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
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
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.