A Quick Dovetailed Box

comments (0) December 11th, 2008 in blogs

DaveRichards David Richards, contributor
thumbs up 19 users recommend

Reader Erick asked about drawing dovetails in SketchUp. Here's a quick and simple way to create dovetails. In this example I'm showing the dovetails as being the same on all four corners. For something like a drawer with half blind dovetails on the front, you would you would have a separate layout for the front and back but the process is the same.

To start with I drew the four sides for the box. Well, I drew a side and an end. I made these components and then copied them with Ctrl+Move to make the opoosite parts. The copies were flipped or mirrored rather than rotated. Notice that the parts are drawn just as they'd be made in wood to the outside dimensions of the box.

For this example I am doing a simple, even layout of the dovetails. I like to have a pin on the centerline so that's where I start with the layout. I put in a guideline on the centerline by dragging down from the top edge with the Tape Measure tool. Of course you could drag up from the bottom, too. After clicking on the edge of the box side with the tool, drag up or down along the outside corner until the cursor snaps at the midpoint. Click there to set the guideline. After the centerline is indicated I added a couple at 1/4" on either side and at the intersections of those lines and the inside edge of the end of the box, I placed a couple of angled guides with the yellow Protractor tool. I put these in at 8° but if you prefer to work in rise over run sorts of numbers you could enter a value such as 1:7. This is all the layout we need in this case. Notice that this is done with neither component open for editing.

Next, because I'm a tails first guy, I opened the side component for editing. I used the Line tool to trace the guidelines to outline the center socket.

Next I select the three line segments I just drew and then got the Move tool. I hit Ctrl to invoke the Copy command and then grabbed the selected lines at the centerline--the midpoint of the bottom of the socket.

Then I dragged the copy of the lines up until the tool was on the top edge of the box. This leaves me with a half socket at the top.

I hit enter followed by /2, Enter. This makes two copies of the selected lines with the spacing being even between the first (center) and last (top).

I repeated those steps for the bottom sockets and then start in with Push/Pull to get rid of the waste. Remember which side of the joint you're working on when you do this. After pushing in the top half socket, double clicking with the Push/Pull tool on the other sockets results in those sockets being cleared as well.

When that is finished, the tails on this end of both side pieces are complete.

So now, just as you'd do in wood, we'll trace the sockets onto the pin board. Open the end component for editing. Use the Line tool for this instead of a marking knife. You could also select the angled lines of the sockets and copy them with the Copy command, not Ctrl+Move, and then use the Paste in place command from the edit menu on the opened End component. In this situation it probably doesn't save you any time though. Intersect may work but due to the coplanar faces, it isn't reliable. Than Push/Pull on the end of the board to clear the waste between the pins. You can still use the double click with the Push/Pull if the ends and sides are the same thickness.

Orbit around to the opposite end of the end component and repeat the operation and then open one of the side components, trace the pins and Push/Pull the waste. This is for the pins first crowd. Now all of the joints are complete.

Near the beginning of this blog post I mentioned that I flipped or mirrored the copies of the side and end components. The following images illustrate why. With one drawer box complete, it is a simple matter of editing a copy of it to make one of a different size. Here I am showing the sides extended 4" and the ends 3". I opened one side component for editing and dragged a left to right selection box around the joinery at the end. Then I used the Move tool to move the selection 4" to the right. I repeated this on the end component. All that remains is to move the components out to align the corners again.

In the next image I rotated the copies of the side and end components end for end. This seems like a reasonable thing to do. You'd do that in wood afterall. Notice what happens when the components get resized though. It's not the end of the world be now thereis extra work involved to get the corners aligned correctly.


So there you have it. A dovetailed box.As usual, if you have questions be sure to ask.


posted in: blogs, box, , dovetails

Save up to 51% on Fine Woodworking


Become a Better Woodworker