Dovetail Joinery: Everything You Need to Know

Dovetail joinery technique shown on cherry dresser drawer front

 

Dovetail joints have long been a symbol in woodworking for high quality craftsmanship. Their appearance on a drawer box usually indicates that the furniture is built to last for many years. And while traditional dovetails are fairly easy to recognize, many people might not know that there are actually many different types of dovetail joinery techniques.

In this article, we’ll explain the four most common types of dovetail joints, and also explain the different between English dovetails and French dovetails.

1. Through Dovetails

Through dovetails are the traditional technique that most people think of when they hear the term “dovetail joint.” This technique involves cutting the pins and tails in both boards being joined. When the two boards come together, the dovetail can be seen from all sides.

2. Half Blind Dovetails

Half blind dovetail joint on a drawer box with poplar and cherry wood

A half-blind dovetail functions just as a through dovetail joint, but pins and tails are only visible from one angle. In the above photo, for example, the dovetail joint wouldn’t be visible from the front of the drawer box (assuming the piece of cherry attached to the box wasn’t already obstructing the point of view).

3. Fully Blind Dovetails

Fully blind dovetails still implement the pins and tails visible in the through and half blind dovetail approach, but they’re concealed from both sides. These are the hardest types of dovetail joints to recognize, and arguably the hardest to build.

4. Sliding Dovetails

Sliding dovetail joint on a drawer box

 

The sliding dovetail joint is a bit different than the others on this list. In a sliding dovetail, there is only one pin and one tail. This technique is less glamorous than traditional dovetails, but still produces a very strong, long-lasting joint.

French vs English Dovetails

The terms “French dovetail” and “English dovetail” are often misunderstood among furniture buyers, retailers, and even woodworkers. The term “French dovetail” is synonymous with a sliding dovetail. In contrast, an “English dovetail” could represent any of the other techniques mentioned above, including through dovetails, half-blind dovetails, and fully blind dovetails.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Riley Farabaugh

The youngest son of co-founders Peggy and Ken Farabaugh, Riley has filled different roles within the organization since it was founded out of a spare bedroom in the family home in 2005. As the son of the first Vermont Woods Studios craftsmen, Riley has been quickly learning more and more about woodworking, sustainable forestry, and the ins-and-outs of the furniture industry.