The Dovetail

The dovetail is a strong, neat joint used to join pieces of wood at right angles. A typical use in furniture is the joining of drawer sides to the drawer front.

A dovetail essentially is a set of fingers

To achieve the correct spacing for dovetails on a new drawer side, trace the pattern on each side of the new piece of wood

and cutouts in two pieces of wood which interlock when fitted together. The fingers can take a number of different shapes — rounded, for instance, or cut wider at the end than at the base. While dovetails look

Use the backsaw to cut the sides of each dovetail to the proper depth. Hold the work in a bench vise (not visible here) The vise is essential for work like this

complicated, they are easy to make. The secret is to measure and mark both pieces of wood carefully, and then make all cuts exactly to your measured marks. You can make dovetails with a router, with a cop-

Place the old piece on the bench as a guide Then carefully chisel out the dovetail along the traced lines. Remove a small amount at a time.

To smooth the joints, use a fingernail emery board It is just the right size to fit into the openings and smooth the edges

1 This chair back is joined to the side with a mortise and tenon joint, and the tenon is cracked It can be repaired by making a new tenon, or by using dowels to replace the tenon

2 If you choose to replace the tenon, the first job is to disassemble the chair

3 The back of the seat has now been removed.

1 This chair back is joined to the side with a mortise and tenon joint, and the tenon is cracked It can be repaired by making a new tenon, or by using dowels to replace the tenon

2 If you choose to replace the tenon, the first job is to disassemble the chair

3 The back of the seat has now been removed.

5 We need to remove the pieces of broken tenon remaining in the mortise. The easiest way is to drill a series of holes into the mortise, using a drill bit the same size as the width of the mortise, here % in.

4 Now the broken tenon is sawed off flush with the end of the rail.

5 We need to remove the pieces of broken tenon remaining in the mortise. The easiest way is to drill a series of holes into the mortise, using a drill bit the same size as the width of the mortise, here % in.

6 Using a V2 in. wood chisel, we remove the rest of the tenon. Work with the flat side of the chisel blade against the wall of the mortise

7 To clean out the ends, use a narrower chisel (here V* In ) and drive the chisel down at either end of the mortise, then pry upward. This should bring up what remains of the tenon.

10 Now the tenon is coated with glue and driven down into the mortise

9 Cut a tenon from hardwood of the right thickness and dimensions to fit snugly into the mortise Test fit the new tenon before gluing

8 Here is the mortise with the tenon removed.

9 Cut a tenon from hardwood of the right thickness and dimensions to fit snugly into the mortise Test fit the new tenon before gluing

8 Here is the mortise with the tenon removed.

11 We found that not only was the tenon cracked, but the chair back rail was cracked through the mortise.

12 Repair of the crack is a simple glue-and-clamp procedure Don't attempt to reassemble the chair until all glue has dried thoroughly.

1 The second repair method calls for the use of dowels to replace the broken tenon The repair won't be as strong as the original work, but it can be done quicker and will be satisfactory in most uses The first step is to make a hardwood plug and drive it into the mortise When in place, it should be flush with the surface

3 Use dowel centers in the holes drilled in the leg to mark the position of holes to be drilled in the back rail. Then drill the holes, coat the dowels with glue, and drive them into the holes. You can now reassemble the chair

2 Now drill holes for % in. dowels The dowels are at a slight angle here, so the dowel jig can't be used. Drill the holes down the center of the tenon plug at the necessary angle

1 If you have a loose and worn tenon, you sometimes can avoid making a new one by expanding the old one to fit into the mortise. Cut a slot lengthwise down the tenon with a backsaw

2 Now whittle a wedge from hardwood and drive it down into the kerf (sawcut) until the tenon has expanded sufficiently

3 Saw off the protruding part of the wedge flush 4 The chair can now be reassembled Be sure to clamp tightly, forcing the repaired parts into tight with the end of the tenon contact

2 Now whittle a wedge from hardwood and drive it down into the kerf (sawcut) until the tenon has expanded sufficiently

3 Saw off the protruding part of the wedge flush 4 The chair can now be reassembled Be sure to clamp tightly, forcing the repaired parts into tight with the end of the tenon contact

Make Ihe initial cuts for a blind doveta i by sawing at a 45e angle with the backsaw Do not saw past the guide marks

Use an open mortise-and-tenon (at left) to join pieces when the seam between (he two is not visible In a closed pint (at right) the tenon fits into the hoilowed-oul mortise. The tenon in bolh lypes s cut into the shorter piece the mortise into the longer

Make Ihe initial cuts for a blind doveta i by sawing at a 45e angle with the backsaw Do not saw past the guide marks

Finish the dovetail with the wood chisel Shave a little away at a time so that you don't cut beyond the guidelines

ing saw, or with a mallet and chisel and a backsaw.

One way to distinguish good furniture from poor is to check the way the drawers arc made. In good furniture, the sides of ail drawers arc dovetailed to the drawer front; in cheaper furniture, the sides arc lap jointed to the front and fastened with nails or staples.

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