Q: I’m making a hanging wall cabinet and would like to use dovetails to join the sides to the top and bottom. Should I put the tails on the sides or on the top and bottom? Ron Knight, Beacon, NY A: To take advantage of the joint’s mechanical strength, the tails should go on the sides. Think of the cabinet as a drawer: Tails are put on drawer sides so that the drawer will stay together when it is opened, even f the glue has failed or wasn’t there to begin with. On a hanging cabinet, if the tails were on the top and bottom and the glued failed, the absence of any mechanical connection means the joints could slip and the case fall apart. click to enlarge Bad With the pins on the sides, only the glue is holding the joint together. Should it fail, the bottom could fall out. click to enlarge Good Because of their angled walls, dovetails have a natural mechanical strength that will hold the joint together without glue. Putting the tails on the sides of a wall cabinet takes advantage of that strength. Photos and drawings: Kelly J. Dunton
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