Frank Klausz Technique For Dovetail Layout

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Tapered Sliding Dovetails

Get a perfect fit with two easy-to-make jigs by Frank Klausz

The sliding dovetail is a wonderfully strong joint. Used in casework to hold partitions and shelves to cabinet sides, or in drawer construction to attach fronts to sides, the angled parts of the dovetail make a mechanical connection that resists pulling apart. If you taper the socket and the dovetail, the connection becomes even stronger since the taper helps wedge the dovetail tightly in its socket.

Many woodworkers turn to the router to cut this joint. With a single dovetail bit, you can rout both the socket and the dovetail. While you can use the router table or a straightedge to cut these parts, both methods usually involve a lot of fussy irial-and-error setup to achieve the crucial snug fit. If there's any play between the parts, the entire joint can loosen. To avoid this tedious setup work, I use a pair of jigs that, once tuned, will produce perfectly fitting sliding dovetail joints time after time.

I made the two jigs shown here specifically for routing the sliding dovetails in my waterstone pond. (See article, page 44.) These jigs will handle stock -V4 in. thick by about 3 in. wide. You can size the jigs to handle thinner, thicker or wider stock, but the design isn't suitable for routing workpicccs over 10 in. wide. Both jigs arc sized to fit my laminate trimmer because I like the way these small, lightweight routers handle. But you can easily adapt the design to suit your own favorite router.

The drawings show how the jigs work. On the socket jig, a U-shaped cutout in the jig's base guides the base of the router. (See Fig. 1.) On the tail jig, the router base is guided by a pair of fences.

(See Fig 2.) The guiding edges of both jigs taper to produce corresponding tapers in the socket and tail pieces.

Make the socket jig first, and rout a test socket in some scrap. Then make the tail jig, but just tack this jig's fences temporarily in place. Cut a test dovetail in some scrap, moving the router as shown in the drawings. Adjust one of the fences to fine-tune the amount of taper until you can assemble the joint about three-quarters of the way with hand pressure alone. Having to tap the last quarter of the joint together tells you that the fit is just right.

When you're satisfied with the fit, screw the fences in place. Now you're ready to create a timeless joint in almost no time at all. A

FRANK KLAUSZ is a master cabinetmaker and a contributing editor to A W.

Size opening to correspond to the desired socket width.

Make Jigs Router Dovetail


The sides of the U-shaped cutout guide the router base. Clamp the workpiece and the jig to your bench. Rout the socket by moving the router in a counterclockwise direction.

Tapered socket. Rout the socket by guiding the router base against the sides of the cutout. A clamp secures the jig and workpiece to the bench.

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