How to Make Dovetail Joints with a Hand Router? Do It Yourself

It’s easy and quite exciting to make dovetail joints using bench press routers with all the complex setups around. But is it necessary to go that huge mile and attempt to make a set of simple dovetail joints for your DIY project? Well, guess what, it’s not. 

If you have a handheld router, you only need a bit of tutorial from an avid woodworker to craft some of the most useful dovetail joints. In this piece, we will be showing you how to make dovetail joints with a hand router. If you are as excited as we are, let’s jump right into it! 

History of Dovetail Joinery

So, what’s a dovetail joint? A dovetail joint, popularly known as a dovetail, is a simple joinery technique used by woodworkers. The joining technique is used to join two wooden boards together for a strong bond. 

The history of dovetail joinery dates back to the ancient Egyptian woodworking culture. It is most probably a technique that was used even before that time, but historians unearthed evidence from Egyptian furniture that exhibits this specific type of joint. 

Apart from that, dovetail joints have been observed in Chinese emperors' tombs and in ancient Indian temples of Maha Siva. 

What are the Benefits of a Dovetail Joint?

Dovetail joints bring in a lot of benefits for your carpentry, especially if you are making different types of drawers. Here are some of the advantages dovetail joints can have. 

  • When you need to highlight joints between wooden pieces, dovetail joints are the most stunning and attractive joints you can manage. 
  • Dovetail joints ensure proper and perfect fitting for multiple wooden boards to fit and merge. 
  • Most importantly, dovetail joints ensure a strong bond between the boards and give the construction a solid strength that makes it hard to keep them apart. 
  • The interlocking points house a huge area to apply glue, which makes it even capable of establishing strong joints. 

How Does a Dovetail Jig Work?

If you are familiar with template routing, you will easily understand how a dovetail jig works. The path of the router is set and confined by the template of a precise pattern of both the tail and pin of the dovetail. Usually, you need to run the router over the set template. However, some of the routers, like handheld routers, this is not needed. In that case, the template is clipped to the work piece. 

The type of joint determines the type of template to be used. Whether you need to keep the board’s side face up or edge face up depends on the type of joint, too. The clamps used with the jigs housing hold the boards at a stable position to use the router. 

For half-blind joints, you need to cut both the tail and the pin at the same time. On the other hand, for through dovetail joints, you need to cut the tail and the pin with two different templates, bits, and different boards, as well.

How to Make Dovetail Joints with A Hand Router?

Now, to make a set of dovetail joints on a piece of wood, you need to follow certain steps. Let’s go through the steps one by one to get this thing done. 

What You Need  

  • A Hand Router
  • Router jigs 
  • Wood piece 
  • Pencil 

Step 01: First of all, you need to take the wooden piece and use a pencil to mark the dovetail shapes on the end grain. You can keep spaces between the dovetails as per your needs. As for the sizes, that’s also up to the project. 

Step 02: Use a standard dovetail jigsaw with the hand router. The standard size is a quarter of an inch, which is the most common size for most projects. You can also use narrower ones as you will be cutting the grains back and forth by hand, so the size isn’t a big deal here. 

Step 03: Now, all you need to do is cut the marked area of the wooden board with the jig. Keep the router firm as you don’t want it to tip. In that case, the result will be far from perfect. You can complete one cut first and leave a bit of material to go back and proceed for another. 

Step 04: Repeat this process for the remaining marks and complete making the dovetail joints. After you are done with the cutting, you can use a chisel to clean up the edges and fine-tune the surface for the perfectly made dovetail joints. 

Tips for Using a Dovetail Jig

Here are a few tips to make sure you are using the dovetail jigs perfectly. Let’s find out! 

  • Always wear protective gear before starting to use the dovetail jig. Wear goggles for your eyes and gloves for your hands to safeguard your body parts. 
  • Make sure that the dovetail is firmly attached to the workbench for safety. 
  • The board-ends should be cut in a perfect square shape for the best result. 
  • If the jigs come with moving fingers, make sure the fingers are quite tight and firm. 
  • If you are working with a sensitive and fragile wood piece, it will be prone to damage or tear while using a dovetail jig over it. A wise solution here can be sandwiching the piece with two strong wooden boards. 
  • Make sure you mark the cutting area of the wooden board before you start using the jig for a smooth and precise result. 

Final Words

Now that we have shown you how to make dovetail joints with a hand router, it shouldn’t be difficult to carry on your own project. You don’t need a huge number of accessories and supporting equipment just to get a precise result for a dovetail. All you need is just a few clamps and a handheld router - you are ready to go! 

We hope our detailed guide on using a hand router for dovetail crafting made it absolutely clear for you! Now, start your project right away! 

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