Attempting something new: Mitered Dovetails

Jul 12 2014

This has been on my mind for a while, so finally made the leap and started a new box. I’m designing this so it will fit 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper. Here are the four sides cut to length.

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Next, I lay out the dovetails. These are a bit different than usual dovetails. There are two dovetails in the middle of the board and space for three pins, but at each corner, there is an extra half inch. That’s where the miter will be.

 

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The cuts are made.

 

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The pin recesses are cut out, but then those two corner pieces are cut to 45 degrees. This will be the miter.

 

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The pins are cut on the other piece, and the corners there are also cut down 45 degrees.

 

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Put these together, and you have a dovetail joint.

 

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But from the top (and bottom), you have a much more attractive miter joint.

 

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This is a pretty finicky joint to fit. I worked on trimming this for close to an hour and I still need to finesse the miters as they’re causing some gaps. I suppose I’m doing pretty well for my first time attempting this though.

Beyond simply being attractive, the main reason for a mitered dovetail joint is probably so that you can run a groove inside the bottom edge –  and maybe top edge too – to install a bottom and a lid. The bottom will fit into that bottom groove and the top will have a sliding lid, fitting into the top groove. If you run a groove with traditional dovetails, you either need to do a stopped groove, or have the groove pop out through the pins or tails, requiring that you plug it up. Here, the groove will be totally hidden within the miter.

This is also my first time doing dovetails in maple, a much harder wood than the poplar, pine and cedar that I’ve done them in before. But for the purpose of dovetails, hard is good. Much easier to get nice, crisp lines. The softer woods just crumble and tear and dent all too much.

Hopefully without too much more trimming, I can get this corner fitting close to perfectly. Then I have three more corners to do. Never said this was going to be a quick project.

I should mention that I’ve seen two ways of doing mitered dovetails. The other way, the final pins themselves are mitered. This is a bit more complex, requiring multiple angled cuts. I can’t quite wrap my head around it yet, so for the first on, I opted for this more simple technique – normal pins and tails, surrounded by a miter.

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