stuck dry-fit dovetails

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Forum topic by damnHippie posted 03-06-2008 07:19 AM 2322 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View damnHippie's profile


35 posts in 4406 days

03-06-2008 07:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question joining dovetail

So I’m stuck. Actually, my dovetails are stuck. I tried a “dry fit” after a little paring, and used a dead blow to get the pieces together. Now, I can’t seem to get them apart. Any recommendations?

I don’t want to splinter the wood. You can see here one of the pins is beginning to complain from my manual attempts to pull the pieces apart…

stuck dry-fit

-- 10 fingers, 2 eyes, and healthy lungs. for now. :P

11 replies so far

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4628 days

#1 posted 03-06-2008 07:30 AM

Well the joint looks nice and tight – it actually looks super! Why don’t you throw it in the dryer!

Or the toaster.

See if it’ll shrink the wood. HA.

Can you try sticking the tail side in a vice – or flat on the bench – and then, with a thin block of wood and mallet, tap the pins lightly, alternating pins to avoid jamming the pin board.

If that doesn’t work – better head to the toater oven…

No glue needed for that particular joint!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4619 days

#2 posted 03-06-2008 07:33 AM

Or the microwave or put it in front of an electric space heater.

I have used the space heater thing to shrink wood before. It really works.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4505 days

#3 posted 03-06-2008 09:47 AM

Why take them apart? They obviously don’t need glue.

If you have to hit them with a dead blow mallet to get them together they will absolutely bee to tight once the glue is applied. They should slide easily together “just right” when dry because the glue will cause swelling.

Awesome job on the dovetails though. If you do get them apart pare a little more away before gluing.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4593 days

#4 posted 03-06-2008 04:20 PM

I use a piece of wood and a hammer.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4375 days

#5 posted 03-06-2008 04:25 PM

My 2 cents- I usually cut my dovetails then check to see if they look like they will fit together without driving the joint all the way together. Dovetail joints should be nice and tight and when you dry fit them you’re loosening the joint. Eye ball the joint, puts some glue on it, and put it together once.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 4415 days

#6 posted 03-06-2008 04:53 PM

One day, I’ll be able to do what tenontim suggests. One day.

-- Eric at

View Moron's profile


5047 posts in 4524 days

#7 posted 03-06-2008 05:23 PM

I do the same as Thomas

a piece of wood so not to damage/bruse the wood, a hammer and tap it out.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View skozub's profile


59 posts in 4390 days

#8 posted 03-07-2008 04:11 AM

I agree with Thomas too; use a piece of wood and hammer to work them apart…SLOWLY. If you have access to a woodstove it will shrink the wood and make separation easier (just like Gary recommended). Woodstoves suck the mositure out of all wood so toss is near by and give it hours/days by the woodstove.

As a general rule I was always taught to not fully dry fit my dovetails for this very reason. Nonetheless, just spend some work tapping them apart…pick a low humidity day and you’ll be good.

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4519 days

#9 posted 03-07-2008 06:29 AM


This happens to me all the time. What I do is put a side of the piece in the vise and jiggle the other side carefully. The jiggling will slowly make the joint come apart.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View JJackson's profile


104 posts in 4714 days

#10 posted 03-07-2008 02:18 PM

If you pull these dovetails apart, they will not fit as well when you put them back the second time. A dovetail is the strongest joint known to woodworkers. If you are making a drawer, just go ahead I build the drawer without glueing them together. Trust me, they will never come apart. If you try to hit it with a hammer and block of wood, something is going to give (and it wont be the hammer or block of wood) I have built drawers before without glueing my dovetails and 4 years later they look just as nice. When you put the bottom of the drawer in, this will keep the entire assembly stable. Trust me, it works.


-- Jeff, Indiana

View damnHippie's profile


35 posts in 4406 days

#11 posted 03-07-2008 07:05 PM

So I got the pieces apart, using the clamp + block of wood + hammer formula. My plan was, if tapping it didn’t work, then I’d add dry heat and try again.

It all came apart ok, no splinters or breaks in the primary wood. (Phwew!)

Thanks everybody for the recommedations. I figured it was going to turn out to be somethng like what y’all said, I just got scared and stewed over it for a day.

Thanks again!

-- 10 fingers, 2 eyes, and healthy lungs. for now. :P

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