Dovetail rule of thumb?

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Forum topic by rhybeka posted 06-03-2018 07:27 PM 776 views 1 time favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4772 posts in 3761 days

06-03-2018 07:27 PM

Hi all!

getting ready to do the dovetails in the case bottom/sides of my dutch tool chest and was wondering if there is a rule of thumb on how many dovetails to use in a board? most of what I’ve seen/read says use as many or few as you want and looks pleasing to the eye. I’m good with that but I want to make sure (since this is at the bottom of the chest) that it’s going to be strong. I was thinking three a side since it’s 11 1/8” wide. input/thoughts?

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

5 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4287 days

#1 posted 06-03-2018 07:44 PM

The strongest are said to be balanced. It’s
generally overkill though so for aesthetic
reasons the skinny pins/wide tails thing

You’ll get more practice in putting more on
a side but 3 may be adequate. I’d use
more personally. At some point the tails
start to look kind of ridiculously wide even
if you fatten the pins up.

Here’s a picture of a 19th century seaman’s chest.

The chest builder went with wider tails here
and presumably such spacing was considered
adequate for being thrown around on a ship.

View jdmaher's profile


463 posts in 3219 days

#2 posted 06-03-2018 08:29 PM

I’ve seen a Sketchup model of Schwarz’s large dutch tool chest that shows 4 tails per side. But an article of his from 2013 on how to build it says to do five tails per side.

Since you might, conceivably, actually use handles to lift this thing – even with tools in it – I’d do 5 if I were building it.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View bandit571's profile


24668 posts in 3323 days

#3 posted 06-03-2018 09:59 PM

It is more about a sense of balance…between too many pins, and too wide tails…. Maybe give each some equal time in the spotlight? maybe the tails would come out twice as wide as the pins? Maybe they both come out looking equal….

Sometimes, it is simply what looks good to the eyes..

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 1539 days

#4 posted 06-03-2018 10:07 PM

If you used sketchup, you could see what they would look like before hand,
and then easily make changes to them until you see what you like.

View rhybeka's profile


4772 posts in 3761 days

#5 posted 06-03-2018 10:48 PM

Thanks all :) five sounds good but I think I’ll model it in sketchup to see what four looks like as well.

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

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