Handcut Double Dovetail Experiment

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Project by Woodhacker posted 07-29-2008 06:34 AM 8647 views 20 times favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This box was an experiment with double (or inlay) dovetails.

The woods used in this box are:
Front/Back – Honduras rosewood
Sides – Caribbean rosewood (this wood has incredible change in color…light-to-dark…with even the sliightest change in viewing angle, as it’s turned in your hand, the constant color change reminds me of waves on the ocean)
Top – cebil
Base – hickory
Inlay & Top Centerpiece – birdseye maple.
Feet – cocobolo

The dovetails in this box were all cut by hand. If you’d like, you can see the steps for this process at this blog which I posted several weeks back. To summarize this process, there are two unique aspects of this joinery, (1) cutting a rabbet at the inside of each end of the four sides of the box, and (2) cutting dovetails within dovetails after making the box once, cutting it apart, then doing it all over again.

The top was cut apart in three pieces such that adding two strips of maple would align with the maple inlay dovetail at each corner. This somewhat gives the appearance that the inlay dovetail maple extends across the top and down the opposing corner.

The lid has two sets of bevels on top (including the maple centerpiece) and two sets of “coffer” underneath. The coffer was for aesthetics but also to reduce the weight of the lid. This box is very heavy for its size. I bordered the initial coffer in maple to set it off.

The dimensions are 10” by 7.5”. The hinge is a piano style 95 degree stop hinge.

The lid handle is attached with a small 1/8” by 1 ½” mortise/tenon joint. The handle’s ends are trimmed at the same 1:8 ratio angle as used in the dovetails.

The finish is an initial oil coat, followed by 11 coats of satin wipe-on poly/oil blend. Sanded to 1500 grit, and hand rubbed out with Briwax.

This was a lot of fun to make and I plan to make a few other variations in the future using this joinery. The maple “inlay” dovetail is 1/8” wide in this box, as is the 45 degree bevel on most of the outside edges. Aesthetically, I think the inlay dovetail looks a little thick, but with more practice, I plan to narrow this down to 3/32”, perhaps 1/16”…we’ll see.

-- Martin, Kansas

34 comments so far

View PineMan's profile


71 posts in 4757 days

#1 posted 07-29-2008 06:43 AM

That is a great looking box. I love the dovetails.

-- I never started a project I couldn't screw up.

View Benomatic's profile


13 posts in 4770 days

#2 posted 07-29-2008 06:44 AM

A single set of dovetails is hard enough – and you have two in one! Both better than anything I could make – great blog w/ steps: Thanks Really nice box!

-- Erica - I'll be out in the Man Cave - Bring me some meatloaf!

View Davesfunwoodworking's profile


278 posts in 5038 days

#3 posted 07-29-2008 06:53 AM

The dovetails are great looking. I think I will have to try them. I do single dovetails but never gave 2 a thought. But that just looks cool. Great job.

-- Davesfunwoodworking

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 4880 days

#4 posted 07-29-2008 07:11 AM

That is a great looking box.

-- jeanmarc manosque france

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5227 days

#5 posted 07-29-2008 07:39 AM

I will leave this incredible feat to you. I’ve never even tried single handcuts before. This late in the dance, I’ll stick to my Incra jig. I still have double-doubles and eagle posts to perfect with it.

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

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 4969 days

#6 posted 07-29-2008 09:58 AM

Saw the blog when you posted it. These photographs really show off the beautiful wood that you used. Fantastic box.

View Colin's profile


246 posts in 5084 days

#7 posted 07-29-2008 11:22 AM

Very clever, really nice job, well done to you.

-- Colin, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. "Every craftsman was once an amateur"

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4930 days

#8 posted 07-29-2008 12:36 PM

Great job Martin. Your would selection is spectacular. I really like your design and execution. Thank you for sharing.

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

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5463 days

#9 posted 07-29-2008 12:41 PM

A beautiful, & intricate creation.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Çggghgyt's profile


306 posts in 4794 days

#10 posted 07-29-2008 01:52 PM

Nice box. I don’t think I have ever seen inlayed dovetails before. I’m too scared to even try regular dovetails at this point. Congratulations on such outstanding craftsmanship.

View spike's profile


66 posts in 5093 days

#11 posted 07-29-2008 02:12 PM

awesome and gorgeous.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5382 days

#12 posted 07-29-2008 03:42 PM

Fantastic craftsmanship! Thanks for the details on the how-to.

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

View Bigbuck's profile


1347 posts in 4827 days

#13 posted 07-29-2008 04:17 PM

Wow, very nice

-- Glenn, New Mexico

View Dominic Vanacora's profile

Dominic Vanacora

508 posts in 5033 days

#14 posted 07-29-2008 04:55 PM

I’m at a lost for words. WoW, you didn’t hold back on this one. The dovetails are hard enought but you went even belond that. Its not just the crafmenship but the creativeity you have to come up with an orginial design. It doesn’t get any better than this.

-- Dominic, Trinity, Florida...Lets be safe out there.

View TedM's profile


2002 posts in 4896 days

#15 posted 07-29-2008 05:56 PM

Methinks the experiment was a success!

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit and sign up for my project updates!

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