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Tapered Sliding Dovetails Pierre SD

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
(605)361-7439
2523 S Louise Ave
Sioux Falls, SD
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Mon-Sat: 6:00am-9:00pm
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Kens True Value Lumber
(605) 649-7788
North Hwy 12 & 83
Selby, SD
 
Knecht Home Center Rapid City
(605) 342-4840
320 West Blvd
Rapid City, SD
 
Tea True Value
(605) 213-2000
27163 469th Ave
Tea, SD
 
Knecht Home Ctr Spearfish
(605) 642-8836
310 S 26th St
Spearfish, SD
 
Fastenal- Brookings
605-697-6631
1321 Main Avenue South Brookings, SD, 57006
Brookings, SD
 
Lowe's of Sioux Falls, SD
605-759-9000
4601 W. 26th Street Sioux Falls, SD, 57106
Sioux Falls, SD
 
Miller True Value
(605) 853-3304
219 N Broadway
Miller, SD
 
A&c Variety&true Value Hdwe
(605) 698-3451
419 Veterans Ave
Sisseton, SD
 
Jone's Ace Hardware
(605) 624-3195
812 Cottage Ave
Vermillion, SD
 

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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