How To Cut Dovetails on the Tablesaw
Make better, faster through-dovetails, with a trick for perfect half-blinds, too
Synopsis: Get the look of hand-cut dovetails with the accuracy and ease of machinery, without a router or a dovetail jig. This method, explained by Gregory Paolini, uses the tablesaw to cut through-dovetails. When cutting the tails, the tablesaw locks in the cutting angle and allows you to make eight cuts from a single layout line using a fence and a stop block. To cut the pins, one side of every pin is cut with the miter gauge angled in one direction, and then it is angled in the other direction to cut the second side. Then use a thin board, resawn from beautiful lumber you’ve been saving for your drawer fronts, to add a false front and create the look of half-blind dovetails.
It takes an awful lot of practice to cut dovetails by hand and to do it well. Your sawcuts should be straight, at a consistent angle, and square to the board’s face. and you can’t cut into the baseline. Later, when you’re paring and attempting to make up for bad sawcuts, you can make things much worse.
There are ways to cut dovetails that bypass those challenges. With a router and jig, you’ll get straight and square tails and pins that have consistent angles. unfortunately, they won’t look as nice as hand-cut dovetails. It’s difficult to reproduce the wide tails and narrow pins that make the hand-cut version so appealing.
However, there is one power tool in your shop that excels at cutting straight and square, and can easily maintain the same angled cut for both tails and pins: the tablesaw. What’s more, because tablesaw blades are no more than 1⁄8 in. thick, you can reproduce hand-cut dovetail spacing, too.
Of course, because both the tails and the pins…