figured out how many parts you want to have. This is something you have to decide for your self, there are no rights or wrongs, the formula for the Classical look is simply a guide, if you look at antiques or any furniture built for purpose and not just looks, you will often see a much more “economic” or spartan “division” of the parts. For example on the 150 mm example above, maybe would only be made with 10 part or less… back when a piece was made by hand (without power tools) and perhaps just needed to function or hold together, and be cut quicker. This is especially the case with “farmer” or rustical (country) furniture (or just made cheaper) from years ago, before glues and adheasives were available that were as good as ours.


Step 3. lay our your pins, with whatever method you like, I usually take my rule and divide the board that way, for example if you need 16 pieces, but your drawer side is only 150mm you can take 16 X 2 = 32, and take your rule put one edge in the middle of the pins board (usually marked with marking gauge) then go diagonally across the board until the other edge hits 32 and take every 2nd centimeter and you have then divided your board exaclty by 16. (the picture dipicts both boards, one clamped to the edge of the workbench up and down and the other laying on the workbench. I find this the easiest)

Step 4. after marking diagonaly,then you just carry the points parrallel (with a square) to the endgrain of the pins piece and you have the 16 pieces then, using a dovetail gauge or an adjustable angle/square (the angle of dovetails in softwood is anywhere 1:5 to 1:7 but usually 1:6 and for hardwoods 1:7 till 1:8, depending on how hard the material is), mark out the pins and cut them. I think you get the idea. you have cut pins and tails before so this is just a guide.

The 2/3 rule for the half blind guys is the same thing, you can either use the shortcut of laying out the pins with the method here above, and when cutting the tails, just not cut all the way through (most do not really notice the difference, or you can use 2/3 the wood thickness and calculate it out that way, to make it all the way, correct. I personally use the shortcut, and I do not think the difference is that big especially since most of the time, this kind of joint is used in a drawer and usually these are in the closed position, so the only time you see it, is when you are getting out a fresh pair of socks in the morning, from the sock drawer, maybe. ;-)

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

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