How to Make a Dovetail Joint

What You'll Need
Marking gauge
Stanley knife
Table vice
Wood glue

The use of a dovetail joint can help you to create a strong bond between two pieces of wood, which can be of great assistance in the construction of an item. To ensure that it is properly effective, it is essential to be aware of the correct way to make the joint. There are a set of steps that must be followed to ensure that the dovetail is formed correctly.

Step 1 – Prepare Wood

The first step is to prepare the wood that you intend to connect using a dovetail joint. They must be at least 12 inches long, 3 inches wide and ½ an inch thick. Use a pencil to mark each side with numbers, symbols or words so that you always have the wood correctly faced. For example, you will need to know the front from the back and the left from the right.

Step 2 – Mark Wood

Set the marking gauge to a length of 1/64th of an inch less than the thickness of the wood. Use this to mark a line along the edge of the wood where the dovetail joint will be placed, parallel with the edge of the piece of wood. This must be completed on both the front and the back on each piece of wood that you want to attach. This is the point to which the cuts must stop when creating the joint. Follow this by measuring a distance of 1/8th of an inch and 1/4th of an inch from the left and right edges of the board. Mark the points with a pencil line that reaches the horizontal line previously drawn. You will then be in a position to mark the lines for the pins of the dovetail joint.

Use the marking gauge to mark the above distances along the entire edge of the wood. These will form the edges of the pins of the dovetail joint, which must start at the first vertical line. The horizontal line must be formed by leading it to the next line. Horizontal lines that lead in alternating directions can be scored with a Stanley knife along the entire edge of the wood.  

Step 3 – Make Cuts

Clamp the first piece of wood into a vice with the horizontal pencil line approximately an inch above the vice. Use a saw to cut along the lines that you have scored; if necessary, draw along the scored line with a pencil to enable you to see it more clearly. Remove the cut out pieces before turning the wood over and laying it atop the second piece of wood. Ensure that it is properly aligned in terms of top, bottom, left and right. Trace along the free edges with a pencil and, if necessary, a Stanley knife. Follow the same process for the second piece of wood. Test fit the two pieces to ensure there are no gaps before tidying any jagged edges with a piece of sandpaper. Apply a little glue when attaching the joint.