Better Way to Attach Tabletops
Dovetail cleat is strong and stylish
Synopsis: Andrew Hunter explains why he uses the sliding dovetail joint to secure tabletops to their bases. This construction method keeps a solid-board top flat and allows for seasonal expansion and contraction. It also looks great. A taper along the length of the joint makes it tight and solid. And because glue is not used, the table can be broken down if need be. The author gives directions for using two types of sliding dovetails — shouldered and unshouldered. Either can be incorporated into the design of the piece.
The sliding dovetail joint is not a modern invention. Examples are found in furniture dating back over 500 years, and I suspect the joint’s origins go back into ancient history. But I use this joint to secure tabletops to their bases. The dovetailed cleats keep a solid-board top flat, and they also allow for expansion and contraction. And by leaving them exposed, I make them part of the design.
A taper along the length of the cleat and slot makes for a tightfitting joint. The farther you slide the cleat into its slot, the tighter the joint. This taper eliminates the precision needed to fit a straight cleat and the need for glue. With no glue, you can remove the base from the top if needed, and if the fit of the cleat loosens due shouldered cleat A shouldered cleat can be much taller and narrower, so it can be profiled and used as the top member of a trestle-style base. Better Way to Attach Tabletops to wood movement, you can tap it back home or remove and shim it if necessary. I’ve never had to do either because I start off with very dry wood and use quartersawn lumber for the cleat.
I prefer this joint to slotted screws or…