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Dovetails by Norfolk Cabinet Maker Mark Rhodes.


This isn’t a how to cut dovetails, but just how I cut dovetails. I still like to be able to say to my clients that all dovetails are cut by hand, and for 99% of the steps that is still very much true. However I have no wish to live in poverty, and 99% of clients are not going to pay for truly hand cut work any more. So I now cut all my dovetails in this manner. I use a router to hog the waste out, but I do this free hand, so I guess I could argue that they are still done by hand, as you still need a steady hand to guide the router, but I will let you decide this small point.

This is my old jig that I made up a few months ago to make one drawer for a coffee table, but I have six to do now, followed by another 24 or so. This jig isn’t going to cut it, for a start its way to low, and was made quick so not that accurate.

So I’m making a new one to last at least until all drawers are finished, I’m going to try a woodrat as well to see if its any quicker. First step is to join two pieces together, these must be square.
I then use my vice as a datum, and screw and glue the back support in. This must all be level and square for the jig to be accurate.
I fix a stop so it reference’s in the same place.
I then  need a pencil line running up from my vice guide, and square to the top.
Then I need to fit a stop that is smaller in thickness to the drawer material.
I chamfer the top so it won’t interfere with the router.
Cut some pin’s on the bandsaw, and clean up with a chisel.
The jig in use, I start by using the jig to give my router a larger area to reference off, then hog off the waste to within 0.5mm of my knife lines. I’m listening for a change in tone from the router to let me know how far to go into the waste, once I hear that tone I stop. Then its just a matter of chiselling to the knife lines.

Then just assemble them together

And the finished result, not perfect by any means but a quicker way to make a lot of drawers, and still have a hand cut look. This was done quick to show the process, but if I had taken my time a bit they would be passable.
Thanks for looking, I hope it’s of interest.

4 Responses on “Dovetails

  1. Anonymous says:

    >That's really interesting, Mark. I always enjoy seeing how professionals do it – as you say, you have to do a good job and earn a living.

    Cheers 😉

    Paul Chapman

  2. Mark Rhodes says:

    >Absolutely Paul, its a pity that I can't get into the zone and chop away with my chisels it would be great fun. But I think I would be reaching for the rope if I had to do 30 drawers by hand nowadays.

  3. Paul-Marcel says:

    >Nice work, Mark! Given the time it took on the video to do one corner, it looks like you could do a whole drawer in 20 minutes.

    I'm eager to try that out.


    P.S., love the sound of sharp chisels… odd, I know

  4. Mark Rhodes says:

    >Hi Paul, I think there are a lot of ways to over complicate basic joinery, my mantra is… keep it simple stupid. I also love the sound of sharp tools so not odd, unless we are both odd?

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