How To Make a Dovetail Joint

You can easily identify well-made furniture by the dovetail joint.  Any time two boards come together, the best method of joining them is by using the dovetail joint.  You do not have to nail the dovetail joints and gluing is optional.  Once the dovetail is in place, they rarely come apart.  The interlocking joint is strong and able to bear weight. Many good furniture makers use the dovetail joints when they build their furniture.

Some of the equipment you will need to make a single dovetail joint is:

  •  Marking pencil
  •  A chisel
  •  A fine-toothed back saw
  •  A hammer
  •  A yardstick
  •  Wood glue
  •  Fine sandpaper

To make the dovetail, mark the end of the board for softwood 1:6, for hardwood 1:8. Then one inch from the end, angle in 1/6” on both sides.  Use the backsaw cut on waste side of the board, for a smoother cut. Use the flare end to mark the mating board.  You need to make sure it is a precise cut.  You will cut into the mating board precisely on the marking and make one extra cut in the middle, then chisel out the wasted pieces. You will be cutting out the flare, and the two pieces will fit together like a puzzle.  The male (flare) fits into the female (flare cut out).  Fit the two boards together to make sure they fit. For a single dovetail, you can glue and clamp together.  Be sure to wipe excess glue off to eliminate excessive sanding.

By using a tilting blade jigsaw, you can speed up this process of cutting dovetail joints.  Use a blade in a vertical position to cut the flare end. Use the flare end and mark your second board; adjust blade to cut from the end in, make a middle cut and then chisel out the waste pieces between the cuts.

If you are making dresser drawers and will be making multiple dovetails, you can use a router with a dovetail bit.  This process helps you cut both boards at the same time.  Using the router makes nice dovetail joints and this is a much faster way of making nice dovetail joints.

If you do not have experience in making dovetail joints, it is best to practice until you are comfortable using the hand tools or electric tools.  Always wear safety glasses and read the instructions that come with the router.


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