Different Types of Dovetail Joints – An Beginners’ Guide

“Why not just simply nailing the two ends of a wood?” Well, yes, that’s a logical question that popped up in most of our minds when we first came to know about dovetail joints. The secret is that dovetail joints produce an enormous amount of tensile strength that ensures the two ends of wooden pieces won’t separate.

That’s why there are diverse types of dovetail joints for different strengths of two wooden logs sticking together. In this article, we will look at five different types of dovetail joints commonly used in woodworks.

If you are as interested as we are, hop in!

What Is a Dovetail Joint?

A dovetail joint is simply the technique of interlocking wooden pieces at the right angle to achieve the highest tensile strength possible. Carpenters have been using different dovetail joints to make craft wooden furniture for years. Almost all the wooden furniture like cabinets, tables, drawers, etc., have dovetail joints.

Applications of A Dovetail Joint

There is a range of applications for a dovetail joint. Coming in different types, a dovetail joint can easily be applied to the following works.

  • The dovetail joint is used for joining both sides of a wooden drawer
  • You can use it to make small boxes for jewelry and other small items
  • It can be used to join guitars and violin’s neck and body
  • The joints are ideal for cabinet shelf side joining
  • These are used to join vertical and horizontal partitions of different structures
  • The joints can be used to attach extended parts of a table

Deferent Type of Dovetail Joint

There are many types of dovetail joints that carpenters use today. We are going to discuss some of the most common ones here. Today, 5 types of dovetail joints are largely used by woodworkers around the globe, which are

  • Through Dovetail Joint
  • Half-blind Dovetail Joint or Single-lap Dovetail
  • Secret Mitred Dovetail Joint
  • Secret Double-Lapped Dovetail Joint
  • Sliding Dovetail Joint

Let’s find out about each type of joint, one by one.

Through Dovetail Joint

The through dovetail joint is the most common joint used in different types of woodworks. It looks similar to a finger lock where two hands are tied together. From the outside, the joint parts are clearly visible. This type of joint is used to make different types of box making and carcass building. In the case of making drawers, the joint is referred to as an English dovetail joint.

It is also named a plain dovetail joint by many carpenters. Back in the day, carpenters would mask the joins with a veneer, but it is left shown in later times. This has become one of the most recognizable factors of a through dovetail joint.

Half-Blind Dovetail Joint or Single-lap Dovetail

Also popularly known as the single-lap dovetail joint, the half-blind joint is kind of the other pole of the through dovetail joint. The reason is, its end grain here is completely hidden on the boards, opposite to what we see on the through dovetail joint.

The end tails are housed by the sockets to make sure that the ends are not visible from the outside. This type of joint is widely used for joining fonts of wooden drawers.

The only difference between a single-lap dovetail joint and the through dovetail joint in the end grain of the joints is visible in the through joint and invisible in a single-lap dovetail joint.

Secret Mitred Dovetail Joint

The Secret Mitered joints are popularly termed as full-blind Mitred joints. This specific type of joint is basically applied in making box and cabinet making. Arguably, this is the strongest type of joint among all the dovetail joints we know. That’s why the joint is used in places where a strong connection is required.

 Secret Double-Lapped Dovetail Joint

A different version of the Secret Mitred dovetail joint is the secret double-lapped dovetail joint. It’s basically the same, but it comes with a visible portion of the end grain of the joint’s single edge. This almost looks like the secret Mitred one, but it displays a narrow part of the end grain of the joint’s end.

Basically, the double-lapped joints are applied to the construction of carcass and box that needs the dovetails to be kind of invisible.

Sliding Dovetail Joint

The sliding dovetail joint is a bit different than the other 4 types of joints. It’s not the typical end-to-end joint that we have seen so far. Rather, it’s about joining two different wood boards at a 90-degree angle. The joining is quite different than the other types as one wood piece goes sliding into the other. The intersection happens through the sliding of the tail of one wooden board into the hollow socket of the other board in the middle.

Apart from sliding dovetail joints, the joints are also known as French dovetail joints. The most common use of this type of joint is the cabinet shelves joints, frames of tables, table frames with attached parts, front rails to the cabinet sides, etc.

Benefits and Issues of Dovetail Joints

While dovetail joints can be very useful for some woodworking projects, these can have a few concerns, too. Here, we are going to discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of dovetail joints.

Benefits of dovetail joints

  • It offers excellent tensile strength for the construction
  • Wood pieces can be easily slid over one another
  • You can apply different varieties of joints according to your needs
  • It can also be automated with machines

Issues of Dovetail Joints

  • The whole process is basically manual and needs to ensure the cutting is done precisely.
  • It takes a lot of time to prepare great joints.

Anatomy of the dovetail joint

A dovetail joint basically comprises two parts - the tails and the pins. The tails come with a kind of a triangular flared shape; the pins, on the other hand, are designed to slide along the board’s grain. It’s a matter of dispute among woodworkers: the pin or the tail should be cut first. However, most carpenters trained in European cutting style opine that the pin should be the first one to cut.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How many types of dovetail joints are there?

Ans. There are 5 different types of dovetail joints.

  • Through Dovetail Joint
  • Half-blind Dovetail Joint or Single-lap Dovetail
  • Secret Mitred Dovetail Joint
  • Secret Double-Lapped Dovetail Joint
  • Sliding Dovetail Joint

Q2. What are the two parts of a dovetail joint?

Ans. The two parts of a dovetail joint are the tail and pin.

Q3. What is a full-blind dovetail joint?

Ans. A full-blind dovetail joint refers to the joint that remains completely concealed after joining.

Final Words 

From joining simple wooden pieces to achieving high-tensile strength in your joints, different types of dovetail joints are pretty useful tools you can have. However, not all the joints are meant for the same purpose. As you can see from this article, you can specify the application of a dovetail joint to specific types of jobs to make sure you get the right type of attachment.

We hope this piece clarifies how different dovetail joints can be and how to use them for your woodworking projects. Best of luck with your next endeavor!

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