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Tapered Sliding Dovetails


Tapered Sliding Dovetails

Two jigs make a complicated joint ever so easy.

By Luke Hartle

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The tapered sliding dovetail joint is one of the hallmarks of fine craftsmanship. But making it has made many craftsmen pull out their hair! I’ve made it simple, using a jig with a micro-adjust feature for dialing in a perfect fit.

A sliding dovetail joint has two mating parts: a tail and a socket. It’s much easier to assemble when both parts are tapered. As the tail slides into the socket, the joint gradually locks into place until it’s rock solid. 

Build a jig for routing the tails. Assemble it on the test board, with the taper template, to fit tightly. Then add two outrigger guide boards to the jig, to help balance a router.

Build another jig to rout the sockets. Then rout a test socket. Remove most of the waste with a straight bit (see inset), using a router with a template guide. Then finish the socket with the bearing-guided dovetail bit.

Assemble the joint. It will be very loose until you get near the end, because both parts are tapered. You may have to adjust the width of the socket to make it flush and tight with the tail.

A perfect fit should only require a few light taps to assemble. The joint should be tight when its two parts are flush.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October 2005, issue #117.

October 2005, issue #117

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