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We all know the router is a trimmer, that the full depth of ever}'cut has to be achieved by making a series of trimming passes. Try cutting a sliding dovetail slot in three passes! Doesn't work too well, does it? It looks like a dado with a Cat lip.

Okay, okay. As a practical matter, most sliding dovetails aren't all that deep. Just Y* inch or so. But what about those Winch-deep cuts? Those Winch-deep cuts? Especially in dense hardwoods. Especially in situations where you're limited to a Winch-shank bit. What then?

Make a pass or two with a straight bit. This will clean out the bulk of the material, leaving only the walls of the cut to be formed by the dovetail bit. Use a straight whose diameter matches (or is slightly smaller than) that of the dovetail bit's waist, which is usually about three-quarters of the bit's stated diameter. Set the bit to cut just shy of the groove's bottom, so when you do make the dovetail cut, you'll get a good bottom finish.

against the fence on hnrh parses. If you do get a bump on the first pass, you may trim off the high spot on the second. And what Fred does to check the tail is to cut the groove in a small piece of wood, then make sure it'll slide all the way across the end of the piece before trying to assemble the joint.

I don't, however, have afoolproof approach that'll guarantee you won't have an assembly glitch. I don't think there is one, though quite a number of woodworkers have presented one method or another as the perfect solution. The usual clichés apply, as far as I'm concerned: Work with stock that's been carefully milled, that's flat and true and as free of defects as possible. They are clichés, yes, but they're true cliches (which are a lot like true facts).

Working with a Hand-Held Router

Of rhe two operations involved in making the sliding dovetail joint, only one—cutting the slot—can really be dene well with a hand-held router. This operation is done quickly, easily, and accurately. But cutting the tails on something other than a broad panel involves what to me is a lot of busywork: You clamp and unclamp each workpiece two or three times. Nevertheless, it can be done.

Cutting the slots is a lot like cutting dadoes. Clamp a straightedge to the work to guide the router, and make the cut. Depending on yoursetup, the straightedge can guide the router base, a template guide, or a pattern bit's bearing. The approach will work regardless of the width of the workpiece and regardless of the positioning of the cut on the piece.

A shallow sliding dovetail—cut only Ye inch deep—is plenty for joining casework. The slot taper is enough to confer the dovetail's mechanical blessings. The depth is sufficient to withstand the shear stresses applied to a cabinet and its parts. Yet the cut is easy for any router to make in a single pass.

The difficult part of the setup? Positioning the fence. Because of the dovetail shape, you need to reference the centerline of the cut when setting your fence. But to make a rough-out cut with a straight bit, then a finish cut with the dovetail bit, either you have to switch bits for each cut—way too much hassle—or you have to be able to return the fence tc its position. Can't do it if you rely exclusively on the centerline. So here's the routine.

If you like to guide the router base against the fence, then use a locator to position the fence. Rip a scrap of plywood or Masonite to match the radius of the router base Line up one edge of the locator right on the centerline, then butt your T-square or odier straightedge against

The right-angle routing platform is useful for routing dovetail pins on the ends of relatively narrow slock. The platform supports the handheld router, and its adjustable fence positions the cut, thus controlling the thickness of the tail.

Here's a dovetail slot routed using a dovetail pattern hit. You have to set your guide carefully. The bearing is concentric to the cutler's largest diameter, so the guide needs to align with the widest pari of the cut, not the edge at the surface. This quirk makes it tricky to rough out the cut with a straight bit before finishing il with the dovetail hit.

mer for this). A bulky, heavy router isn't as manageable as a lightweight one, and 1 hcrsepower is surely sufficient power for the cut.

Right-angfc routing platform. The platform shown in Right-Angle Routing Platform provides a way to rout a tail across the end of a board by providing a wide, solid base for the router. It helps you avoid tipping the router as you work.

Obviously, this platform serves you in working relatively narrow stock. Once your workpiece exceeds a foot in width, the platform required becomes awkwardly wide. If you are working with a deep cabinct or a wide tabletop, consider some form of the double edge-guide approach, explained below.

To make a platform, use a stable hardwood, such as maple or poplar.

Here's a dovetail slot routed using a dovetail pattern hit. You have to set your guide carefully. The bearing is concentric to the cutler's largest diameter, so the guide needs to align with the widest pari of the cut, not the edge at the surface. This quirk makes it tricky to rough out the cut with a straight bit before finishing il with the dovetail hit.

the other edge and clamp it. Now scribe a line along the fcncc and mark i' as the fence position. Make your pass with the straight bit. and move the fcncc to the next spot.

After all the straight-bit cuts arc completed, change bits and return the fence to the marked positions to make the dovetail-bit cuts.

If a template is your preferred guidance system, offset the straight template from the diameter by the radius of either your pattern bit's bearing or your template guide. Again, mark the template's position so you can come back to it for the dovetail-bit cut

Cutting the tails with the hand-held router requires you to use some sort of router support. The support can be clamped to the workpiccc, or it can be mounted on the router itself. In either ease, the smaller the router the better (although 1 don't think I'd use a laminate trim-

The right-angle routing platform is useful for routing dovetail pins on the ends of relatively narrow slock. The platform supports the handheld router, and its adjustable fence positions the cut, thus controlling the thickness of the tail.

BRACE

VT«y*5" HARDWOOD

CLAMP BLOCK

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riqut-ancle routing platform for cutting sliding oovetail pins

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