So You Think You Can't Learn to do Handcut Dovetails?

(revised March 19, 2002)

If you get into cabinet / furniture making, at some some point you'll need to make a drawer or two. The idea of dovetails crosses your mind. But you dismiss the idea - hand cut dovetails are so difficult to make and those dovetail jigs cost a fortune. WRONG! The jigs and things do cost a fortune but hand cutting through dovetails isn't that hard to do. I've put together a set of step by step instructions with lots of simple, easy to follow diagrams that'll have you making functional through dovetails in a couple of hours. AND you probably already have all the tools you need!

The instructions are mainly based on the "Making a Dovetailed Drawer with Frank Klausz" video, with some Tage Frid and Ian Kirby thrown in. It took three or four passes at making the instructions before I had the minimum information I needed to have a go at actually cutting some dovetails. A few more revisions and the instructions worked - for me, and hopefully for you too.

Print them up, go over them once and then take 'em to the shop. Do what you see and add notes if needed. File the instructions away once you've got the hang of hand cutting dovetails and refer back to them when you need a refresher.

As Mr. Klausz said "Go for it!" (and if you can get your hands on his tape it would be good to have around - I've put down the basics but there's a lot more tips and techniques on the tape.)

So here you go. If you have questions or suggestions for changes please feel free to e-mail me

Step 1 - Overview, Selecting and Preparing the Stock

Step 2 - Cutting the stock to size

Step 3 - Orienting the parts and methods to identify what goes where

Step 4 - Marking gauges and what to do with them

Step 5 - Cutting the groove for the bottom

Step 6 - Start with the PINS

Trick 6A. - It's all done with mirrors

Step 7 - The first three saw cuts for the PINS (revised March 17,2002)

Step 8 -Making the remaining PINS saw cuts (revised March 17,2002)

Step 9 - Removing the PINS waste (revised Dec. 15, 2003)

Step 10 - Marking the TAILS from the PINS

Step 11 - Making the TAILS' saw cuts

Step 12 - Removing the TAILS waste

(step 12A - Test Fit and Clean Up Pins & Tails) added March 19,2002

STEP 13 - Cutting the Bottom, Glue Up and Assembling

Step 14 - Planing the top and bottom edges to fit drawer opening

Step 15 - chamfering the edges and back corners

16 Tools and things for making handcut dovetails

17 Make your own dovetail marking gauge

18 Sample Layouts 4-6 inch widths

Links to where you can get the Frank Klausz video

VIDEO: Dovetail a Drawer - by Frank Klausz $20US

or try HERE for $15US

Here's a site with a compendium of sites with info on dovetails

and here's one that generates dovetail layout patterns

Now if someone can think of a great use for a bunch of small wood trapezoids please feel free to drop me a line and share the secret.e-mail me

Back to the Index