When Sliding Dovetails Are Long, Taper Them
I understand the difference between normal and tapered dovetails, but when should I use the one versus the other?
Craig Bennett, Morgantown, WV
Standard sliding dovetails are useful and easy to rout accurately and quickly. The challenge is that a snug-fitting sliding dovetail can be a bear to get together, especially when the joint is long. I use a standard sliding dovetail when the parts are narrow—less than 10 in. wide in softwood and less than 8 in. wide in hardwood (see “A Better Way to Build Wall Cabinets,” FWW #210). For wider joints, tapering the joint makes it easier and far less stressful to assemble (see “Quick, Sturdy Bookcase,” FWW #194.)
Tip: Don’t glue the entire joint. Whether sliding or standard, partially assemble the joint first, then add glue to the last 2 in. of the tails.
How to choose
To maximize its strength, a sliding dovetail needs to fit snugly, which makes it harder to assemble when glue is added. For wide cases, use a tapered sliding dovetail, which tightens only when driven fully home.