Half-Blind Dovetails Cut by Hand
The craftsman’s calling card
Synopsis: A joint that does its job superbly, delivering beauty and strength without straining for attention—that’s the essence of the half-blind dovetail on a well-made drawer. Christian Becksvoort shares his method for cutting half-blinds, the next step in craftsmanship for the woodworker who has mastered through-dovetails. The tails for both type of dovetail are cut the same way. The pins differ for half-blinds, requiring some careful sawing and extra chisel work. Learn how to lay them out, saw them, and then chop, pare, and clean them up for a perfect fit.
Craftsmanship doesn’t have to be conspicuous. We’ve all seen through-dovetails on a drawer front—they scream, “Look at this!” Half-blind dovetails, seen only when the drawer is pulled open, are subtler; yet when revealed they tell in an instant the story of the maker’s skill, tools, and aesthetic judgment.
A joint that does its job superbly, delivering beauty and strength without straining for attention—that’s the essence of the half-blind dovetail on a well-made drawer. The joint brings these same attributes to casework, where it is often used to join the sides of a cabinet to the top.
Once you’re comfortable making through-dovetails (for a full discussion of my technique, see FWW #238 and #239), cutting the half-blind is well within reach. The tails are cut in the same way as they are for the through-dovetail. It’s just the pins that differ, requiring some careful sawing and extra chisel work. Let’s start from the beginning of a typical drawer, and concentrate on the major differences.
Before you begin laying out the dovetails, cut the groove for the drawer bottom in the drawer front and sides. Because the ends of the tails will not be visible once the joint is assembled, the grooves…