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Home/Mor Furniture Blog/Buying Guides/BREAKING IT DOWN: Dovetail Joints

BREAKING IT DOWN: Dovetail Joints

When it comes to cabinet making and furniture or drawer construction, dovetailing is a buzzword thrown around quite frequently. Furniture vendors harp on its durability and salesmen brag about its classic features on a nightstand or vanity. But how much does the word “dovetail” live up to its reputation?

You’ll find that dovetailing is mainly present on woodworking joinery, and it is a technique used to increase the strength of a joint in wood. “Pins” are cut and shaped as an extension at the end of one piece of wood, usually in the shape of a trapezoid, while “tails” are cut into the end of the second piece. A dovetail joint will connect the sides of a drawer to the front, for instance, and prevent the connecting pieces from being pulled apart – similar to the way puzzle pieces fit together. The joints are interlocked and adhered with a heavy-duty glue, which provides a superior amount of resistance that keeps the joints intact.

Dovetailing is a strong selling point due to its ability to increase the lifespan of a product. The joints are incredibly difficult to pull apart, adding value to the drawer, cabinet or box. You can typically see whether wood has been dovetailed, as craftsmen nowadays make the pins and tails apparent by leaving the wood without a finish.

There are many styles of dovetailing that are suitable for various construction types:

  • Plain Dovetailing creates joints that are both visible once the pieces of wood have been put together. You can clearly see where the pins connect with the tails in the joint of the wood (the above picture demonstrates plain dovetailing). Plain dovetailing is usually apparent in box construction.

  • Half-blind dovetailing keeps the seam from view by placing sockets in the tail-end of the wood. The pins connect with the tails, but when looking at the joint from the front, the dovetailing is hidden within the socket. This type of dovetailing is typically used in drawer construction.

  • Full-blind dovetailing places sockets on both the pin and tail-end of the wood in order to completely hide the dovetailing from view. By placing pins and tails in sockets, the seam of the dovetail becomes covered. Full-blind dovetailing is used in fine cabinetry or box work and is also known as “French dovetailing.”

  • Sliding dovetailing connects joints at 90-degree angles by having the tail-end carved in the middle of the wood. The pin and tail interlock by sliding the pin into the tail, causing the two to intersect. Typically, sliding dovetailing is used to place shelves into cabinets or place a partition in a shelf.
If you are in the market for new cabinets or furniture, you may consider dovetailed wood as a buying must. The interlocked wood adds value to any piece and keeps furniture functional for years. When crafted correctly, the wood is nearly impossible to deconstruct, also a tell-tale sign of high-quality furniture.
Do you think you’ll consider dovetailing the next time you shop for furniture? Keep it in mind when looking for furniture with wood construction!