How to Make a Sliding Dovetail Joint

What You'll Need
Carpenter's square

A sliding dovetail joint is very useful and strong. This joint can be used for the divides in wooden jewelry boxes because it gives you the option of whether or not you want to use the divide. A dovetail joint is tapered, so that it will only slide in one direction. It is used in drawers, because the front of the drawer could slide off if you moved it left to right. However, if you pull it back and forth to open it, it is a secure joint and does not slide.

Step 1 – Mark the Dove

The dove is the indented part of the joint on 1 piece of wood, and the tail is the bit that sticks out and fits into the dove to create a strong joint. The joint is named for the way the tail looks like a dovetail. For the purpose of this article, your dovetail joint will be ½-inch wide at the base by ¼-inch wide at the edge by ¼-inch deep. Mark your wood with the relevant points with a dot and join them up. Next, mirror this on the other piece of the wood and draw 2 lines over the edge of the wood, so the dove would look like a bowtie if flattened out.

Step 2 – Make the Dove

The dove is made by chiseling out the wood within these lines. If you place the chisel just inside the line and tap it with the hammer, then you will begin to carve it away. This can be a long process, which is why there is a machine that can do it for you, if you do not want to go through the manual labor.

Step 3 – Finish the Dove

As you are using the chisel method to create your dovetail joint, the inside of the dove is likely to be slightly uneven. Sand the inside of the dove with sandpaper to get it smoother and make a cleaner joint.

Step 4 – Mark the Tail

Essentially, the tail is the inverse of the dove. Therefore if you place the dove joint over the new piece of wood and trace the shape, then you get the correct size for the tail part of the dovetail joint. Draw a line along the length of the wood in line with the base of the tail as this will mark the excess wood that needs to be removed.

Step 5 – Make the Tail

Chisel away the outside sections on the tail above the marked line, using the same technique as you did with the dove part of the joint. Once you are done, it should look something like a top hat.

Step 6 – Finish the Tail

Just as you did with the dove, use sandpaper to smooth the tail. Otherwise, it will not move smoothly through the dove when you try to slide it.

Step 7 – Sliding

The 2 pieces should now slide together. If not, then take a look at the problem and chisel or sand a little bit more until they fit. A dovetail joint will not pull in and out but will slide left to right.