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Tapered Sliding Dovetails Florence KY

The tapered sliding dovetail joint is one of the hallmarks of fine craftsmanship. But making it has made many craftsmen pull out their hair! I’ve made it simple, using a jig with a micro-adjust feature for dialing in a perfect fit.

The Home Depot
(859)283-1460
99 Spiral Blvd
Florence, KY
Hours
Mon-Sat: 6:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

Indus Construction Products Inc.
(513) 241-1551
1455 Dalton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH

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The Home Depot
(859)572-0018
415 Crossroads Blvd
Cold Spring, KY
Hours
Mon-Sat: 7:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

Finished Dimensions Inc.
(513) 353-4500
5445 State Route 128
Cleves, OH

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Bushelman Supply Co.
(513) 771-9121
250 Marion Road
Cincinnati, OH

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The Home Depot
(859)331-4500
500 Clock Tower Way
Crescent Springs, KY
Hours
Mon-Sat: 7:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

The Bromwell Company
(513) 621-0620
117 West Fourth Street
Cincinnati, OH

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The Home Depot
(513)661-2413
6300 Glenway Ave
Cincinnati, OH
Hours
Mon-Sat: 6:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

The Home Depot
(513)688-1654
520 Ohio Pike
Cincinnati, OH
Hours
Mon-Sat: 6:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

Mills Fence Co. Inc.
(513) 631-0333
6315 Wiehe Road
Cincinnati, OH

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Tapered Sliding Dovetails

Tapered Sliding Dovetails

Two jigs make a complicated joint ever so easy.

by Luke Hartle

The tapered sliding dovetail joint is one of the hallmarks of fine craftsmanship. But making it has made many craftsmen pull out their hair! I’ve made it simple, using a jig with a micro-adjust feature for dialing in a perfect fit.

This exceptionally strong joint was traditionally used to bind solid shelves and dividers to the sides of a carcase. A standard sliding dovetail must overcome a lot of friction to go home, but a tapered sliding dovetail is a cinch to assemble. My bookcase on page 70 makes full use of it, additionally joining the top to the sides. The jigs I built are sized to fit the bookcase, but it’s easy to tailor them to another project. 

To reduce setup time, I used two routers to make the joint, but that’s not absolutely necessary. You’ll need a 1/2-in. top-bearing dovetail bit ($34), a 1/2-in. top-bearing flush-trim bit ($29), a 3/8-in. straight bit ($23) and a 5/8-in.-dia. template guide. 

Build the Tail Jig

1. Make a taper template for routing the tails. First, draw a rectangle (shown in red in Photo 1) the same size as the end of the board that receives the tail. Next, draw two lines (shown in black) inside the rectangle indicating the amount the dovetail will taper (Fig. A, below). Each side of this taper has a 1/8-in. rise over the joint’s 11-in. length, or run. A 1/8-in. rise works equally well if the joint is a few inches shorter or longer. Rough-cut the template 1/16 in. outside the black lines with your bandsaw.

2. Cut to the black lines on the router table (Photo 2), using a top-bearing straight bit (see Sources, below). Fasten the template to the guide board with screws so the template doesn’t flex.

3. Screw the template to a test board (Photo 3). Align the red lines with the board’s edges. Position the template so it’s exactly centered from side to side, clamp it in place and drive in the screws. 

4. Assemble the rest of the jig on the test board so it fits tightly (Photo 4). Clamp the braces (C) in place first; then add the ends (B, Fig. B, below).

5. Add two outriggers (D, Photo 5). Stand the jig on a flat surface to ensure these boards are level with the template.

6. Rout a test dovetail with a bearing-guided router bit (Photo 6; see Sources, below). Lower the bit so it cuts 1/2 in. into the test piece. Unscrew the template and remove the jig.

Build the Socket Jig

7. Build this jig around a second test board (Photo 7). To position the fixed guide board, use the same 1/8-in. taper you used to make the tail jig. Draw an alignment mark (shown in red) on the guide board perpendicular to the test board’s edge. Lay the fixed guide board exactly on the line at one end and offset it by 1/8 in. at the other end. Fasten the guide board to the braces (G). The spacer enables this jig to fit the 12-in. top of the &ldq...

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