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Tapered Sliding Dovetails Nashua NH

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.

Rockler Woodworking and Hardware #34
(603) 898-5941
373 S. Broadway
Salem, NH

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Artisan Lumber, Inc.
(781) 431-1500
35 Leominster Road
Lunenburg, MA

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Pheasant Ln Mall
(603) 891-6200
310 Daniel Webster Hwy Ste 102
Nashua, NH
Store Hours
Sears Stores
Store Type
Sears Stores
Hours
Mon:10-21
Tue:10-21
Wed:10-21
Thu:10-21
Fri:10-21
Sat:8-21
Sun:10-18.5
Store Features
Mon:10-21
Tue:10-21
Wed:10-21
Thu:10-21
Fri:10-21
Sat:8-21
Sun:10-18.5

Lowe's
(603) 521-9950
143 Daniel Webster Highway
Nashua, NH
Hours
M-SA 6 am - 10 pm
SU 8 am - 8 pm

Lorden True Value Hdwe
(978) 433-2348
53 Main St
Pepperell, MA
 
New England Hardwood Supply Company, Inc.
(978) 486-8683
100 Taylor StPO Box 2254
Littleton, MA

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Woodery Lumber Company
(978) 342-9293
110 Pleasant St
Lunenburg, MA

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Nashua - B
(603) 324-0800
375 Amherst St
Nashua, NH
Store Hours
Sears Stores
Store Type
Sears Stores
Hours
Mon:9-21
Tue:9-21
Wed:9-21
Thu:9-21
Fri:9-21
Sat:9-21
Sun:10-18
Store Features
Mon:9-21
Tue:9-21
Wed:9-21
Thu:9-21
Fri:9-21
Sat:9-21
Sun:10-18

Hudson True Value Hdw.
(603) 883-3100
114 Derry Road
Hudson, NH
 
Bridge Street True Value
(603) 635-1521
122 Bridge St
Pelham, NH
 
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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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